Wondering how to teach opinion writing? Let me show you what I do to teach my second graders. I like to plan out my lessons using a systematic approach. Keep reading to find out all about it.
Start With the End in Mind
Whenever I am planning out a unit, I like to start with my end goals in mind. First, I’ll look at the standards the unit covers.
The Common Core Standards states, “write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.”
This second grade standard tells me that the main components students must learn in opinion writing are:
- Stating an opinion
- Provide reasons to support their opinion
- Linking Words
The way the standard reads I am getting that all five of these pieces can make up one paragraph. However, this is for second grade so I feel I can stretch my students to write at least 2 or 3 paragraphs.
I know that in third grade for our SBAC (Smarter Balanced assessments) students are expected to write a 5 paragraph essay. If they can write 3 paragraphs in second grade, then 5 paragraphs won’t be a tough stretch next year.
From the standard I also see that I should cover at least two types of opinion writing - book reviews and an opinion piece. When I’m creating my plans I will want to make sure I have activities that cover both of these.
Figure Out the Building Blocks
The next thing I do when figuring out how to teach opinion writing is to think about the building blocks students need to be successful in learning the main components.
What skills will they need to learn first? What should they have learned in the previous year?
Before you begin teaching opinion writing, I would recommend having students do a writing baseline assessment. The pre-assessment will give you great insight into answering these two questions. I talk more about baseline writing assessments in my post How to Improve Writing Skills in Your Students.
Now that you have figured out what skills to teach and where your students are at, it’s time to start introducing opinion writing.
Frontload Opinion Writing With Books
Although I use several opinion writing mentor texts, I like to add a few more read alouds to help get students excited about writing opinions. I usually read these texts before I start opinion writing so they can get used to this new style of writing. The mentor texts are saved for my actual opinion writing lessons.
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Some of my favorites are:
In My Opinion by Deb Bird
Don’t Take Your Snake for a Stroll by Karin Ireland
I use most of these books throughout my lessons but feel that reading them before I begin my opinion writing unit makes it easier to hold a focused discussion later. When the story is not new to students I feel student discussions are stronger.
Plan Out Smaller Lessons
Last but not least when figuring out how to teach opinion writing is to plan out the actual lessons. I love to have small, bite-size lessons when I teach. When my lesson only takes a maximum of 15 minutes (more if I read a longer story), it saves more time for students to spend writing. Short lessons also keep students focused and the objective super clear for students.
My second tip is to make sure each lesson builds on the last. I also like to start each lesson with a review. For example, today when I was teaching about how to state an opinion I started off the lesson by reminding students about the definition of an opinion. Anchor charts are also great to reference for this part of the lesson.
My writing block consists of the 10-15 minute lesson, 20-30 minutes of independent writing time, and 5 minutes of share time. I usually only get 45 minutes to teach writing which gets even shorter with bus students dismissing earlier than the school dismissal. The shorter I can keep those mini-lessons the better!