Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Strong Opinions About Books for Second-Graders

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Across our district, our second-graders have been writing opinion pieces from the new unit from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Writing About Reading is one of the books within the new Units of Study that were published a year ago and I have loved watching the children experience this work.

During the first two bends of the units, children learn to form opinions about various aspects of books--characters, pictures, titles, favorite parts, author messages... Initially, many of the pieces I read were book recommendations that went along the lines of "you should read this book because", but gradually I have seen our students move away from this sort of uninspired recommendation to meatier opinion statements. Yesterday, I was a guest in a class and the teacher and I had an impromptu debate as to whether Mercy Watson was a hero in Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo. I took the less popular stance of her being a hero, and the kids got right behind their teacher, finding evidence in the book to support the statement that Mercy was only after buttered toast and should get no credit at all for getting a rescue team to the Watson house to save her family when they fell through the bedroom floor. I had a second copy of the book and a few of the students came over to my side.

Students were reading exact lines to and with me in order to prove their claim and one student even pointed out the look on Mercy Watson's face. During their independent work time, their teacher and I challenged them to use the phrase "for example, on page ___" and many of these second-grade students were spot on at citing evidence from the text of their independent books in order to prove their points. 

Some of my favorite debates that I have had with second-graders so far have been:
This unit has led students to think about reasons and go on a hunt for evidence to support those reasons with energy and purpose. I'll be posting more about it as we finish it up, but for now, I have to say that it has been great fun to authentically argue about books with second-graders. At first, they really can't believe that a teacher would say something so outrageous, and then they become entirely committed to proving me wrong, which is exactly what I want them to do.

Happy slicing!


  1. This is wonderful work, Melanie- you are developing exactly the type of argument thinking and language that will benefit these students in all the work they will do in argument writing in the years ahead. Bravo!

  2. Wonderful to hear about, Melanie. I think this could be applied to various ages, within a book group, for example, to extend the learning in different ways. Thanks for the details of the books too!

  3. I love the debate aspect with the kids. They are so used to being told information that they have a hard time believing a teacher could think such thoughts. What a great way to slip in text based evidence authentically.

  4. I love how you are engaging them by going with the outrageous. This could really set you up to think aobut point of view in argument writing. Often our perspective on a character is closely tied to our point of view. Thanks for sharing!

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