Monthly Archives: April 2014

That’s My Opinion

There are so many opinions about opinions that it can be confusing for students to know just what they are to do when their teachers ask them to write or present multimodally an opinion that is appropriate for the students’ grade level. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (2010) link opinion writing in elementary grades with the arguments they will construct in the secondary grades (6–12). Review the list of selected Common Core Standards (grades K–5) here, and you will notice that the word “opinion” comes up quite often.

Review the CCSS Links. 

Chances are, someone has said to you, or written on a social media post, “Well, that’s just my opinion.” It may mean that the speaker is inviting a different point of view, or it may mean that the speaker is not going to change his or her point-of-view no matter how you respond. After all, it is the speaker’s opinion, and we are all entitled to our opinions. But the authors and editors of the opinion and editorial pages of major newspapers write opinions about problems and issues in the news, and many people pay a lot of attention to those opinions. Supreme Court justices render opinions, and their opinions affect matters in important ways.

Students need to understand that, depending on context, a single word can mean different things. “Opinion” is one of those words. Help students think about just what an opinion means for them at school and in their specific grade level—help them understand that the term means something very specific when it comes to academic language. In some cases, an opinion is just a belief that may or may not be supported by evidence or facts. In other cases, an opinion is a reasoned analysis based on reliable evidence or sources. Sometimes, an opinion is based on a great deal of experience with the topic.

Give students in the upper elementary grades about 15 minutes to find as many definitions for “opinion” as they can using three or four online dictionaries. (Some good dictionaries for elementary students can be found here; click the link for “dictionaries” under “reference.” You may want to bookmark these, or link them on a class webpage so students don’t spend time looking for the dictionaries themselves.) Once students have compiled the definitions, ask them which of the definitions most closely match the standard for their grade level from the chart linked here.

If students are given the opportunity to realize that words often mean different things to different people under different conditions, they will be better armed to formulate the kinds of opinions that academic work demands of them. Even more important, their ability to think critically about the texts they read and the texts they compose will be enhanced. But that is just my opinion!

Reference
Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Washington, DC: CCSSO & National Governors Association.

Posted in Curriculum, How-To, Language Arts, Language Arts Methods, Teaching | 1 Comment

More Student Feedback on Digital Textbooks

At the beginning of the semester, I asked my university students how they felt about using a digital textbook in our course. For most of the students, this was their first experience with reading any type of etextbook, yet alone one with embedded web links, video files, and audio clips. I had expected unbridled enthusiasm, since these same students are never without cell phones and other devices. I thought they would be eager to extend this digital experience to their learning. While some students did express enthusiasm and eagerness, many others were quite uncomfortable with trying this “new” way of learning. This wordle captures the range of emotions expressed by my students, and their comments below elaborate on their feelings.

Wordle

Before reading the digital textbook:
It’s new for me. I don’t know what to look forward to.

I don’t mind it since it will help me understand more about technology.

I am not fond of it, but I willing to experience it.

I am looking forward to it and hope I like it. I do not like it at all.

I am not very good using technology. Being an older student makes it a little harder.

I am leery of it. My eyes get tired.

After reading the digital textbook:
Accessible on my laptop and I do not have to carry around a textbook. It’s easy to search and it includes extra features and resources.

I could interact with the book.

I prefer the digital version because it totally changed my mind after reading our textbook. I enjoyed reading, watching outside resources in this textbook by clicking the links of the book.

I felt like it was going by faster!

I was getting too distracted when reading the digital version.

I would rather have a print copy. It helps me learn better.

I like having the book in my hands. With the digital copies, it just doesn’t seem permanent or concrete.

My informal student survey served as a humbling reminder to me about the importance of not making assumptions about our students and their preferences when it comes to learning! Also, I was heartened to see the eagerness and adaptability of students, which is so crucial in this changing world.

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