Friday, August 17, 2012

New Assessments, Tools, Mini-Lessons and Mentor Texts to Support State of the Art Instruction in Persuasive Essay with Kate Roberts

Kate Roberts is a digital maven at weaving technological tools in the workshop to inspire, educate and engage writers.  She had us view a clip, which helped us examine the nature of a logical argument.  In fact, she shared several clips that could serve as digital touchstone or mentor texts that kids could use to learn different moves that writers use to persuade or convince others.  The following clip was a clip that we revisited throughout the week.  We mined different mentor texts and clips to articulate the different moves that writers use to persuade others.  

The following were some of our observations after rolling up our sleeves and examining a few different persuasive texts:

Persuasive Writers . . . 
Use facts, tell stories and anecdotes, appeal to the emotions of their audience, set a tone, name reasons, anticipate counter-argument, demonstrate an author's passion about a particular topic, rant, include different kinds of evidence, couch big ideas inside of smaller, specific details, are accessible to readers through the author’s tone or decisions about evidence to include/or exclude, craft their writing so that it has rhythm, a repeated slogan, at times, a hidden agenda and includes lists of facts in a rapid fire fashion

At the start of the week, Kate (as the teacher) modeled through think-aloud and demonstration writing an attempt to persuade her mother to follow her advice about a certain matter.  We took on the role of students, and studied the moves that she made in order to persuade her mother.  After the modeling and demonstration, she invited us to give it a go.

On-Demand Assessment
We were given a short burst of time to write an on-demand piece of writing.  An on-demand is a writing assessment that is produced at the start of the unit (as a formative assessment) to help the teacher take the temperature of the class and determine where the class is, in terms, of persuasive or argument writing.  We were given the following option if we were stuck for an argument: Write to convince people which flavor is better – vanilla or chocolate. 

An on-demand is an important tool if we want to show growth because it gives us a before snapshot of what the student was able to produce before the unit, and so at the end of the unit, it will be important to provide students with the chance to write another on-demand piece of argument/persuasive writing so as to examine the effects of our teaching.  The CCLS name persuasive under the umbrella of argument or opinion writing. 

Assessment is in the spotlight with the demands of the CCLS and other initiatives like Race to the Top exerting their influence on schools.  The TCRWP is an excellent model and resource for assessment tools that inform instruction and the argument/opinion continuum is a tool – like the narrative continuum – that helps teachers determine where a child is at in terms of argument/opinion writing, in order to, figure out what is in that child’s ZPD and decide on next steps for that child as a writer.  

Readers, what kinds of tools (or formative assessments) are we using to inform our instruction and guide our teaching in writing workshop? Have we gotten our 'feet wet' with on-demand writing? What methods have we used to integrate technology into our workshop?

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