Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Persuasive Reviews

Are you and your second or third grade students embarking in a study of opinion writing via persuasive reviews?  Movie, book, television, video game, food, and fashion reviews are useful pieces to write as well as read.  Young writers relish in the opportunity to 'tell it like it is,' and convince others to try their favorite things.

I have a few tips to help you through this study.  My colleagues and I have been investigating reviews for a few years and my colleagues at Horizon Elementary school in Sun Prairie, WI piloted many of the minilessons in Teaching Persuasive Writing K-2.  Some of the resources from the book are in the links below.

One of the most important things you can do is write some reviews yourself and show them to your students in your minilessons.  You can find some samples written by students as well as their teachers at this Units of Study Link.  You'll see a food review of a pizza place as well as a book and movie review - all written by students.  One teacher showed her students how book stories and libraries place book reviews near the shelves to help readers choose their next read.  This prompted her class to end their review unit at a local library, publishing their book reviews so all the readers in the community could read and enjoy.

Several teachers who studied reviews and the writerly life of reviews with me found that it was helpful to bring in a local review writer, perhaps someone from the local newspaper or magazine, to talk with students about how review writers live and work.  Here are some of the things we learned reading and interviewing reviewers that we passed along to the students.

·      Reviewers look for things to review as they live their daily lives.

·      Reviewers look at things with a critical eye.

·      Reviewers are honest about important facts that they think the readers should know and then they decide if those facts are a positive or a negative.

·      Reviewers need to carry their writing tools with them (scratchpad and pen).

·      Food reviewers order more than one thing at a restaurant so they can try a few things.

·      Food reviewers taste food slowly and ask themselves, “Does this taste good?”

·      Reviewers read the reviews of other reviewers.  And, they know what to look for in their subject when they do a similar kind of review.  For example, food reviewers know to look for the ambiance, the taste of the food and the service.  Movie reviewers know to pay attention to the plot and the acting.

·       Reviewers know something about their subject before they review it.  If you are struggling to think of a topic or subject to review, think of what you know best.  Do you know video games?  Do you love food?

·      Reviewers can press pause in the middle of their meal, in the middle of the show, in the middle of the movie, etc. so they can jot things they notice or opinions they have.

·      Reviewers keep a token or artifact of the subject (restaurant menu, movie ticket, playbill, video game guidebook).

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