Children love giving their opinions about a variety of topics. They are constantly trying to convince their parents to buy a toy, watch a TV show or get dessert! You can harness children’s natural ability to share opinions and mold it into formal academic opinion writing.
This Opinion Writing Unit focuses on scaffolding the language of writing an opinion so that students can successfully state an opinion, give reasons, and craft an introduction and conclusion statement.
This blog post focuses on the components of the Opinion Writing Unit. I also have blog posts that focus on teaching opinion writing:
Work through Each Opinion Writing Component Individually
Writing an entire opinion paragraph or essay is a daunting task for students who may not have encountered this type of writing in the past. The Opinion Writing Unit separates out each opinion writing component into its own week of lessons. Students do the same routine and activities each week, but focus on a different component and increase the complexity of the academic language.
These are the opinion writing components included in the Opinion Writing Unit. I suggest working through the unit in this order.
- State an Opinion
- Supply Reasons
- Write an Introduction
- Write a Conclusion
If you’re working with third graders, consider adding Explain Reasons as a third step.
Why do I go in this order to teach opinion writing?
The most important and often easiest part for students is stating their opinion. They are very good at telling you what they like or want, although it might not be with academic language. Because students already have the skill in place, you only need to attach the academic language and apply it to the formal writing process. Plus, stating an opinion is the most important part of the opinion writing process. The rest of the pieces fall apart if students don’t have a strong opinion statement.
Gradual Release of Responsibility to Develop Opinion Writing
Each day of the Opinion Unit goes through a gradual release of responsibility where students are taught the new process, practice it as a whole group, practice it with a partner, then apply the new learning in writing. Students have the most success when they have multiple opportunities to practice, both orally and in writing, and apply the academic language.
All of the materials you see in the pictures come from my Opinion Writing Unit. It has a whole unit’s worth of resources to scaffold and teach opinion writing.
Cooperative Learning Strategies
Students talking and working with each other using sentence frames for a specific purpose is one of the fastest ways they can develop academic language. The Opinion Writing Unit encourages the use of cooperative learning strategies to get students talking and writing.
One of the most common strategies used is Pair Up & Switch. For this activity, half of the students have a prompt and the other half of the students have a list of sentence frames. Students find a partner. The student who has the prompt reads it. The student who has the sentence frames answers it. Students switch papers and find a new partner.
Sentence Frames for Opinion Writing
The Opinion Writing Unit provides sentence frames for every component of opinion writing for second grade. The sentence frames move from easy to more complex academic language.
When teaching students how to use the sentence frames, start with the easier sentence frames. Provide a lot of oral practice between the teacher and whole group as well as between partners. Check in frequently to fix mistakes.
As students become proficient in using the easier sentence frames, start using more complex sentence frames. Practice them the same way you practice the easier sentence frames.
Toward the end of the week, encourage students to create their own sentences or combine sentences. Practice this whole group then allow students to play with the language. Again, frequent check-ins will help keep on top of the errors that might come up.
Play Games to Reinforce Academic Language and Teach Opinion Writing
Kids LOVE playing games! After students have had some partner practice and are familiar with the sentence frames, have them play a game in a small group. Provide students with a set of prompts. Use the ones included in the Opinion Writing Unit or create your own unique to your school or classroom.
Provide students with a list of sentence frames for the component you’re working on that week and give them a bit of time to work through the prompts.
Use Sorts to Discuss the Differences Between the Parts of Opinion Writing
Sorts are one of my favorite resources to use when teaching. They focus students’ attention on the similarities and differences in the sentences and force students to make a best-fit choice. All of the sorts in the Opinion Unit are closed sorts, meaning the labels are given to students.
To take it a step further, consider giving students sentences without labels and see if they can group the sentences by similarities and then label the group of sentences. Open sorts require higher-level thinking skills and require students to work on organizational skills that may not be available in other activities.
While the opinion writing unit has a variety of sorts to use for state an opinion vs. supply a reason and whole paragraph sorts, you can also create classroom specific sorts from students’ writing samples.
Make a copy of the writing sample, cut the sentences apart, and place them in a different order on the paper. Photocopy the mixed-up order and have students place the sentences in order. If you save the sorts in an envelope, you can reuse them year after year!
Use Opinion Graphic Organizers to Plan Writing
Help students generate ideas and plan their writing by using graphic organizers.
Use a web graphic organizer to brainstorm ideas. The web can be used for stating an opinion, supplying reasons, and giving examples.
Once students have generated their ideas and narrowed down their opinion and reasons, the opinion writing framework graphic organizers can be use to help them plan and organize their writing.
Individual Practice to Solidify Opinion Writing
In addition to whole group, small group, and partner practice, it’s important for students to practice each component of opinion writing individually. Students need to practice that component in isolation and in conjunction with the other components.
Give students time to write individually every day. Have them focus on the specific skill and work in previously learned skills.
Keep students accountable by using a checklist
As students gain confidence and skills throughout the opinion writing unit, hold them accountable to using academic language and developing well writing opinion paragraphs by using a checklist throughout the process. The Opinion Writing Unit comes with a checklist. Adapt it for use throughout the unit by focusing on specific components. At the end of the unit require students to have all the boxes checked.
As you conference with students about their writing, use the checklist to share with students what they are doing well and to address areas for improvement. A checklist provides a common language and clear expectations so that students can successfully write opinion pieces.
Use Student Samples to Analyze Opinion Writing
Along with a checklist, consider using anonymized student samples to analyze writing during whole group discussions. As you progress through the unit, collect students samples. Remove the names and use them as writing samples to show what has been written well and what needs improvement.
Pick out sentences for each component of writing. Have students work with the sentences to improve them by adding details.
Cut apart the samples and have students identify the components or sort the sentences into the correct order. There are many ways to use writing samples during an instructional unit. Be sure to keep them year after year!
How to Purchase the Opinion Writing Unit
More Opinion Writing Blog Posts
Would you like to read more about how to teach opinion writing in the classroom? Take a look at these blog posts.