Fourth graders at Moses Brown undertake two intensive studies in Language Arts: interpreting characters in fiction and writing persuasively.
The entire class reads Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo and investigates two central characters in powerful opposition to one another. As they work to interpret and inhabit these characters, they realize that no details in the book are accidental, and use those details as evidence to support their interpretations of the text. They also use their knowledge of narrative structure to make predictions about the book and identify the complications that make these characters interesting. This unit always has an eye-opening effect on kids as they learn to see the multiple layers of meaning simultaneously unfolding in the story.
In learning to write persuasively, students learn the formal requirements of an essay: how to state a thesis, use rhetorical prompts to prod the reader along, and how to deploy cumulative evidence to make their point. With multiple rounds of revision, they craft a polished draft and develop an understanding of the discipline that results in strong, resonant writing.
Recently, we had a Media Literacy professor from Bryant University deliver a guest lecture and advise the students on their work. His visit–and a study of the persuasive techniques used in advertising–led them to produce a tantalizing ad for cookies.Inquire