My kindergarten writers explored opinion writing this fall working to state an opinion and possibly provide a reason for the opinion. This is quite a simple task and most students were easily able to grasp this in the fall. At the start of the new semester we took on something new and exciting in the genre of persuasive writing. The students were challenged to not only supply an opinion, but to also convince others to agree or take action.
The first day of this work, I felt a little overwhelmed and quite like a writing teacher failure. During the mini-lesson we reviewed the types/purposes for writing we had explored this year. We have learned that writers write to tell stories, state an opinion and to teach or inform. We were now ready to explore how writers write to solve problems and change the world. We discussed how writers observe the world around them and sometimes see a problem they think needs to be changed and write to convince others to agree and take action. When my young writers took in this new idea and went off to write I quickly assessed they did not completely grasp the purpose I had described. One student wrote about a house on fire (the problem) and that they called 911 to solve this problem. Another student wrote that their friends pipes busted and flooded their house (problem) and they had to call a “pipe fixer.” Through conferences with these writers I knew what tomorrow’s mini-lesson would be.
The next day I began our workshop time with a discussion of things that were problems in our opinion. We had a little trouble with this so I began to name problems and we categorized them as “It’s a fact this is a problem” and “In some people’s opinion, this is a problem.” The students were then able to distinguish between the two. (i.e. a house on fire is in fact a problem, where as in your opinion you need a pet rabbit.)
Jeyton’s persuasive piece.
(“I’m breathing in your stuff. I know a different way. Wait until your kids get in. I’m having trouble breathing.”)
When I conferred with Jeyton the first thing he said was, “Will you please fold this into a paper airplane?” After some questioning, I was able to determine that he wrote about a problem he has with the bus in front of his bus and he wanted to fly it into the door of that bus because he couldn’t get in that line to deliver it to that driver. Jeyton further explained that he thought it was a problem that while he was in line to board his bus, the bus in front of his would finish loading and pull away leaving a cloud of exhaust that caused him to cough. His solution was for the bus to wait until his bus was also loaded before they pulled away. His reason to try to persuade the driver was that he was having trouble breathing. In his illustration he drew the cloud of exhaust, his line and bus and even added a speech bubble with “cough” written in it. This was a well thought out opinion with a solution and reasons. I was amazed by this 6 year old writer!
Kate’s persuasive piece.
(“Harrison, will you please stop spinning me <around>. I don’t like it.”)
Kate decided to write a letter for her persuasive piece because her audience was her brother. Kate explained that her brother thought it was fun to spin her around but in her opinion it was not fun. In her letter she stated her opinion and gave a reason to persuade him. She was serious about persuading him and wanted to deliver this letter immediately so I made a copy of her piece for her to take to him that day. She reported back that he said he would stop and he didn’t know she didn’t like it. Five year olds can use writing to solve problems!
Jackson’s persuasive piece.
(“Boys and girls, stop running. You will trip. It will cause commotion. If you run, you will maybe knock three people down like dominoes. Page 2… If you run, your backpack’s maybe going to choke you. Page 3… You will maybe break your head.”)
Jackson worked on this persuasive piece over several days which is impressive for kindergarten writers who often do not revisit writing pieces to revise or extend. Jackson decided that in his opinion there was too much running in the halls during dismissal and he wrote a persuasive piece to be read over the morning announcements because his audience was all students at HES. Jackson incorporated many things we had studied about persuasive writing in this piece. He stated the problem and listed several reasons to persuade. He also included possible consequences for inaction. Besides using what he learned as a persuasive writer, Jackson used one of our new vocabulary words (commotion) and numbered each page at the bottom. Jackson is six years old and is already a thoughtful, competent writer.
On the first day of this writing study, I felt overwhelmed and thought it was “too much” for these young writers. I am so grateful that I trusted myself, the process and these precious little writers who have so much to share. When we trust and we work to grow each day as writers and teachers of writing, magic happens!