Want an engaging introduction to opinion writing for primary readers? Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld is guaranteed to get young listeners choosing sides.
What makes this text complex?
While children are enjoying the battle between the shark and train, they are really forming an opinion based on the evidence presented in the text. Therefore, they are required to stretch thinking beyond the pictures on the page and possibly shift their points of view from scenario to scenario. Because the text is not structured in a typical beginning-middle-end format, the flow of the story is unpredictable. I love to ask children at the end of the book, “Who won?” Of course, I get a variety of answers. Yet when I ask, “According to the author, who won?” children refer back to specific parts of the text to support their thinking. They use the illustrations as a guide, but must still justify why, for example, the train wins on the seesaw, but the shark wins in the hot air balloon.
Keep It Simple and Strategic
To help beginning readers and writers articulate their opinions, I give them text-specific word banks. I want to limit the personal opinions based on personal preferences. So I pull words directly from the text or I select words that I would like to hear children use when discussing the text. Here is the word bank I gave first graders to use when explaining who won between the shark and the train.
With text-related words in hand, children tend to stay on topic and speak or write to the prompt. The words also drive them back to the text looking for evidence to support their ideas.
Here is one first grader’s opinion on who won between the shark and the train. This writing was done the first month of school. I did not ask children to underline the words they used, but this young man was proud to embed stronger words into his writing. Notice how he has given his opinion and backed it up with specific reasoning from the text.
Children are the winners when we give them text-specific word banks.
Thank you www.openclipart.org for clip art images.
For other books by Chris Barton, visit http://www.chrisbarton.info/index.html.
For others books by Tom Lichtenheld, visit http://www.tomlichtenheld.com/childrens_books/