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Grade 1: Writing Opinions

In Grade 1 this month, students learned how to express their opinions and write persuasive arguments. Grade 1 teacher Mrs. Tera Malyszko and Lower School Resident Teacher Ms. Katey Nyquist began their unit by inviting each student to bring in a collection of their favorite items. “Students brought in everything from rocks and crystals to stuffies and headbands,” Ms. Nyquist said. “One student even made a collection of different paper clips.” After bringing their collections to the classroom, students first had to decide how they were going to review them. Mrs. Malyszko prompted her students to line them up and move through categories to judge each item in the collection. “If it was a collection of stuffed animals, they could say, ‘I’m going to look at the fur on all of them,’ and then ‘I’m going to look at their eye color,’” Mrs. Malyszko said. “The goal is to teach them to give reasons to support their opinion.”
Once the students decided which item in their collection was, in their opinion, the best, other students were given the opportunity to either agree or disagree with their choice. “They learned how to disagree politely,” Ms. Nyquist said. “They had to give reasons to support why they thought a different collection item was better.” Students worked together to improve their reviews. Then, they tried to make their writing more persuasive. Mrs. Malyszko and Ms. Nyquist checked for certain techniques in the students’ persuasive writing, such as specific details, engaging introductions, and “Sparkly Words.” “Sparkly words are what we call descriptive words or words to enhance their writing,” Mrs. Malyszko said. 
Mrs. Malyszko and Ms. Nyquist enjoy this unit almost as much as the students do. “It’s engaging,” said Mrs. Malyszko. “What’s great about this unit is their excitement, because they’re really invested in the topics that they’re choosing to write about.” This excitement and engagement improve the quality of their writing, too, because the students want their opinions to be especially persuasive. “They have really done well with this project,” Ms. Nyquist said. “Even on our second day of the unit, one student wrote a great introduction, and she was using really big, sparkly words.”
Ultimately, this unit prepares students to have respectful, productive conversations, even when they might not agree with the other person. “We’ve already had a few students come in and tell us about how they used their ‘how to disagree politely’ strategies to solve a real world problem,” Ms. Nyquist said. Mrs. Malyszko also emphasized that this unit taught students to use their own voices, no matter how talkative they typically are. “There are some students who are more vocal than others, but in this unit they are all able to voice their own opinions through writing.” Awesome work, Grade 1!

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.