One of the major takeaways in 3rd grade is learning how to write an essay. The students move from expressing their ideas in a paragraph with a topic sentence, details, and a conclusion, to expanding their ideas into multiple paragraphs, with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Last trimester the students wrote their first ever essay - an informational essay about communities. This trimester, they are venturing into the passionate world of persuasive essays.
Our topic is this: Is Casa Tua Bakery a well-run bakery?
Given the 3rd graders' now-expansive knowledge of economics, and their eye-opening trip to the bakery, they should have all the information they need to form a strong opinion in regards to this question. The challenge is for them to not just say "Yes, because I like their food," or "No, because it's too small," but instead to back up their opinion with well-thought-out economic arguments based on evidence.
In order for the students to keep track of their thinking and stay organized in their process, they are now using writing binders. These binders are a tool meant to help the 3rd graders move towards independence in essay writing. Included in the binder are reference pages reminding the students of writing "power moves" we've been learning this year (using similes, hyphenated adjectives, starting with a quote, etc.) as well as helpful sentence starters and transitions for those who need a jumping off point. Each binder also has a flip book containing simple checklists for each paragraph. For example, once a student has done all the steps in the introduction paragraph, he/she will simply tear off that page to see what to do next. As we continue to learn more valuable writing tips, their binders will become more robust resources.
We are still in the 1st draft phase of this essay, and it's amazing how independently the 3rd graders are moving from paragraph to paragraph with this new tool at their disposal!
The ability to form an argument and write an essay that coherently expresses one's reasoning is a crucial 21st Century skill, and these kids are well on their way!
Little people, big minds.