Marquita Prinzing DEARBORN PARK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, SEATTLE, WA
4th Grade ELA : Unit #7 - Opinions in Writing : Lesson #2

But Why is THAT Important? Brainstorming by Finding Importance in Everyday Things

Objective: SWBAT brainstorm ideas for an essay by determining the importance of everyday experiences.
Standards: W.4.1
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Introduction and Modeling - 10 minutes

In the previous lesson, students noticed things around them and then realized something about them or had an opinion about them. Unfortunately, they didn't write many ideas nor where they very profound opinions. This lesson will help focus them on writing something important, something that others should care about.

I start this lesson by explaining to students what I noticed when I read their journals. Essay writers write about things that matter. In this lesson, they are going to challenge themselves to notice and describe things in and out of school and then explain why they are important.

To model how to do this, I look around the room, think aloud, and then ask someone to ask me, "Why is that important?" and then I answer them.

For example, I notice old computer and begin to describe them as being old, out dated, rarely used, etc. I call on someone to ask me, "Why is that important" and then I explain that I think its important that we use up to date and innovative technology in our learning because there are some interesting and effective ways to learn and the world is changing so face that we should keep up.

I think ask students to explain the four steps I took to reach an idea ready to be written down.

  1. notice something
  2. describe it
  3. ask, "Why is that important?"
  4. explain importance

I also tell students that the explanation or the answer to "Why is that important?" should be said in a way that someone else might also care about it. 

Now its their turn.

Where You Paying Attention?
High Expectations

Although I try to make my directions very clear and explicit, sometimes they just don't come across that way. It is very important that through your modeling, students understand and can identify the process of brainstorming important essay ideas. They will be eventually doing it on their own.

When I taught this lesson, after I modeled it, I asked the students to describe what I did. They had a very difficult time. It could be that I didn't remind them to be paying close attention to what I did but regardless, they could not recall the steps. Instead of just telling them what I did, I modeled it again, using a different idea, the messiness of the books in my classroom library and how important it is for them to be organized so students can read more. This time I told them to look for the steps in the process.

After the second time, they were much better at identifying the steps to the process and could effectively do it with their partner and then by themselves.

2 Partner Work and Practice - 20 minutes

After I've modeled the process and made sure that student can identify the four steps, I ask partners to decide who will go first. 

Partner A will first notice and describe something they see in the classroom or on the playground (which we can see from our classroom). Then, when I give the signal, partner B will ask, "Why is that important?" and partner A will explain. 

I eventually stop them and tell partner A to write down their idea. I remind them that a brainstorm doesn't focus on whether or not the idea is good, it is just a process to come up with many ideas. I also tell partner B that if they like what partner A said or if it spurred a thought in their own mind then they can also write it down now on their brainstorm list.

Now its partner B's turn. However, this time, I ask partner B to think of a place outside of school to notice and describe. Eventually, I tell partner A to ask the question and for B to explain. Each partner will also get a chance to write down an idea.

Finally, I recap what the process was and tell that sometimes its easier to explain or to defend and idea when we are actually talking to someone else. However, most of the time when we are brainstorming, we are doing it alone. Therefore, they can do the same process in their head including asking themselves why it is important.

On their own, they try to brainstorm even more ideas. The ideas will be used in future essay writing lessons.