My Take-Aways – TCRWP’s 10-18-14 Saturday Reunion

My Take-Aways
from the October 18, 2014 TCRWP Saturday Reunion
Since the next unit of study I’ll be teaching with my 5th graders is Research-based Argument Essay, I attended the Keynote by Kelly Boland Hohne, “Debate Can Engine Higher Level Thinking and Reading.” Then Lucy’s talk, “From Boot Camp to Revision: An Overview of a Unit on Essay Writing.” Then a talk by Meghan Hargrave, “Structure, Elaboration, and Analysis are New Ambitions: Raising the Stakes for Fourth and Fifth Grade Opinion Writers. What a perfect set of talks to get me fired up and prepared to teach this next unit of study well!
·      Lucy explained the WHY behind the boot camp model and it makes perfect sense to me to spend two days guiding the class to write an essay together so they see right from the start the structure of an essay. I like ________ because of _____, because of ________. And most of all, because of ________.
·      She explained how to develop each reason by either telling a small story, writing a list divided into subcategories, or asking and answering a question.
·      Once the class together has written in the air, an essay (our topic was I like ice cream), then she said to have the class flash draft the essay.
·      Now the teacher can read the flash drafts and see who gets this structure. She suggested looking to see if it is divided into paragraphs and if each section is a separate paragraph and if each paragraph has a topic sentence. If not, this can be taught on Day 2. Also on Day 2, she said an elaboration lesson can be shared using prompts to get the essayists to write more.
o   Elaboration Prompts – In other words, I realize that, This is important because, For example, This shows, Some people might think __ but I think, Therefore, from this day forward…
Lucy also noted that essay writing can be practiced by having a debate which Kelly Boland Hohne demonstrated so well during her keynote. She suggested an easy way to get debate going in your classroom is to embed a few specific prompts into the regular read-aloud. She shared 2 kinds –  prompts to argue about a text and prompts to argue inside the text. She demonstrated using the picture book, Fox by Margaret Wild.
Debates we had:
1.     She stopped at the part when Magpie is about to tell Dog why not to trust Fox and she said, “It seems Dog and Magpie are about to have an argument. Partner 1, you be Magpie. Partner 2, you be Dog. Now have that argument. Be the character and talk as the character. Role play it now!
2.     She stopped at the part when Magpie leaves Dog and goes with Fox. She asked: Who is responsible for Magpie leaving Dog. Partner 1 – I take the position that Magpie is responsible. Here’s why. Partner 2 – I take the position that Fox is more responsible. Here’s why.
3.     She also suggested that another debate could be the internal argument that Magpie was having. Partner 1 – I should stay with dog. Partner 2 – I should really go with fox.
Then Kelly said, “We needed to put this work into kids’ hands because teachers can’t be the keeper of the questions.” We tried this with the Spring chapter in Frog and Toad!
In her teacher voice she said, “I shouldn’t be the only ones to ask questions. Today let’s have an inquiry read-aloud. As you listen, think about WHAT COULD WE DEBATE? A tip is that debates related to a text usually happen when: the reader has a wondering, the reader notices different emotions, and when something is upset in the text. As I read, be thinking: WHAT’S THE QUESTION I REALLY WANT TO ARGUE? Once done, ask for questions and chart them. Pick one and have the debate. If it is messy and doesn’t go so well, reflect as a class on that. Why didn’t this question work well? What makes for a good question? Try it again and again, all year long!!
She gave us a handout of an anchor chart:
·      Is this character strong or weak?
·      Should the character have made that choice or not?
·      The story teachers us ____ or ____?
·      Which character is more to blame?
·      Did the ___ represent __ or ___?
She ended by saying: Debate is not a thing. Debate is a culture.It is a way to be critical. We want to encourage kids to ASK, to ARGUE as a way of being!
Clearly these two talks have me fired up to get my 5thgraders debating and writing argument essays. Then I heard Meghan Hargravetalk. She described her ideas as the next layer to Lucy’s Boot Camp talk, a way to take opinion writing to the next level.
She grew Lucy’s boxes and bullets structure :
(Thesis statement) because (reason 1), (reason 2), and most of all, because (reason 3).
·      One reason that (thesis statement) is that (reason 1). For example (evidence a), (evidence b) and (evidence c).
·      Another reason that (thesis statement) is that (reason 2). For example (evidence a), (evidence b) and (evidence c).
·      The most important reason that (thesis statement) is that (reason 3). For example (evidence a), (evidence b) and (evidence c).
She suggested, like Lucy, to start the unit off with explicitly saying, “Here’s how to write an essay. Fill it all in! The teacher can use it during conferring time to remind kids who are having trouble with the structure.
She suggested making the structure tactile – use index cards. Write down the big idea and the bullets. Move them around. Add transition word cards. Play around with it to get the essay in the order that works.
She suggested that instead of having a long list of transition words, group them:
Words that give example –  for example, another, for instance, also, as you can see
Words that connect – also, and, in addition
Words that analyze evidence – this shows, the important thing is, so
Words that make evidence seem stronger – specifically, more than, in particular, exactly
She shared how in narrative, writers stretch out the heart of the story. This same idea can be done by essay writers. She showed an anchor chart that read: Bring out the heart of the essay. ASK Why does this matter? Why am I choosing to write about THIS topic? What do I want readers to think, feel, and know?
To Elaborate, she also suggested using prompts to push writers’ thinking. The prompts are language that gets writers to say more. She suggested charting the kinds of evidence: mini-story, facts, statistics, definitions, quote from a source. When a student lacks evidence, ask them to reread and see WHERE one of these could be added. She also showed how to use the Gr 6-8 Technique and Goal Picture Cards that were shared with me this summer and that are in the 6-8 Units of Study for Teaching Writing kits.
Ex) The writer’s goal is to elaborate. What will they do? They can back up each reason with evidence. HOW? I will include ____ (use the picture cards). Now a very clear goal is written and pictured for the essay writer!
Finally she shared some moves to help writers analyze. When a writer has picked evidence, ask them SO WHAT? And have them talk/write back to answer it. This talking back is the analysis. How do you know?
What do you mean? What makes this quote/fact/mini-story/etc so important?
Now I feel more than ready to guide my 5thgraders to write a research-based argument essay!!
I also listen to Mary Ehrenworth speak about ways to teach grammar.
And Emily Smith speak about goal setting, checklists and Feedback.
And I got inspired by Carl Anderson’s final keynote.
WHAT an amazing Saturday of learning!
I’m so looking forward to going to work tomorrow and using all the great ideas I heard as I teach this year.