“As you read today, I want you to list three facts and one opinion in your comprehension journal. Remember, a fact is an indisputable true statement and an opinion is a view or judgement formed not necessarily based on factor knowledge. We are going to transfer these to index cards later and play a game with them.”
The language and activity used above as part of a reading lesson is typical of what we observe in classrooms. Quite frankly, it is language and an activity we used in our own classrooms when we were teaching. Hindsight is 20/20. Over our years of teaching and coaching teachers, we have come to realize that our learners can do more, they need to do more, and they can think in more complex ways. The way this lesson is framed is not a thought process that we use in our everyday life and feels contrived. When in your life would you make a note of a fact and an opinion without having an authentic purpose for doing so?
It’s All About That “Why”
It’s all about the “why” of what we teach. (We will focus on non-fiction texts for the purpose of this blog.) Non-fiction texts are full of facts that teach you about the subject or topic you are reading. Facts help the reader build understanding so that new learning takes place. The author of the text includes opinions in order to create the overall message to the reader. The author wants his feelings about this topic to be evident through his opinions. He wants his notions regarding the topic to be known.
These facts and opinions help us as readers build background knowledge (schema) as well as piece together the author’s overall message (main idea). The knowledge base we are building by reading facts and opinions will help us draw conclusions and infer information related to what the author believes.
The year Hope bought a new car, she read copious amounts of literature to find the car that was just right for her. As she read the information she became well versed in many different types of cars. All the information she read, which included facts, helped build her background knowledge regarding cars. She also found it interesting to compare opinions such as a consumer report, a magazine article, a blog or a conversation with a friend. She had to listen carefully for opinions that surrounded the message. In the end, both facts and opinions were critical to helping Hope purchase the car that was just right for her.
Moving from Procedural to Conceptual
We offer this frame below for a reading lesson with the focus on fact and opinion. There are many sub-skills that are part of a larger base of knowledge for comprehension. This lesson purpose shows how small changes in language can lift the level of thinking and rigor to a higher level and at the same time feel more like an authentic way of thinking.
“As you are reading today, it would be helpful to think about two things to help you understand the author’s message. This thinking will also help you contribute in your small group discussion.
1. Find the facts in the text that help you understand the topic and the main ideas from the author’s point of view.
2.Look for opinions that reveal the author’s feelings and notions about this topic.”
Go for Robust, Purposeful, Authentic Instruction
Our students are SMART! With a lesson frame that is purposeful and makes sense, is authentic and can be applied to real life, our students will thrive in literacy. Make it count and make it meaningful!