I'm really excited to link up with Jivey today for Workshop Wednesday because this week's topic reminded me of a lesson I did years ago and have since forgotten... I love when that happens!
For this assignment, students take their opinions to the next level by researching evidence to support their ideas, writing a persuasive letter, and having a whole-class debate. It is honestly one of the most engaging activities I've ever done (I'm not sure how it dropped off my radar)
To start this activity, I share with my students an "article" I "found" in the Chicago Tribune about the budget crisis (sounds plausible, huh?). In the article, I mention that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is being forced to shut down one of the city's baseball teams in order to allocate funds to other resources.
If you know anything about Chicago sports, it's that we are serious and passionate about our love for our teams. As soon as we read this article, my classroom starts buzzing with opinions, and that's when I know I have them hooked.
At this point, I tell them that their assignment is to write a letter to Mayor Emanuel in which they will help him choose one team to represent their city forever more. (For the few kids who claim that they don't like either team or baseball at all, I allow them to write a letter that persuades him to get rid of both teams in lieu of something that better uses those funds.)
In order to do so effectively, though, I explain that will need to do research on both teams to figure out who will really be the better choice for Chicago. Of course, this never changes their opinions... which adds to an important lesson later about how facts and statistics can be used to prove ANYTHING and we must always look for BIAS!
Students research information about the players, team statistics, historical value, pros and cons of each ballpark, and even attractions in the area surrounding the parks (which are extremely different for those not familiar with our city).
After students do their research, they write business letters to the Mayor, persuading him to keep their favorite hometown team. Of course, their letters are filled with evidence from their research, keeping it aligned with Common Core. And because they think this is REAL, they write some of the best letters I see all year!!
On the last day, students come to class decked out in their best Cubs/Sox gear for our in-class debate. This is my favorite part of the week because the students REALLY get into it! By now, not only do they have evidence FOR their team, but they've also researched evidence AGAINST the other team. Clearly, I have to do some moderating for the debate, but we have a great time.
The lesson here is to find a topic that will motivate your students. Stop making them write about school uniforms or texting in class. Let them write about something they're really passionate about so it's engaging for them... it really makes a difference!