Can you believe it’s almost February? I’ve seen Valentine’s Day items popping up at stores around town, and I suddenly realized it’s only one month away! I have 2 great Valentine’s Day reading activities to share with you.
First, I will share with you a close-reading activity on The History of Saint Valentine’s Day. This 10-page activity includes a 3-page handout about the mysterious history of St. Valentine the martyr, and the evolution of today’s Valentine’s Day holiday. It gives 2 different historical accounts of the Christian martyr’s life and death, plus an explanation of Pagan influence on this celebrated holiday. There is also an explanation of Valentine’s Day as it is celebrated today, and the symbols and traditions around this special day.
This is a close-reading or text-based reading activity because the text is divided into smaller, manageable chunks with follow-up questions after each section. The student must find evidence within the text to answer the questions (following Common Core Standards and language) by highlighting or underlining.
This would be an excellent activity to do with your entire class, or with an intervention group of struggling readers. It would easily align to your Language Arts / English, Social Studies / History, or Religious Studies curriculum as a cross-curricular lesson. You can use this text any time, not just for Valentine’s Day! If you would like to purchase this activity, you can click here.
The next activity I will share with you is Author’s Purpose Guided Practice for Grades 6-10 a FREE activity. In this activity, students will learn about PIE: Persuade, Inform, and Entertain. Then, they will read 3 sample texts and discuss how each is an example of persuasive, informative, or entertaining writing.
If you enjoy this FREE mini activity and want to purchase a full lesson plan on Author’s Purpose, I also have the Identifying Author’s Purpose full lesson plan.
The Identifying Author’s Purpose activity includes 15 writing samples that students will first identify as either persuasive, informative, or entertaining. Then, they will decide what the author is trying to convince them of (persuasion), inform them of (informative), or entertain them with (entertain). It includes a handout explaining the key features and genres of persuasive, informative, and entertaining (PIE) texts, model/sample writing for each category (3 total). Read and discuss as a class, and guided practice sample writing for each category (3 total). Students can read, discuss, and identify the sample texts in small groups, while they also engage in close reading to determine the type of writing (PIE) and the author’s specific goal.
I hope these activities can help you and your students to engage in some close reading strategies and techniques throughout February!
This week, as we work on our Argumentative Writing Unit, we are currently preparing to locate evidence on the Internet. Before we can find appropriate evidence, we need to learn how to determine which websites are credible and reliable.
As a pretest, I gave all of my students a handout of Google search results screenshot. I asked them which links they would click on, given our specific topic and purpose. A large percentage of the students chose the first link simply because it was the first link – not considering that the 2nd or 3rd link were actually a better fit. Then, I sent my students to a website and asked them if it was a credible website. The majority of them wrote something like, “yes, because it has good information and facts.” It was then that I knew we needed a conversation on determining the credibility of websites.
Through our class discussion, I heard the same ideas over and over again – blogs and wikipedia are bad news. I fundamentally disagree with these statements, and I have been working on deconstructing this illogic and convincing my students otherwise. Wikipedia used to be considered a highly unreliable source. However, each page now has a list of references and self-appointed curators who monitor the page. While I would not use Wikipedia as a direct source in a paper, I would use it as a starting point to familiarize myself with a topic, then follow the source/links at the bottom for more direct information. Blogs can also be reliable, if written by an expert in the field and/or if it includes credible citations and resources. UN-teaching these Internet myths has been a real challenge with my students.
Below is a list of ideas we generated as a class to decide if a website is credible. There is never a clear black/white answer. It is best to consider all of these ideas together, then make an educated guess as to whether a site is trustworthy enough to include references in your writing.
If you’d like your own copy, you can download the FREE poster here. If you have any comments on this poster – ideas for improvement, or ideas we forgot – please add your thoughts in the comments! Thanks!
We have begun working on our Argumentation Unit – a Common Core aligned unit in which students investigate all sides of a topic, choose a side (or in my classroom, I assign stakeholders to make sure that all perspectives are represented), debate and discuss the topic as the stakeholder, come to a compromise or solution as a class, then write a final paper in which they use reasoning and evidence. This all follows the TELCon writing structure – Thesis/Topic, Evidence, Link, Concluding Sentence.
So far, we have begun by selecting 8 Controversial Topics to discuss as a class. (First, we had to even define ‘Controversial.’) For the past two days, we have been deciding which questions we might be interested in investigating as a class based on interest and researchability. We start by considering each question, one at a time. I have the students generate a ‘pro’ and ‘con’ list in their notebooks. Then, they took some time to dig around on the internet and see what kind of evidence they could locate to support either side.
The steroid question is definitely of high-interest amongst my students. However, there is an abundance of research and evidence for the ‘No’ side of the argument with very little supporting evidence on the ‘Yes’ side. For this reason, we decided to eliminate #4. My students are VERY interested in #8 (Fast-food restaurants) and #5 (Cloning). If they decided to go with the cloning topic, we will first have to define cloning and learn more about it before we can develop reasons and locate evidence.
Tomorrow, we are going to pick the one question we will pursue as a class. Then, we will generate a list of stakeholders in the argument – each student will be assigned a stakeholder role. Next, we will generate a list of questions we have about this topic as well as a list of information each stakeholder may need to locate.
I am taking them through this whole process of the Argumentation Unit using both my Argument Unit materials and The Paper Chain, an Argumentative Writing Instructional Workbook. It is very helpful to go step-by-step through this process with them. I will be sure to continue posting about our progress as a class. This is a very high-interest unit – I can’t wait for 2nd quarter to teach it every year!