Discussing Kids’ Cell Phone use
to improve on-demand writing skills
It seems that younger and younger children are walking around with their own cell phones these days. You have probably seen plenty of students bring their devices to school and maybe even right into your classrooms.
If you listen to children talk long enough, you will recognize they already have opinions about whether or not young children should have cell phones.
During an inside recess, I overheard my students freely exchanging their opinions about this very topic! Right then, I decided to use their natural interest in cell phones to spark a great writing lesson which would motivate my students to produce better quality writing.
We started the lesson by having a hearty class discussion about children and cell phones. Most students were eager to express their reasons why kids should be able to have cell phones. We explored what age would be too young to have a phone and some students even considered why children their age should NOT have a phone. Learn more about discussion strategies we use in our classroom.
To help students focus their ideas for the rest of the lesson, I showed a prompt question. Any prompt related to young cell phone users will work to keep students interested. I chose- “Should children be allowed to have their own cell phones?”
I copied two different texts about child cell phone use so every student could have the copies in front of them. This is important so they can take notes, highlight, and mark up the texts as they read. After considering what they read, students chose an opinion related to the prompt question. Once they knew which opinion they were taking, I had students return to the texts to gather evidence that supported their thinking. Read more about how I use paired texts in the classroom.
Here is a really nice update to this process, gained from our global “sink-or-swim” approach to distance learning during the COVID 19 Pandemic in 2020. This can all be done digitally through the use of resources that are hosted on Google Slides.
As most teachers know, asking kids to write an essay without providing any scaffolding can be a recipe for disaster. These are some of the supports I put in place during this lesson to help my students compose strong, well-written opinion essays.
1. Talk Out Loud
I have found that the time students spent talking through ideas prior to writing is well worth it! Give students time to sit in small groups and share reasons and examples that support their opinions. The more they hash-out their thinking while speaking, the better focused their written essays will be.
2. Armed with Info
Besides the two texts, I also like to provide other resources for students to gather even more evidence to strengthen their opinions. Our grade level standards require students to access information from diverse media formats so I like to find video-clips from YouTube that relate to my topic.
3. Organize Writing
I always provide a graphic organizer to support students in the prewriting process. Build these types of organizers in such a way as to help students manage and organize their ideas. I like to think of it as a scaffolded note-taking and writing structure.
Once my students talked about their opinions, researched reasons and examples, and organized their thinking on paper, I had them use their organizer as a guide to address our writing prompt question- “Should children be allowed to have their own cell phones?”
4. Evaluate writing
I always try to provide an anchor chart, checklist, or rubric for students to reference while they are writing. The purpose is to remind students of the skills they need to include in an essay. What skills go on a checklist? Use your grade-level standards to help you select which skills to include. Checklists are a great tool so students can evaluate (and revise!) their own writing before turning it in.
Just as I suspected, the topic of kids and cell phones created high-interest with my students! They were so motivated to write about something they have a natural interest in. By using a few simple tricks to support my students in their writing, they were able to give me some really thoughtful opinion essays.
Happy teaching! ~Tatum
Don’t want to search the internet for texts about cell phones on your grade level? Then don’t worry!
We’ve done all the work for you. If you would like the cell phone paired texts (differentiated for a variety of reading levels), graphic organizers, checklists, writing paper, and lesson plans that I used to improve my students’ on-demand writing skills, I encourage you to click on the image below!