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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Common Core Writing Standard 1

The first College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Writing (CCRA.W.1) asks students to "write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence." Folks, we're dealing with persuasive writing today.

How does this translate to Common Core writing standards for Grades 3-5?

W.3.1, W.4.1, and W.5.1 all read the same: "Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information" (except Grade 3 leaves off the last two words: "and information"). This standard is further broken down into four key parts:

  • W.3.1a/W.4.1a/W.5.1a - Third graders are asked to introduce a topic, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons. Fourth and fifth graders must also logically group their ideas to support the writer's purpose.
  • W.3.1b/W.4.1b/W.5.1b - In third grade, students must supply reasons that support their opinion. Fourth graders and fifth graders must also include facts and details to support their reasons.
  • W.3.1c/W.4.1c/W.5.1c - In all three grades, students are asked to use linking words and phrases to connect their opinions and reasons.
  • W.3.1d/W.4.1d/W.5.1d - Students must write a conclusion.
In a nutshell, the first writing standard tasks students with introducing a topic, stating an opinion, giving reasons (and facts/details in Grades 4-5), using linking words, and writing a conclusion. The Common Core does not indicate the length of the opinion piece; however, when students begin to include facts and details in fourth and fifth grades, a multi-paragraph piece is likely necessary.

In thirty years of teaching, I've tried many graphic organizers to help my students plan their writing, but one planner stands out. My fourth graders are required to plan (and write) five-paragraph persuasive essays with an organizer looks like this:

The top rectangle, in which students list their opinion and three reasons, becomes the introductory paragraph. Each of the three middle columns, which include a reason and supports (details, examples, anecdotes, statistics, quotes, research, etc.), organize information for one supporting paragraph. The bottom rectangle, with its restatement of reasons and call to action, becomes the conclusion.

Even though it's messy, I'll share an organizer I used to model this process for my class last year:

This organizer simplifies the process of writing a persuasive essay, but there's actually much more that goes into an effective opinion piece. Students must learn to carefully select a good topic and supportive reasons, as well as dig for valid facts and details to support those reasons. They must work on good beginnings and endings; powerful word choice (specific nouns and active verbs); varying sentence beginnings, lengths, and types; appropriate use of linking words, phrases, and clauses; and much more. Although this sounds like a lot for a little kid to handle, I have found that with direct instruction, modeling, and sound organizational structures, they can do it (and do it well!)

Here are a few examples you can use with your students:
I have recently added a new set of lesson plans entitled "Persuasive Writing: You Should Try It!" to my Teachers pay Teachers store. In this activity, students choose a favorite activity and try to persuade their peers to try it. A clear step-by-step process with modeling and corresponding student sheets make it a snap. Check it out!

What works for you when teaching persuasive writing to your class? Let's start a discussion!