Skiing Through Time

article by Mina , photo by Alamy

Learning Intention:

I am learning to ask clarifying questions to identify authority and bare assertions so that I can take into account differing opinions and ideas in my own writing.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify how a text asserts its authority.
  • I can question bare assertions of a text.
  • I can make statements taking into account differing opinions and ideas.

Essential knowledge:

For more information about lenses in which we view the world, view The School Magazine’s video on Perspective.

For more information about authority, view The School Magazine’s video on Authority.

Oral language and communication

Display the following two sentences on the board:

  1. It is the best sport in the world.
  2. Many people believe it is the best sport in the world.

Ask students what the difference is between the two sentences. Students might recognise that the second sentence takes into account other people’s opinions, while the first sentence is a single, subjective opinion.

Ask students what types of texts they might find each of the sentences. For example, the first sentence may be found in a recount, narrative or persuasive text, while the second sentence may be found in an article. Explain that the first sentence would be found in a text where the narrator/author is speaking for themselves, while the second sentence is speaking in a broader context.

Explain that the second sentence also relies on authority – that the author has knowledge and sources for this statement. Brainstorm with the class questions the reader might have to clarify the statement, such as:

  • How has this information on people’s opinions been gathered? (By a poll, the amount of people watching/playing the sport, some other way?)
  • What does “many” mean? What percentage, and what was the sample size?
  • Is this opinion from a certain country, or is it worldwide?

After brainstorming these questions, explain to the class that taking into account differing opinions and ideas gives more authority to their non-fiction writing, and that they should ask themselves these types of clarifying questions when composing texts.

Understanding text:

Before reading Skiing Through Time, instruct students to make note of any statements that take into account differing opinions or ideas. Read the text as a class, or, if you have a digital subscription, listen to the audio recording. Discuss statements that students noted, such as:

  • Skiing is an exciting winter sport enjoyed by many people around the world.
  • some historians believe they even had competitions in which the best skiers could win prizes.
  • skiing… remains a popular pastime for people around the world!

Creating text:

Explain that students will be writing a short article about the history of a different sport, using language that takes into account other opinions. For example, rather than the statement “Tennis is the most interesting sport in the world”, they should consider other opinions. Clarify that the opinions don’t have to be different from their own, but they have to come from another source, and that this source can be a single authoritative reference or general support (such as “many people believe that”). Remind students that while general support is appropriate, specific facts and statistics give more authority to their text.

Give students time to research the history of their sport. Some useful websites to get students started include:

International Tennis Federation’s History of Tennis

Britannica’s History of Basketball

Olympics’ History of Volleyball

Britannica’s History of Field Hockey

Historic UK’s History of Golf

The Croquet Foundation of America’s History of Croquet

To prevent students from copying the wording of the articles provided, ensure they include the same type of information as Skiing Through Time, such as:

  • How the sport originated
  • How the sport spread through the world
  • How the sport is different now from its original form
  • How popular the sport is today, whether worldwide or in certain countries.

To help guide their writing, students can use the rubric for informative texts provided by The School Magazine.

Assessment for/as learning:

Students swap their writing with a peer reviewer, who can use a highlighter or coloured pencil to circle instances of language that take into account other opinions. Peers should be looking for phrases such as “many people believe that”, “it is often thought that”, “historians consider” and “[this website] states that”.