Monday, April 8, 2013

Minilesson Magic: Helmet Law Debate (Interpreting and Comprehending Data in an Article)

Back to reality! And boy was it a great day! I was prepared (did you catch yesterday's post of my week's plans?) Monday is also my day that my team covers recess and lunch for my kiddos, so I got triple planning time with that and my after school time~no meetings, yay! Needless to say, I still have things to think about...remember my "I'm a 3-day planner" confession. I have a problem with OVER-THINKING things, especially in science and social studies. Maybe it's because we have so little time for these subjects but sooooooo many ideas that we could do. It's hard to weed it all out and make decisions (and then have time cut even shorter and have to re-adjust).
ANY-who. I decided to check in today to share my reading minilesson. Since I shared my plans with, I spent the whole day thinking, man, I should take a picture of that or blog about that to share what exactly I did and how it went. So, this week we are focusing on the human body systems during reading and writing (research, science, nonfiction reading, all rolled into one topic). Then, in our regular science time, we are studying Force and Motion, but I didn't just want to jump right in with that on our first day back, so I planned something that connects all of this, but my little babes barely knew it today. (They will see the connections throughout the rest of our week). Let's call today an ENGAGE. :)

We spent ALL--ALL--ALL last quarter working on opinion based essays and while we are not going to have TONS of time this quarter for a large writing project, I want to continue developing students' ability to write about their opinions and to structure an essay paragraph using PEEL (free download from Tracee Orman--we have used this method to the max this year!). They have grown so much, but ya know, "Ya use it or lose it."

In walks the NC Helmet Law Repeal Debate. Should motorcyclists be forced to wear helmets? Should our state (or yours) repeal their helmet requirements? (I used the word 'forced' instead of required because it's a strong sounding opinion-e word.) Some states require motorcyclists to wear helmets, others do not. Now, I am not a motorcyclists and do not plan to be. I may never be on one in my entire life (although I would have LOVED a helmet while at Carowinds last week :) But, this topic might just stir up some excitement for my kiddos and they can connect to wearing a helmet (or not) while riding a bicycle (meanwhile, I can teach them the importance of protecting their craniums and their brain--a key part of the nervous system).

Long story short, I quickly chose three articles for them to read today, made copies, etc. Then, I read them Sunday and thought WHOA buddy. I cannot send them loose on this article, "North Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Repeal Bill Passes First Mile Marker."  So, I quickly decided to turn this into a guided lesson where we interpret the information in the article. I decided not to give students the article at all (yet) and just work from the 6 excerpts I pulled out. For each snippet of the text, I wrote a question or two.
Most of the questions focus on interpreting what point the person quoted is trying to make or "talking back" to the text. Talking back to the text is something we learned to do last quarter. (When you are reading an opinion-based text, you often want to talk back to the text with your ideas. Critical readers should be talking back to opinion based texts because we know the author is trying to get us to agree with them and may be leaving out important information).

To get their little minds engaged,  I started with a bicycling questionnaire just to see where their thinking was before we talked about the issue.

After a quick sharing of our survey answers, I explained the issue at hand and then we went through the excerpts from the article one at a time. I read aloud from the smartboard and then had students try to interpret the info or talk back. Next, we shared, I helped interpret/explain when necessary, then we moved on to the next excerpt. It sounds boring or too teacher directed, but they actually seemed to get a lot out of it and wanted to talk about their opinions the WHOLE time! My~smart~little~thinkers :)

If you would like to do this lesson, I am linking the google presentation I made, the questionnaire and worksheet, and the article so that you can implement it PRESTO! Magic! :)

In my students article packet, I also included two others articles that have a heavy opinion that motorcyclists should have the freedom to choose, but we didn't get to those today.
Helmet Law Hypocrisy from (I only pulled a few paragraphs from this; while I don't agree, I thought it was a good example of strong opinion and something students could "talk back" to)
The Twisting of Data in Helmet Safety Studies from

If you would like the packet I made (straight copy and pasted the articles above into a packet for the kids, shoot me an email and I will send it to you. I just don't feel comfy sharing that on the web). Also, these are not 'pretty,' but they are down and dirty minilesson materials that get the job done.

RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
RI.5.2 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
RI5.3 Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more (ideas) based on information in the text.
RI5.8 Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s). 
Hope you can use this, if not now, next year!


  1. Boy, I feel like I just stumbled onto a treasure with your blog. This lesson looks perfect for what I do in my own ELA classroom. I'll definitely be visiting often. ;)
    ~following via Google Friend Connect
    Creating Lifelong Learners



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