Integrating your writing instruction with other core subject areas is a great way to help students process through information.
This year, to kick of informational writing, I’ve integrated social studies, writing and reading, to help students develop a deeper understanding of how to distinguish their own perspective from that of an author.
We’ve been working point of view in both literary and informational text for about a week and a half when I started this particular activity. I say that so that you know that for this to work, students must encounter many different rich texts that allow them to understand how to separate their view from that of the author. They will need that background schema to be independent here, so make sure you’ve taught point of view with fidelity.
We level out all of our standards in reading and math. For this reading standard, LEVEL 1 is Understand your point of view. Level 2 is understand the author’s point of view. Level 3 is to distinguish similarities and differences between your point of view and the author’s. I would say that at the time of this writing, the class is largely between Levels one and two with a handful that are between two and 3. You don’t have to do the leveling, but I wanted to share that so that you understand what I was looking for.
First off, consider how this could meet the needs of your ELLs. I have five this year. All of them are at different levels of language acquisition. Writing can be challenging for them, but with enough support, they will be able to get their ideas out for you to see! When I start a new form of writing with my kids, I like to start with videos or pictures. When I am using a video, I often ask the students to note important points, so I like to use closed captioning to support spelling. At the beginning of the year, I offer the use of sentence stems to those who would like the support, and I model often and chunk material down for them by pausing often to check for understanding.
We are a thinking maps school, so I infuse those throughout my writing. You feel free to use a tool that works for you when you brainstorm. We used a circle map and just described things we knew about Columbus. We used the center of the map to articulate our point of view based on the evidence we had. My students knew he went on a boat. He was an explorer, and he took trips. They concluded that he did good things to help Americans.
The next step we took was to watch a Brain Pop video on Columbus on our carpet. If you’ve not yet explored the true history of Columbus, this video explains it in a kid friendly way that would work for grades 4-5. There is another one for K-3 if you need something similar but at a different level and more support. We created a second circle map for the point of view of the author of the video. Of course, my students thought they knew everything about Columbus. They were appalled at who Columbus truly was! I modeled taking notes during the video. We discussed similarities and differences in what I wrote and what they wrote. Then we headed back to our seats to complete a double bubble map of the contrasting opinions.
Now that we had both sets of information, it was pretty easy to complete a double bubble with facts from what we learned. They were able to give me those details right away. It was great to see so much engagement. Every kid had something that they wanted to share for our map! I was so excited!
Since this was our first attempt at an informational writing with evidence, I wanted to make sure that the kids understood all the points they needed to share to also meet part of the reading standard as well. I gave the students some sentence stems to use if they felt that they needed it. Some did, and some did not! As we go through the unit, the stems will be used less and less.
The text for this student’s writing was
My point of view at the beginning of the day was that Christopher Columbus was kind and saved people. In the video I learned he killed people, stole people’s land and had slaves. Now I think we should not celebrate Columbus Day because he killed people and was mean and selfish.
For the purposes of this writing task, she assimilated the thinking we did corporately into a finished work that made sense. She had maps that showed she organized her thinking and worked independently. I was a pretty proud teacher today!
One of the things I miss about teaching first grade is that they were always awed by something. Today, I got that feeling back just a bit with this lesson. My students were engaged and talking about this all day. They were so excited about what they learned. I hope you’ll try having them watch the video and write their opinions afterward!
I can’t wait to get further into informational text writing with these guys!
Stay tuned! 🙂