Conceptual Understandings Meet The Work of A Reader/Writer:
I’ve been asked how my persuasive language study fits in with the PYP. The answer to that is not necessarily a quick one, as I believe that the PYP and workshop have so many parallels. The philosophies match, and the preferred methods compliment each other. For my persuasive language study, as with any language study, the conceptual understandings lie in what it actually means to communicate via a certain medium for a given purpose.
There are two things all readers and writers must keep in mind if they want to communicate successfully: purpose, and effectiveness in achieving that purpose. When looking at the craft of writing through a conceptual lens, the big question really is about purpose. Why do writers write? Any time we write, we have a reason for doing so. Most likely, we also have an intended audience. Understanding purpose is the key to developing an ability to use written language effectively. Not to mention an understanding of why we use it in the first place. Once a given purpose is understood, a writer can explore how they can most effectively achieve their purpose.
Similarly, for a reader, the first thing that must be understood is purpose. Why are we reading? What do we hope to get out of it? From there, how are we going to most effectively achieve that goal? As a reader becomes able to recognize the specific purpose for which he or she is reading at any given time, then they will be able to explore and employ strategies to help them most effectively suit that purpose.
This leads us to central ideas for understanding and the lines of inquiry that can help support a reader or writer as they develop.
In a workshop unit of study, we assess what our students need to know around a given genre or purpose and develop the scope and sequence of our lessons accordingly. As the workshop unfolds, we name the teaching and learning goals explicitly for the students as a part of our mini-lessons and conferences. In a PYP unit of study, we do this as well, by sharing and discussing the central ideas and lines of inquiry (as bullet points) for each unit. Below is a version of how I planned out my persuasive language unit through a PYP lens. In this case, I used the central ideas and lines of inquiry to anchor my units and wove the language of the statements throughout the lessons.
Central Idea For Overall Language: People use persuasive language in order to convince others or persuade them to do something.
Central idea for readers/listeners: Readers (and listeners) know that persuasive writing is written from a specific point of view, and they use strategies to help them best understand what that is.
- Reading or listening closely helps us to get to the heart of what the writer/speaker is saying.
- Readers/listeners consider their own experiences and points of view when thinking about a persuasive text.
- Readers/listeners react to an argument by considering all points of view.
Central idea for writers/speakers: Writers (and speakers) use persuasive language when they want to convince their audience. There are strategies that a writer or speaker can use to make strong arguments.
- People write or speak persuasively when they feel strongly about something.
- Having specific reasons to back up an idea makes an argument strong.
- Reasoning with evidence makes an argument more powerful.
We focused on perspective and reflection, which, in this case, lined up with the key concepts being targeted in our unit of inquiry. This gave the students some nice opportunities to make connections across disciplines.
As we navigated these ideas together during the reading and writing workshops, students were able to build their understanding of why people use persuasive language, and how they could be most effective in doing so. The mini-lessons, group work and conferences reinforced these concepts as needed, and focused on strategies and skills that readers and writers use when working with persuasive language. These mini-lessons were taught using the workshop approach and students were able to inquire into how they could use these strategies in their own reading and writing lives as the opportunities to do so unfolded.