Persuasive writing, TCRWP and the NJ ASK test

So, here we go…the NJ ASK is three weeks away and we have (at last)  begun to prepare.  This year, I am linking the ASK prep to Common Core State Standards in every area of our Language Arts test, and using the standards to build charts and strategies.
Here’s what the Common Core has to say writing standards for sixth grade:

Test prep can be so dry and boring…unless, of course, you are the good people at the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project, who have done amazing work to make teaching everything a rich and interesting experience. Last year, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the TC February Institute, where many workshops focused on persuasive writing.  One of the innovative things I learned about was the use of videos in Reading and Writing Workshop – and especially how to use videos to lay the groundwork for persuasive writing.  Enter the Great Chocolate Milk debate!
I learned that we could use news clips and dairy industry videos to introduce claims and counter claims about  serving  chocolate milk with  school lunches: good thing? bad thing?   Well…listen to both sides, decide and then use the evidence to  write to persuade.  Brilliant! What better way to get my kids to sit up and pay attention to persuasive writing mini lessons than to serve it up with chocolate milk?!
I took lots of notes during my workshop at TC, but Lucy and her team are so generous with their work – it is also available online for teachers everywhere to delve in and give it a try.  I took a little bit from here, a little more from there and here’s how it all went down in my classroom today:
We began by brainstorming about what persuasion is all about in the first place, and charted or thinking.  I found this little clip to reinforce those basic ideas before we moved on (my kids loved it):

Then we charted the bare bones of a persuasive essay in our Writer’s Notebooks:

Next, we reviewed how we would use  “boxes and bullets” to sketch out a plan of  action:
Finally, we got to the part my kids were waiting for: The Great Chocolate Debate….we used our notebooks to note information on both sides of the issue (Yes, serve chocolate milk at lunch! No, do not serve chocolate milk at lunch!), and then we watched the videos very closely:
That’s all we had time for…but tomorrow is another day, and we hope to write our first drafts using our notes from today.  My kids were psyched not to have to write another persuasive essay on homework or school uniforms…and although I’m pretty sure I can already guess the stance they will take tomorrow (chocolate milk all the way!), I am also pretty sure that will enjoy the writing process all the more because…hey, who doesn’t like chocolate milk?! 
FYI: This is a link to work that Mary Ehrenworth has done on persuasive writing using the chocolate milk theme.  This is also on the TC site – which, as I have already said, is amazing.

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