Florida Industries
We worked so hard on our opinion writing pieces that we held an open house.  (Actually, I figured out that students tried a lot harder if they knew other people were coming to see their work.)  We scheduled the open house after our award ceremony, so we had a good parent turn out.  We also invited third grade to come see our work. 

To prep for the open house, we spent 2-3 class periods designing and creating posters.  Students had to sketch out their poster on a piece of paper and show that they included all of the required parts.  Once that was approved, they received a poster board and designed it.  Most students were able to complete this in one class period.  (I did allow students to print our pictures at home and use them if they did not want to draw pictures.)

The open house was a huge success.  Parents enjoyed seeing what the students did, and I was able to go around to each student and ask them about Florida’s economy and their chosen industry.  I was impressed by how much most of the students understood.  Some students knew a lot more about their industries then they had on their poster, and other had some misconceptions that we could clear up in a quick discussion.  

In the end, the project was a huge success.  Next year, I would definitely add in more support during the ranking and analysis sections, as some students really needed more examples.  I would also spend a class period or two investigating the economy.  I found that the book mentioned economy and what it was, but it really didn’t stick with students.  Other than those two areas, students worked on many higher level thinking skills, public speaking, opinion writing, and social studies skills throughout this project.  Students showed a sense of ownership and accomplishment during the open house!

Florida Writes

If you are interested in the steps we used to research and write our opinion essays, please read opinion writing posts part 1 and part 2.

Have you held a successful open house?  What did you do?
FSA Writes, Florida Industries
We recently worked on a project that integrated text-based writing with Florida history.  In this post, you will learn how the students formed an opinion, selected their evidence, and wrote their final essays.

Make an Outline from the Notes

Once student completed their rankings, we worked on creating an outline for our essays.  I created a guide sheet that explains using a topic sentence, evidence, analysis, and a conclusion.  Before we even began our essays, we went over the parts of our essay and glued the sheet into our notebooks.  (I am very big on gluing everything down.  If it is glued in the notebook, it doesn’t get lost!)

Select the Evidence

After we did that, I returned the ranking sheets to students.  I had them place that sheet on their desk next to their open notebooks.  We walked through our essay outline together.  On my outline, I labeled each sentence so students could see the pattern in our writing.  This helped a lot of students, although some did need more support as they worked on their own essay. 

First, I showed my ranking sheet and created a topic sentence.  For example, “Agriculture is the most important Florida industry.”  Short and sweet.  Did I allow students to copy that and change the industry as needed?  I sure did.  This is our first big essay with evidence, and if students needed that support they could use it. 

Next, we discussed what we needed to do to convince people that our industry was indeed the most important.  We pretended that we worked for the governor and had to convince him that our industry needed his support.  I asked students to help me pick a fact that would help convince him. 

Hint: We had them written down as our reasons for supporting our ranking.

Yes, some smarties figured that our quickly and pointed it out to the class!  Oohs and aahs all around when students understood that they already had their evidence written down – they just had to copy it!

FSA Writes, Florida Industries

Analyze the Evidence

The hardest part of the essay was the analysis.  We did some of the evidence and analysis together, then students worked on it alone.  Students selected the fact from their ranking sheet and write it down as “evidence.”  Under that, students wrote the analysis. 
In order to help them understand why they needed to analyze, I pulled out my analogies again.  We talked about when they really want something from the store, how do they convince their parents to get it?  What works and what doesn’t?  For example, my son wants fancy headphones, and he has been trying for a while to convince me that he needs expensive ones.  Clearly, his argument is lacking because he doesn’t have them yet. 

“My sister broke them.”  Well, he has no proof of that, so it isn’t very convincing. 

“The cat chewed the cord.”  Why did you leave them out where the cat could get them?

Students understood pretty quickly how fast his evidence was getting dismissed.  So we talked about how he could make his evidence more convincing.  Eventually students decided that if he explained in more detail what happened, he had a better chance.  BINGO.  More detail.  That is the purpose of the analysis – explaining why the fact proves your opinion.  

FSA Writes, Florida Industries

Write the Essay

Once students completed their outlines, I showed them how their essay was completely written for them – they just had to write it as a final paragraph.  (We did this another day.  I find fourth graders do not have a lot of stamina for writing in the first quarter.)  

In part 1 of this series, I discussed how we got started on our research and organized our notes.  In my next post, I will talk about our open house - the parents loved it!

FSA Writes
For many students, opinion writing is really difficult.  All of them have opinions, but they don't know how to support it with facts.  Learning standards require students to used text-based evidence in their writing, so teachers need to support students while they master integrating research into their opinions.  Recently, my class worked through a research project that require students to read for evidence, analyze the material, and form an opinion based on the evidence.  At the end of the unit, we held an open house for our families.  

Read the Information & Take Notes

We study Florida history, and my county has us start with Florida today.  To start our unit, students used the social studies textbook to take notes on the economy and the major Florida industries.   After we had our notes, students used my task cards to further research four of the major Florida industries.  They used the note sheet to help organize their information.  

FSA Writes
Once students completed their notes, we discussed them as a class and made sure everyone had accurate notes.  (The notes were a terrific way to check reading comprehension – and it was pretty obvious who needed more support.) 

Analyze the Facts

After that, we discussed ranking the industries.  I used some analogies to help students understand the concept.  For example, who wins a cross country race?  Whoever is the fastest – simple, one measurement.  You are either the fastest or you aren’t.  What about a bake-off at the country fair?  Judges use more than one measurement – color, taste, texture.  So, in order to determine which industry was the most important to Florida’s economy, we would first have to determine which facts were the most important. 

FSA Writes
 I did not make student focus on a particular fact.  In hindsight, I would give students more guidance in this area.  We talked about using how much money the industry made as a factor or how many people were employed in the industry.  Students also brought up other information, such as the number of companies involved in the industry.  For their ranking sheet, all I really wanted to see is that they had some logic behind their rankings.  That is why the fact sheet makes them justify their first and last place rankings.  Those reasons helped me to see what they were using for their judgements – or if they were randomly writing down facts.

In my next post, I discuss how we moved from our ranking sheet to our essays.  In the last post, I explain how we organized an open house for students to showcase their projects.
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