A few colleagues and I attended a full day district sponsored literacy professional development a couple weeks back. I was ecstatic for 2 reasons:
1. This is the first network pd I’ve been sent to all year because unfortunately science is not on my network’s priority list. If the middle school ELA teacher was not on a medical leave, I probably would not have been invited.
2. I enjoy the fact that I teach in the same network as my childhood elementary school so I find it uber amusing that I can make my former first grade and fifth grader teachers feel even more “seasoned,” I mean proud.
The focus was on the art of argumentative writing and this was probably one of the most informative professional developments I’ve been to in years. I’ve been to some good ones, but this one left me
inspired MOTIVATED to apply my learning to my science classroom. A third grade teacher presented “From Close Reading to Argumentative Writing,” in which her students close read and annotated two texts on Harriet Tubman, one was a graphic novel and the other was a non-fiction text, to answer the prompt, “Did Tubman have courage or determination to lead the slaves to freedom?” I was beyond impressed by how the teacher scaffolded the writing for her young learners, the higher order thinking that went into differentiating and identifying text examples of determination and courage, and by the quality of the finished products. If third graders could hit a home run with their writing, then my middle school students can totally do it too! I drafted plans, searched for articles, and created a provocative question for my students in the last hour or so of my PD.
Although I created two 3 week units for my students, I am only sharing my 7th grade argumentative writing unit in this blog post. We are a little over 3/4 of the way complete with the unit and I couldn’t help but share our accomplishments. Comment if you want more science writing posts!
“CCSS Writing Standard 1: Write arguments to support claims and
analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid
reasoning and relevant and sufficient
My students and I went through our ecology unit quicker than I planned to as a result of the state testing crunch so I thought it was essential to revisit this topic when deciding on an argumentative writing prompt. Choosing ecology led to huge amounts of student buy in due to confidence, prior knowledge, and student interest. I narrowed down the ecology topic to a focus on invasive species and selected the prompt: “Should there be laws in place to regulate exotic pet ownership in the U.S?” Coincidentally, I watched the film “The Elephant In the Living Room,” a couple weeks earlier so I knew I could rely on the documentary as a digital resource.
1. Close read 2 articles.
I selected two articles from different resources about exotic pets impacting Florida ecosystems. I’m sure you guessed that one of the articles had to be about the 20ft long Burmese python. Yes, people are purchasing these bad boys as household pets. One of my favorite resources this year for free, student friendly, and leveled resources is NEWSELA. NEWSELA provides teachers and students with engaging, high interest, common core aligned news articles that are current, written in 5 different levels ranging from 4th grade to high school depending on the article. Look out for my full review in May!
Text 1: “Python Invasion” from Ready Common Core
Text 2: “Exotic pets gone wild: Tegu lizards wreak havoc on Florida’s ecosystem” from NEWSELA
After annotating, we created a web of what ecology concepts the article was related to.
2. Introduce argumentative writing and the prompt.
I created a student friendly anchor chart to discuss the process of argumentative writing.
3. Model how to state a claim.
4. Create a graphic organizer to brainstorm the first draft of the essay.
I created and printed out a graphic organizer for my students, however one of my rock stars asked, “What happen to the Ms. G that we know and love? Can’t we brainstorm with the ipad?” Well duh, why didn’t I think of that? Students used my favorite go to app, Popplet, to create their brainstorming graphic organizer and they turned out 100 times better than I imagined.
1. Model how to write an introduction.
2. Draft first part of essays.
4. Watch clips of “The Elephant in the Living Room” daily. Create questions to accompany the film to use as prompts for our blog. This film went perfectly for the rebuttal portion of our essay.
6. Peer revise using conversation round table.
7. Have writing conferences with the teacher.
1. Write second draft.
2. Peer revise using conversation roundtable.
4. Edit essays.
5. Publish final draft and cite sources.
Tips for planning:
1. Carefully select texts to close read.
2. Search for multimedia resources to kill multiple CCSS ELA standards with one stone.
3. Differentiate by using leveled texts, providing graphic organizers, and accommodating diverse learners.
4. Don’t freak out. Relax, all teachers are literacy teachers. You can do this and do this well.
5. Trust the process. It might be new, but your students will be quick to get on board if you are enthusiastic about the unit.
6. If you teach them, they will use the strategies, stems, transitions, etc.
UPDATES: NEWSELA has published additional articles to support our essay unit. Check out the articles below!