Everything we teach should have a deeper purpose for students than simply doing well on a standardized assessment. In order to read and think critically throughout life, students need to be able to distinguish between facts and opinions. They need to be able to recognize key opinion words, such as feel, like, and believe. They should understand, and be able to use facts to support an opinion, as well as recognize when an author uses this skill to persuade the reader.
As educated adults, this appears to be a simple skill. For students this isn’t always the case. Working with my third grade intervention group today, I noticed they recognized obvious opinions, i.e., “I like vanilla ice cream.” The problems surfaced when they need to analyze more complex, real world texts.
For my lesson today I selected a variety of realistic fiction, historical fiction, and informational texts at their level. Within each book I located four or five facts or opinions, copied the text onto a sticky note, and placed the sticky note within the text on the page it was lifted from. The task for the students was to locate the exact text within the book, determine if it was fact or opinion, present their evidence, then place the sticky note on a T-Chart.
This process allowed me to address misconceptions and coach students on an individual basis. By analyzing the text, they were often able to find evidence to support their choices, and understand that rereading deepened their understanding. Afterward, students were asked to locate and record either a fact or opinion from an informational text. Then they presented the text they had written on their sticky note, provided evidence, and placed it on the same chart.
Did the students find this activity meaningful and engaging? YES! They all voiced their desire to do similar activities. An unexpected bonus was several of the students begged to read the books they were given. As a reading teacher, I was thrilled of course!