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Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Cheryl Johnson

Wednesday, 6 April, 2016 - 12:16 pm

 From the Desk of Cheryl Johnson

4th Grade General Studies

Opinion Essays 

Right now, the 4th graders are revising and editing the opinion essays they just finished writing. The opinion-essay unit is the second unit in our Lucy Calkins writing program.  The main goal of the program is to teach students how to express their ideas clearly, using three different types of writing:  narrative, opinion essay, and response-to-literature.  In addition, kids wrote an information essay (their “Jewish hero” reports) for Mrs. Marcus.

In the first unit of the Calkins program, students wrote realistic-fiction narratives.  They used several strategies to generate ideas for their stories.  They then picked one idea to develop.  They fleshed out the characters, plotted story arcs, and wrote scenes that showed  story events instead of just describing them.  After revising and editing their rough drafts, they typed their final copies.  At a “publishing party” in early March, they read their narratives to parents and interested others. Several of the narratives were very well-written!

In the second unit, we’re following a similar process:  Students used several strategies to come up with ideas for their opinion essays. They then picked one idea to develop, and turned it into a formal thesis.  They developed supporting reasons, and examples and details that amplified each reason. They will revise and edit their rough drafts, and then type the final copies. If we have time, we hope to invite parents in again to hear the results of our work.  Several kids are working on interesting theses!

“Response-to-literature” writing involves the student writing about something s/he has read.  Typically, students are given specific instructions about what they’re to discuss, e.g. “compare and contrast two characters in a book”, or “analyze the theme in the story and describe how the author showed it”.  In 4th grade we’ve been practicing that type of writing through the Book Club blogs the kids do every month. Every kid gets individual feedback on his/her blog.

Finally, in the late Fall, students learned how to write information essays. Mrs. Marcus outlined the specific content for their “Jewish hero” reports. Mrs. Johnson helped students with the mechanics of writing the report.

So this year, your child experienced several new types of writing.  H/she should be a better writer than s/he was when s/he started 4th grade!

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