Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bouncing Bettas and Hairy Hamsters

In the 3rd week of school, I taught a lesson on persuasive writing to my two classes of second graders....and it was just about the most successful and adorable lesson I have ever taught. I took pictures during the lesson and called my mom and my dad on my way home to tell them about it, and then showed the pictures to Stephen and almost cried talking about it, because I was just overflowing with so much happiness about it, and then I told my team about it, and now since I can't seem to shut up about it, I'm here to tell everyone else in the world about it in a blog. 

To be honest, I based most of this unit off of this free packet from Soaring Through Second. It is an amazing resource! We spent Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday learning about betta fish, hamsters, and hermit crabs and recording facts about them in different graphic organizers. 

The kids loved using the iPads, but the really fun part came on Thursday, when we were ready to argue our opinion on which class pet we should get in a persuasive writing piece. I worried all week about this. My kids are basically still 1st graders at this point in the year....how could I ask them to write a whole page about their opinion and then support it with reasons? It's something that I saw college kids struggling with when I worked in the writing center! 

Then on Thursday morning, I was struck with inspiration to combine the writing with art! A hermit crab headband, to be exact. My lesson ended up going like this:

Step 1: Title / Headband
Step 2: Opening statement (Opinion) / Open eye
Step 3: Hook / Crab claws
Step 4: Reasons / Shell
Step 5: Closing statement / winking (closed) eye

Step 1: I explained the the first thing you need in an opinion writing is come up with a title. Once they had written their title, I gave everyone a strip of construction paper and told them to write their name on it. Their name is kind of like their title, so those two went together well. 

2. Then you state your opinion in an introduction. We wrote up a list of ways you could state your opinion: "I think...." "In my opinion..." "We should..." etc. I then explained that the intro sentence is also called the opening statement, and our hermit crab needs one open eye to remind us of that. It's how "I" feel, so we're using an "eye" to show that step. Once the students had written their opening statement, they came up to me to get it approved and I gave them a fuzzy pipe cleaner, a strip of construction paper, and their choice of a black or white eye (circle of cardstock). 

To get the open eye ready, we cut two tiny horizontal slits in the strip of construction paper (headband). We slid the fuzzy pipe cleaner through one slit and out the other, and then to secure it, we bent it up and twisted it around itself. We attached the eye to the other end of the pipe cleaner the same way: slipping the pipe cleaner through one slit in the eye and out the other, twisting it around itself once again. 

Hopefully the picture helps clarify that...
3. The next thing we had to do was come up with a "hook!" The hook is what gets the reader interested. We talked about ways to get people interested. Here's what my class came up with: 

Obviously for the hook, I handed out a red paper with 2 crab claws to each student. They cut them out and glued them somewhere on the headband. 

4. The next step is explaining and supporting your opinion with reasons. We can't just say what we think: we have to defend our opinion! We have to protect it. And of course, what protects a hermit crab? It's shell! Everyone had to write down three reasons and then they got a blank half-sheet of manila cardstock. I let them decorate and cut it out in any shape / design they chose, and they turned out so cute!

Stephen told me I had my "teacher goggles" on when I showed him this picture, but come on, is that not a cute crab??
5. After stating our opinion and reasons, we were ready to conclude. I told them that this step is similar to Step 2, since we're again saying our opinion, but it can't just be the exact same thing again. We have to re-state our opinion and say it in a different way than the first time we said it. 

So we need another eye, but this time, the eye is going to be closed. It's our closing statement, so the crab is going to be winking. I cut out O's with the dye-cut machine, so for the closing statement eyes, we used the O and they just folded it in half to show that the crab was winking. 

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when my kids brought me their papers to read their closing statements! They really got the concept of re-stating their opinion, something that my kids last year never really got. Is that something other teachers struggle with or just me?

Cuties :) 
It was so much fun and they loved making the crafts one piece at a time. It broke it up so we weren't just writing the whole time, and the craft actually had a purpose. Let me know if you end up using this method in your class! 


  1. Heather, I love your idea of the Hermit Crab headband to go along with your persuasive writing! What class pet did your class decide on? I'm glad you enjoyed using the packet that Sandy designed. She is a phenomenal teacher, and a great person to work with. If anyone is interested you can find the video we did of her lesson here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Icz4BrycFpo

    1. Thank you!! Sandy's packet was so awesome and fun to use. We actually didn't get a pet from this unit....my family is going to send out our bearded dragon lizard soon and then we'll have one!

  2. This is SUCH a FUN idea!!! And BRILLIANT!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!! I just pinned it so we can do it too!!!!! Did you end up getting a hermit crab...? Easiest classroom pet ever! We're just finishing up our persuasive letters to PetCo for a guinea pig.... Wish us luck!!! :) -Sandy
    Soaring Through Second

    1. That's awesome!! I saw that Petco does grants for class pets, so good luck! Are you guys getting a hermit crab? We're waiting for my family's bearded dragon lizard to come be our class pet :) I am all about the low-maintenance pets that can stay at school over the weekend!