4 Activities to Get Your Students Ready For Opinion Writing
This is the time of year where my writers make the switch from informational writing to opinion writing. For little learners, this transition is a relatively difficult one. I have noticed over the years that students have a difficult time switching from writing just the facts to learning to state their opinions and giving reasons for those opinions. Funny enough for children who are constantly telling you things they like throughout the day! But, ask them to put it down on paper and there seems to be a disconnect.
That’s why I try to give my students what I call, a buffer week. A week full of activities that help get them prepared to make the switch to opinion writing. These activities range from whole group discussions, to read alouds, to activities during unexpected times of your school day. These activities will encourage your writers to verbally state their opinion and learn to support it with reasons before you even ask them to construct their own opinion piece.
Activity #1: this or that snack mats
Anytime you’re starting a new writing unit with little learners, oral storytelling practice is so important. Especially when it comes to opinion writing. Our writers usually have an easy time choosing some they like to state their opinion about but struggle when it comes to finding reasons to back up why they have that opinion. Taking the pressure off is key to helping them form their reasons and teaching them how to state their opinions correctly.
This or That snack mats are the perfect way to get this discussion going during a fun time during your day; snack! Simply pass snack mats out before snack time in your class. Ask your students to quietly decide which one they would rather have or do, depending on your snack mat. Once they have decided, you can pour their snack on the side of that mat that they have chosen. While your kids are eating, have a class discussion about why they chose what they did and their reasons for it. Guide them in first stating their opinion and then using reasons for those opinions without the pressure of putting pen to paper.
activity #2: shared writing
Shared writing is such an important tool at the beginning of a new writing unit. It is so important for students to learn about a new writing genre THROUGH writing. Shared writing gives students the opportunity to contribute to a piece of writing while the teacher holds the pen and guides the discussion and questions.
I find doing this as a whole group on an anchor chart or SMART board is the most beneficial that way everyone has a chance to participate and discuss the writing piece. Ideally, you would pick a topic that every student can have an opinion about. Guide your students to share their reasons and instruct them on how to state their reasons while you write the piece in front of them.
activity #3 Read Alouds
I can’t stress the importance of read alouds to introduce a new genre of writing enough. During this buffer week, I try to expose my students to a handful of mentor texts that we will refer back to during the entire writing unit. By introducing my students to these mentor texts ahead of time, it allows me to refer back to them during mini-lessons without taking up that precious time to read it to them for the first time. I can then reread a page or two if I want to highlight a specific part of the story or display the pages on the document camera to show how the author did something. We can refer back to these titles throughout the unit and have the students read them on their own as well.
my favorite texts for opinion writing are:
Red is Best by Kathy Stinson
I Wanna New Room and I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff
Earrings by Judith Viorst
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
Activity #4 Pen Talks
I am so excited to share pen talks with you if you have never heard of them before! Pen Talks can be used in so many areas of instruction. From responding to texts, asking and answering questions, to stating your opinions and finding reasons to support them, they’re extremely versatile. Pen talks are really as simple as they sound, the pens do the talking instead of our mouths.
After a read aloud, simply pass out a large piece of construction paper to partners and two pens. The pens are key to this I have found. Once each pair has their paper, ask your students to decide which partner should write first. Once they have decided, ask your students to write down their favorite part of the story or which character they liked best. Then, have partner two respond with an I agree because… OR I disagree because….Partner one can then respond with another reason and so on and so on. Partners will be practicing stating their opinion and sharing reasons for their opinions without even realizing they’re doing it.
Pen talks can be used throughout your opinion writing unit for debates or writing practice. They can also be used during information writing to state facts that they have learned from different mentor texts and asking their partner different questions about the text as well.
I hope these activities help you and your students prepare for your opinion writing unit. They can be completed before you start your opinion writing unit or throughout the unit to sharpen skills and keep your students practicing throughout the school day.
about the author:
Hi there! My name is Jayme and I am the creator of Teach Talk Inspire. I have a passion for teaching little learners to read and write and am determined to show every student that they’re already writers!
I taught first grade for 7 years and acted as a lead teacher for Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project. I loved to collaborate with other teachers to develop the most effective practices to teach writing to elementary aged students. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Penn State University and a Master’s in Elementary Education from Duquesne University. My love of writing has been there from the very beginning!
When I’m not blogging or creating resources to help teachers in their classrooms, I’m playing and reading with my one year old daughter; my number one student at the moment!