Consider the following standard taken from the Language Arts Common Core
“The ability to write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence is a cornerstone of the writing standards, with opinion writing—a basic form of argument—extending down into the earliest grades. “
While there are a number of resources and strategies that may be used to address this standard I would like to share some online resources that are available.
Let’s first take a look at the available options in the NY Times. We are all aware that the Opinions Section for any newspaper, not just the Times, offers an opportunity to read various viewpoints on a topic. Students may reflect, conduct further research and form their own opinions based on what they read in these sections. The New York Times Editorial page, Op-Ed columnists, Letters to the Editor or even the collection of Opinion videos are great resources for this type of activity. There is also the Student Opinion section from the NY Times Learning Blog which targets stories relevant to our students. Students 13 years old and above may register to post comments on the stories posted.
The New York Times offers another great resource called “ Room For Debate” (www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate) Room for Debate looks at an issue or event in the news and organizes four to five opinion pieces for each. The contributors are limited to a four or five paragraph response. This makes the reality of implementing this in a classroom or as a homework assignment more practical. The site is very user friendly for teachers and students.
There are a number of uses for such a source. Instructional strategies such as think-pair-share or jigsaw may be used in the classroom to discuss the various views. Culminating activities may involve contributing to an online discussion using Moodle, Edmodo, Ning, or a blog posting or any other online discussion forum.
After reading and researching varying viewpoints on a topic students may be charged with crafting their own written opinion piece that will be reflective of the various opinions as well as their knowledge of context gained.
Teen and Tween Tribune are another great resource for students to read current event articles as well as the responses and comments published by other students. Each day they post the most compelling, relevant, and interesting stories for teens and tweens. Students are provided with an opportunity to comment on these stories. Teachers may setup a class page and accounts to manage and monitor the activity on the site.
There are a number of websites that offer articles or conversation starters that can be used to formulate persuasive or argumentive writing. Opposing Views, Procon, Middle School Debate and the Wikipedia list of controversial issues are a few.
When looking at current news, politics and other notable events PolitiFact takes an interesting spin in its approach. Each day they analyze statements and comments made by notable politicians and then rate the accuracy of these statements.
The RAFT writing strategy is a popular strategy for both teachers and students. You can view my wiki of resources regarding this topic here. When constructing a writing task in social studies this topic generator may come in handy.
When developing expository writing assignments in any subject area technology may be a valuable asset. The development of a digital story or tutorial requires a written document that is then narrated.
Students may develop a mathematics or science tutorial using Jing. This tutorial may demonstrate the steps of solving a word problem, the process of photosynthesis, or how to compute the area of a room. In each of these scenarios the students must develop a written piece that identifies the steps of the process. The fact that they will be speaking and recording their writing for a global online audience offers a level of authenticity and engagement that is difficult to replicate with traditional writing tasks.
By taking students on virtual field trips to locations throughout the world using Google Earth, or the museums of the world through the Google Art Project we present opportunities to build context and activate prior knowledge. We also provide an engaging and interactive experience that acts as a catalyst for writing.
A simple webquest created using Google Sites may ask students to compare the sequence of events that led to the New Deal and contrast them with the events that led to the current economic stimulus package. A webquest template contains links to resources, tasks and guidance for students to take part in this inquiry driven assignment. Writing may be published and shared online using Google Docs. Google Docs will allow for peer review and editing. It also allows for the teacher to monitor the writing progress in real-time