Opinions, opinions

One section of the text book my pupils use deals with the school system in the US and Britain, and I thought that could be a good point of the departure for a writing assignment. I like teaching factual text writing, so I thought it would be interesting to introduce the pupils to this and use this for their writing.

I chose two competence aims to work toward:

  • write different types of texts with structure and coherence
  • discuss and elaborate on the way people live and how they socialise in Great Britain, USA and other English-speaking countries and Norway

I decided to use two texts in the textbook about the school system and school uniforms as a basis for my teaching. My goal was that the pupils should get to know about the school system in these two countries, think about what they thought of students wearing school uniforms and give their opinion on it, and know how to build a coherent and structured paragraph (they were told in the assignment to write two paragraphs), and how to use connecting words.

I allotted three lessons to preparations and teaching and the pupils spent the fourth lesson writing. We brainstormed words having to do with school, read and worked with the texts, and worked on how to create a good paragraph starting with a clear topic sentence. The pupils were allowed to use the work we did at school to refer to in their writing assignment.

After working on topic sentences at school and as homework, I gave the pupils an example of a paragraph. We also talked about what a good paragraph contains, and what to avoid (for example contractions). In addition, we had a brainstorm at school about positive and negative sides to having to wear school uniforms.

The pupils were given the task and the criteria the day before the writing assignment, and were allowed to bring keywords to school the next day, but not a finished text. Since this was their first attempt at writing a factual text and give their opinion on a topic, I wanted to focus more on the structure and content of the paragraphs, instead of whether the pupils find arguments on the spot. Many were nervous about the writing assignment, since this was the first time they were to write something in English and be graded on their effort, and being allowed to talk about the task beforehand, lowered their anxiety somewhat.

I wish I could have spent more time working on topic sentences and how to follow up with examples. The pupils could have used more practice at writing paragraphs that followed this pattern. Even one more lesson could have made a difference, as the pupils could have written a paragraph about another topic at home, and we could have discussed their attempts at school the next day. For some students who struggle with English, it was a bit difficult to manage to make a topic sentence, as well as following up with examples and using connecting words. Even so, most of the pupils managed a pretty good first attempt at giving their opinion on whether or not they thought pupils should wear school uniforms at lower secondary school (Consensus: they don´t).





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2 Responses to Opinions, opinions

  1. Brandon Trung Moen says:

    Great work!
    It sounds like you had a tightly knit plan and that it worked out well. I enjoyed reading about your experience because I was picturing both your classroom as well as mine. I get a strong notion that you had and continue to have good control and know what you are doing. This was my first time really being a leader and teacher of a class. Reading your reflection I instantly reflected on all the minor details and endless tasks that have to be constantly taken into consideration when planning and executing a lesson plan, but I feel you tackled these things naturally. I see, like I have been seeing these last 6 weeks, all the small things that I continue to learn and your example is yet another one to take inspiration from.
    I Love any chance to let the students express their own opinions. It usually always helps to get the ball rolling and creates good enthusiasm, in addition to learning some written and oral English skills. Last but not least, time is always of the essence and there never seems to be enough of it.

  2. Dear Gry! I think your choice of topic was excellent as comparing school systems is like a red thread throughout both lower and upper secondary school. The pupils can relate to the topic as well as they are experiencing the daily school life every week.
    Another good idea is teach them how to write, and on a small scale, I do not think 8th grade is too early, as long as the texts they are producing are not too long. I have many pupils struggling with how to combine topic sentence, arguments, examples, introduction and conclusion every year. It is a skill that you can use in so many subjects!
    The time problem is common and especially in yur practice period when you are not in control 100%. It is easier when you are in charge of your own class, as you know from previous teaching.
    Good luck with both “skoleovertagelse” and the last days!

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