Okay, so opinion writing has always been one of my favorite things to teach! I just love the discussions that you can have with students about things they love and hate.
But here’s the thing, getting students to put their ideas into writing isn’t a piece of cake. Without properly teaching the structure of opinion writing you could get a lot of ‘I love cake. It’s nice. The end’!
So that’s why I’m going to outline some tips and strategies for how to teach opinion writing to elementary aged students!
First up, you can’t expect students to understand a writing genre if they haven’t been exposed to it. I recommend sourcing a big pile of read alouds for opinion writing.
I have a blog post here which lists my top 10 storybooks for teaching opinion/persuasive writing.
Before you start teaching the genre, make sure that your students have been exposed to some examples of opinion writing (picture books are the most engaging way to do this). As you teach the concept in the coming days and weeks, I would suggest that you continue to read these types of books (as a warm-up every lesson if you can).
The great thing about opinion writing storybooks is that they can become the writing prompt for your lesson. For example, reading a book like ‘The Perfect Pet’ can be a great warm up and then your students can write about what they think the perfect pet is.
An important thing to teach your students is that once they form an opinion, they MUST give a reason for it. I’d suggest doing some whole class, group, or pair work where students discuss topics and give reasons for their opinions. It’s good for students to be able to verbalize their opinion and learn how to provide reasons before you expect them to write anything down.
Ask your students what their favorite food, movies, TV shows, books, toys, and games are. Encourage them to give reasons. If you have young or struggling students, they may just give one reason. If you have older or more capable students, you can encourage them to list multiple reasons for each topic and truly elaborate.
Now it’s time to put pen to paper! But the important thing is to start with baby steps. This can be as simple as giving students a prompt (such as ‘What is the best computer game?’) and asking them to write down their answer and give a reason (or two).
Either provide a worksheet prompt (or just ask students to write) the sentence starter ‘My favorite game is….because…’
It’s important to get students into the habit of forming proper sentences when they share their opinion (like ‘my favorite, I believe that, I think’). We want to avoid ‘Dogs are the best’ and encourage students to write ‘I think that dogs are the best’ or ‘In my opinion, dogs are the best’.
It’s also important to encourage students to always provide a reason and use words like ‘because’.
When students first start opinion writing, a blank piece of paper isn’t always the best way to go. Most students will forget sentence starters and connecting words. This is where scaffolded writing prompts come in handy (where students can fill in the gaps with their ideas).
As students get more confident sharing their opinions and reasoning using scaffolded worksheets, they can begin writing on their own.
Introduce the concept of an introduction and explain that the first sentence/paragraph needs to be where they state their opinion.
For younger students, they may just write a sentence such as ‘I think that dogs are better than cats’. For older students, you might encourage them to write a full paragraph where they discuss the topic and share their opinion (‘Pets can be a so much fun to have. Lots of people have dogs and cats as pets. In my opinion, I think that dogs are better than cats’).
The next step is adding more detail. This step is crucial otherwise your student’s opinion writing will only be one or two sentences long!
Once students have got the hang of writing introductions, encourage them to write a few sentences/paragraphs that give reasoning.
It’s important to provide vocabulary like ‘also’. For older or more capable students, this is where it’s great to provide vocabulary like ‘furthermore, additionally, moreover’.
I personally like to students to use words such as ‘firstly, secondly, finally’. Provide these words and explain to students that this helps them order their reasoning.
Finally, explain to your students that their writing needs a sense of closure. Encourage them to summarize their reasons or just re-state their opinion ‘That is why dogs are better than cats’.
How to engage students in opinion writing
Opinion writing can be fun to teach if you keep the prompts student friendly. This is why you must pick topics and prompts that you know your students will love.
For example, you might get more engaged students if you ask them what their favorite movie is than if you ask them what their favorite school subject is.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, start off your lessons with engaging storybooks and verbal discussions too.
You could create a classroom game where students walk around the room and ask their classmates for opinions and reasoning based on a prompt. Students don’t have to be chained to their desk!
Another great way to engage students in opinion writing (and create cute bulletin boards) is to use opinion writing crafts. Students will love coloring, cutting, and creating flip books as they write.
Writing crafts can be a great way to make your lesson more engaging for reluctant writers. Some students dread it when they are expected to fill up a whole blank page. With crafts, students have so much fun that they forget they are learning!
You can grab the doughnut craft for free by signing up here.
What if you are teaching virtually?
If you are teaching online, you can still read storybooks, have discussions, and use writing prompts with your students! TPT has a digital overlay tool, which means that many writing prompts can be used digitally (students type in text boxes).
Are you ready to have some opinion writing fun?
I hope you enjoyed this post about how to teach opinion writing. Good luck with your lessons!