Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Peek into our Nonfiction Research and Research Based Argument Essay Unit

Last week, we completed our Nonfiction Research Unit and Research Based Argument Essay Unit, which are integrated units in reading and writing workshops.  Below are the charts we created as a class during the unit.  I tried to put the charts in the order (somewhat) that we created them in to help give you a snapshot of what our work looked like in our classroom.  

At the beginning of each unit, I always launch it by discussing the purpose of the unit with my students and WHY we are learning this set of skills.  After identifying the purpose, we also think about which skills/strategies we can transfer from our previous unit to the new unit.  Below you will see our two charts for these lessons: 

During each reading and writing unit, we create class charts that identify the teaching points taught in each mini-lesson so students can refer to the charts throughout the unit.  Below you will see various teaching point charts that students constantly referred to while working independently.  These charts are the footprints of my mini-lessons and our learning together during the units.  

At the beginning of a new writing unit, I always launch the unit with an inquiry lesson where students immerse themselves in a mentor piece of writing to identify the characteristics/qualities of the type of writing.  Below is a chart we created after reading 1-2 argument essays that lists the parts of an argument essay. We created this chart together and continued to add to it throughout the unit as we read more examples of argument essays and as we began to write argument essays ourselves.  The chart to the right is a "How to" chart that visually teaches and reminds students of the steps to writing an augment essay.  


During reading and writing units, we create charts with examples, phrases/stems, and helpful strategies. Below are examples of the charts we created:

At the end of each unit, we have a class celebration that culminates the work students did as readers and writers.  Students always have a voice and a choice in how we celebrate and share the work they did during a unit so at the end of this integrated unit, they brainstormed ways they could present their new learning with their classmates.  Below is the chart where I jotted down the ideas they shared out after they met with their research groups to brainstorm ways they can share what they learned from their research.  Each research group ended up choosing a different way to present their research and opinions which was great! One group used the Corkulous app I have on my iPad, while other groups performed skits, verbally presented both sides in a panel presentation, and used Google Drive.
In addition to this type of sharing, we also had a writing gallery to share their research based argument essays.  For the gallery, students created a comment sheet to put next to their argument essay so their classmates can leave comments after reading their essay.  Once students had their essay and comment sheet side by side on their table, students began the gallery walk by sitting down to read essays their classmates wrote and leave them positive comments. After the gallery walk, students return back to their seat to read the comments their classmates wrote on their sheet.  To culminate the gallery celebration, I ask if anyone would like to honor someone for their writing.  Students take turns to verbally honor one another for something they admire that they did as a writer.

When we return from vacation, we will begin our Historical Fiction Book Club Unit in reading workshop and our Poetry Unit in writing workshop so stay tuned! :)


  1. Thanks so much for the great anchor charts! I am a first year 5th grade teacher trying to navigate TCRW on nonfiction research projects. I looked through your blog and found some great ideas for when the students break into groups and plan their research. I was wondering if you had an lesson plans /ideas on how to prepare them for this research. So far we have learned about what a good source and strong evidence is and also conducted a debate on rats being harmful/ helpful . I would appreciate the guidance !

  2. I love the way you share your thinking and teaching! I know I read this last year, but didn't need this information at that time. Holy cow! This is so timely for me now, because I am working with some teachers on argument writing next week. Thanks to Choice Literacy for highlighting your post, I now have additional information to share, perhaps a few will check out your blog. 😃

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