With students in your classroom who may not have the basics of sentence writing completely down yet, it can be overwhelming to begin planning your opinion writing, or persuasive writing, unit. For young writers learning such a new, specific format of writing, it is really important to break it up into small, clear steps.
As you can see in the chart below, students are expected to do a little bit more with opinion writing as they grow as writers from 1st to 3rd grade.
So, with my 1st graders, we focus on developing 1 reason to support their opinion and a closing. With my 2nd and 3rd graders, we focus on giving at least 2 reasons (or a reason and an example), and a closing. Below is how I tackle opinion writing step by step:
I first explain what an opinion is using this opinion writing poster. Then I go over a pre-generated opinion writing model with my students. We identify and discuss each part of the piece of opinion writing (opinion, reason, example, closing).
GUIDED WHOLE GROUP PRACTICE:
Next, we choose a topic that all students can relate to. Some examples could be my favorite thing to do on a sunny day, the best lunch in the cafeteria, favorite things to do after school, etc. On a post-it, each student gives his/her opinions, or feelings, on that topic and a reason why they feel this way. We add these to our “Opinion Brainstorming Bubble.” I use at least one post-it to generate a new model with the class on lined anchor chart paper. While writing, I model referring to a list of sentence starters for introducing an opinion, reason, and closing.
1. ANALYZE WRITING MODELS
Students use “Opinion Color Coding” stories to read through and identify the opinion, one supporting reading (first grade) or 2 supporting reasons (second-third grade), and the ending. I find giving them space to independently practice with this visual strategy is when the opinion writing format begins to really click for my students.
2. TIME TO WRITE: SUPPORTED PRACTICE
Students are given an opinion writing prompt with visual choices. Students either get a practice writing prompt with the sentence starter already chosen for them (first graders or other students that need the support), or use the sentence starters guide to choose their own sentence starters (higher writers). For students who need extra support I also provide graphic organizers they can use to first brainstorm before writing. These graphic organizers come in different formats. One graphic organizer I like to use with my students very simply breaks down an opinion and reason for 1st grade, or and an opinion with 2 reasons for 2nd and 3rd grade. Another graphic organizer I love to use (pictured below) is an O.R.E.O. opinion writing template for 1st grade, and an O.R.E.R.E.O opinion writing template for 2nd and 3rd grade.
3. INDEPENDENT WRITING
Now it’s time for students to begin opinion writing from scratch! I usually provide a writing prompt for the entire class to focus on, but you could also give multiple options or have them develop their own individual topics. During the prewriting phase of the writing process, students brainstorm using a graphic organizer (shown above). While writing their draft, they have their sentence starters guide to help them begin introducing their opinion, reason, and their closing statement.
All of the materials shown in this blog post can be found in my TpT store.
Looking to have your students write with more vivid details? Read this blog post on How I teach Explode the Moment Writing.