Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Opinion Writing with Purpose: 2 Letters!

We want young writers to write their opinions and support the ideas with solid reasoning. One of the best ways I've found to develop this skill is through letter writing. Using one of the ideas from 101 Ways to Make Book Reports Fun, my students have been writing some fabulous opinion pieces.

Recently, our studies have focused on explorers who searched for the Northwest Passage. We read about Sir Francis Drake and learned about his relationship with Queen Elizabeth. Students were dismayed to learn that she ignored much of his pirate-like behavior, wanting money to finance her projects.

One week, I suggested they write letters to Queen Elizabeth, explaining their concerns. After the letters were complete, I asked them to write replies to their own letters, pretending that they were Queen Elizabeth. (They didn't know that this was coming.) They did an incredible job!! Here are a couple of examples:

From a third grader:
Dear Queen Elizabeth,
I'm writing this letter to tell you about my opinion about your actions. I think you are hurtful because you are taking people for slaves. This tears families apart. In addition, you are taking money and gold from other ships, which is stealing. Sir Francis Drake is killing a lot of people which you know about, but you continued giving him tons of weapons and ships. I kind of do not like you, but you are pretty. I'm really glad that I'm studying you because you have some cool things to learn about.
From, L

Dear L,
I am writing this letter in response to the letter you wrote me. I think what you wrote in the letter was wrong.

I'm the Queen, I am supposed to take care of our beautiful country. My mom, Grandma, Great Grandma, and Great, Great Grandma all have been Queen for so long and have passed it on to me.

If I was not being trustful and someone caught me, I would be put in jail. I would never want to risk my life to get thrown in jail.

I love little children, they are my friends. How could I tear families apart. I lived in a royal family, I loved my family's happiness so why would I destroy other families?

Hoping my letter will change your opinion about me.
Queen Elizabeth

From a 4th grader:
Dear Queen Elizabeth,
I am writing you a letter, because I want to tell you what I think of you. I think you are mean because you knighted Sir Francis Drake. You also gave him more ships to defeat Spain. You Queen Elizabeth are cruel. When you gave Sir Francis Drake more ships, you knew that he was going to take people and sell them as slaves. You are a dishonest person; when Sir Francis Drake stole money from Spain, you said the money was for the country, it was just for you and Sir Francis Drake. You just wanted to make yourself rich. I think you are the meanest person I know.
From, M

Dear M,
I am writing this letter in response to your hurtful letter. I am not as evil, horrid, and hateful as you think I am. Let me explain to you, M.

I was so hurt when I read your letter. You almost made me cry when I read it. If I did not care about people, I would not feel hurt.

Also, I come from royal blood, and I am the Queen. In addition, my family has taken care of my good country for years, and I will do the same thing too.

If I gave Sir Francis Drake more weapons, someone would know, and remove me as the Queen. People watch over me every minute of the day and night. I don't have any time to be by myself. I hope you will think differently of me.
Queen Elizabeth

The letters become more real as students select paper to represent their characters. My students crushed paper bags to make old paper for the background on their first letters and used "royal" paper to write replies.

Check out more ideas to make learning fun!

Common Core Standards:

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