As teachers, we know that our little learners have A LOT of opinions. Getting those opinions on paper and properly supported can be the tricky part. If you are entering your opinion writing unit or looking for some ways to change things up, you’re in the right place! First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page (writing pun intended) on expectations for our students.
What Is Opinion Writing?
The exact specifics of what your students need to produce to be considered proficient in opinion writing can change based on the curriculum your students use. To keep things simple this is the definition from the Common Core State Standards Initiative that can be used as a baseline.
Using that base definition here are the components we’re looking for in student writing:
Step 1: Introducing Opinion Writing
First things first, let’s make sure all of your students know what an opinion is. Our students live in a digital landscape where the ability to discern between fact and opinion becomes increasingly important as they get older. So starting this writing unit with activities that help them build those skills is great!
Fact Vs. Opinion Sorting
Sorting facts and opinions is something I always do whole group, to begin with. There are so many fun ways to work on this skill as a group. One quick and engaging activity I like to do is create a fun anchor chart with my students. Start by putting a photo of something like broccoli on the board and ask them to write one thing they know about broccoli on a post-it note and stick it to the board. Normally students will write things like it’s green, it’s delicious, it’s gross, it’s healthy, it’s a vegetable. Once they all stick their notes on the board we discuss the meaning of fact and opinion and begin sorting our collective knowledge into columns. This facilitates a really nice conversation about the word “know” and how we need to be conscious of whether a piece of information is a fact or an opinion.
Once your students have a base understanding of the difference between fact and opinion try a small group or individual sorting activities. The Fact or Opinion Cookie Jar center from the Literacy Centers Bundle is a great tool! Students will read sentences about cookies and put them in the correct cookie jar.
Step 2: Stating an Opinion
Now that your students know the difference between fact and opinion it’s time to get started on stating their own opinions! My favorite way to begin this process is by using simple prompts. Pick any topic that is interesting to your students and ask them to state their opinion on it. You can use post-it notes, individual whiteboards, or a Jamboard to incorporate writing. Alternatively, you can just ask them to state their opinions out loud. This is a good place to choose high-interest topics that increase student buy-in. Topics like: what’s the best food? What’s the worst food? Which superpower is the greatest? You want to get your students talking and excited to share.
A really fun and engaging center you can use with your students is State Your Opinion Text Messages. Students are given short prompts and have to “text” their opinion about it. Your students will love it!
Step 3: Supporting an Opinion
Alright, your students have the basics mastered. They know what an opinion is and they can state it clearly. Now, it’s time to support those opinions.
The Power of “Because”
The simplest way to do this is to initially focus on the word “because.” For example, a student might answer your prompt “what’s the best food?” with “Pizza.” Great! Simply add in the word because to start adding supportive evidence. “Pizza is the best because _______.” This prompts your students to add specific reasons they hold that opinion. This seems simple but some students really struggle with adding in strong support. They might begin with “Pizza is the best because it’s yummy.” This is a great opportunity to discuss the difference between weak and strong supporting evidence. Guide your students towards using better support like, “Pizza is the best because it’s warm, cheesy, and customizable.” Creating an anchor chart that differentiates between weak and strong support can be very helpful for many students.
The Supporting Reasons Sand Castle Literacy Center is fantastic for helping build this skill. Students choose an opinion statement and build strong sand castles using strong supportive statements.
Linking Words in Opinion Writing
Once students master the ability to choose strong support for an opinion it’s time to expand their knowledge a bit. There are so many linking words that bridge the gap between opinion and support. Strong writers use a wide variety of linking words. Help your students build this skill with centers like the Linking Words Over the Rainbow Center. They will have to find the appopriate linkings words to connect an opinion and it’s support. Check out this post for some guidance on how to teach kids to use linking words in their writing.
Step 4: Writing An Opinion Piece
Scaffolding writing instruction is so important because without mastery of each individual component your students can quickly become overwhelmed. Breaking it into these bite-sized chunks for students to master and eventually put together will ensure success for the largest number of your students. Steps 1 through 3 make sure they have the base skills needed to write a strong opinion piece and now it’s time to get to it!
OREO Opinion Writing
A very popular way to structure opinion pieces for students is using an OREO structure.
Creating an anchor chart with this structure can be very helpful to many of your students. It’s important to model a complete opinion writing piece for your students before asking them to write one independently. OREO isn’t the only opinion writing structure and some students may prefer alternatives. The Opinion Writing Banana Splits in the Writing Centers Bundle are wonderful. Students are given an opinion writing prompt then asked to build a “banana split” that has an opinion, three reasons, and a conclusion.
Check out this post for 35 opinion writing prompt ideas. There are also dozens of tiered opinion writing prompts in our No Prep Monthly Writing Pages. Each prompt has three levels of support that you can give to your students based on their mastery level. There’s a great preview of this resource in the video below.
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Writing Prompts All Year
Showcase Writing Samples
Now that your students are writing whole pieces it’s important to provide students with what different levels of mastery look like. Examples of complete writing help your students visualize what expectations are can help encourage your students to keep working and growing!
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Writing Bulletin Board Set
Teaching writing can be tough but it can be so fun for you and your students. Opinion writing is such a fun part of the school year. You get to learn so much about how your students view the world around them. It’s great! Keep this unit fun and super engaging and you will get some fantastic work out of your students. Of course, opinion writing isn’t the only type of writing kids need to practice. Read about teaching narrative writing in the primary grades, and be sure to browse this advice for designing writing mini-lessons that will stick with your students!
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