Close Reading & Opinion Writing

Close reading is a skill we practice weekly in fifth grade. Gotta get those kiddos ready for middle school, textbooks, and studying!

I love exposing my students to current events! Not only does it keep me updated on what's going on in the world, but my fifth graders love a good controversy.  Who doesn't?  

This year I'm connecting our weekly current events discussions with close reading and opinion writing. We are required at my school to implement close reading instruction at least twice a week.  What better way to do that than with current events!

The Common Core State Standards emphasize that ALL students need MORE time to read, discuss, debate, and write argumentatively or persuasively about text.

These are critical elements of literacy instruction that will raise test scores.
(Focus - Schmoker, 2011) 

Here's how we are increasing these critical elements in Room 206. 

First, we have a weekly subscription to a current events news magazine like Time for Kids or Scholastic News. If you don’t have access to either of these publications, with upper elementary students you can use your local newspaper. There are also many free websites that offer informational articles like Kelly Gallagher’s free article of the week site, newsela, or read, write, think

Teachers should set aside at least one day a week to read current articles and opinion pieces, especially in English, social studies, and science.
(Focus - Schmoker, 2011)

Are you convinced yet?  After I determine the article from the magazine that we are going to read closely and debate that week, we start with vocabulary. We take 10-15 minutes to talk about 2-3 academic vocabulary words. 

We ask ourselves, 

"Do I know this word from someplace else?"

"Does this seem like technical talk for experts of this topic?"

"Can I find clues in the sentence to help me find this word?"

- questions are from the Word Gaps signpost found in Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies 

Next, the students talk in groups to determine a description of each word and a picture to represent the word.  We discuss the different examples and then the students complete this vocabulary sheet from my Close Reading resource. 

Before we read I have the students announce their initial opinion on the issue. (For example last week we read an article about dodgeball so we took opinions on whether or not dodgeball should be banned in schools. I send the yesses to one side of the classroom, the nos to the other and the maybes in the middle.  We talked about why we had these opinions and I recorded their ideas on a chart.)

Then we discuss our purpose for reading in our Close Reading packet (which usually has to do with their opinion on the article - example purpose: To find facts that explain why schools should or should not ban dodgeball). Then we read the article together closely - highlighting the facts and taking notes as we read.  After we read, I have the students cite in their close reading packet two facts from the article that support their opinion. They share these facts with a partner and we take a second poll on our opinions. It's interesting to see who has changed sides at this point based on the facts.  This is also when we hold our debate to try and sway our maybes to choose a side.

Lastly, students write an opinion piece to persuade their readers to take their side on the issue. They follow the rubric in their close reading packet when formulating their opinion piece.

And that's it!  It's fun seeing how serious they take opinion writing when they have a purposeful audience to address, a controversial issue to debate and strong facts to support their opinion.  We wrote to the gym teacher last week about whether or not dodgeball should be banned. In the past, we've written to our principal, cafeteria workers, custodians, politicians, bus drivers, parents, celebrities.....


If you're interested in using our Close Reading packet you can find it in my TPT store HERE!


  1. Great Lesson idea! I have a subscription to Scholastic News and was looking for ideas. I love your idea. Thanks for sharing.

    Shepherd's Shining Stars

    1. Erica, Just a quick note to say I used to have a licensed family day care program and my name was Susie's Shining Stars.. when I saw your name it brought back so many wonderful memories!!


  2. Great reminder of why even big kids need close reading. Your activity looks very CC appropriate!
    Your blog colors remind so much of a beautiful scrapbook page.. maybe it is the ribbon touches. It looks fab!


  3. I really enjoyed reading your post! I totally agree that students should have plenty of opportunities to read current events. I LOVE using authentic documents with my students :) And thanks so much for linking up to my Close Read linky party!

    2 Brainy Apples


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