My mom was a first grade teacher. She stopped teaching before she had me but I heard all the stories and I knew I wanted to teach too. How could I do that right NOW? I realized I didn’t NEED to wait when I have STUFFED ANIMALS. Am I right? So there I am, 7 years old, lining up my stuffed animals in one giant row. If you knew anything about me at the age of 7 you KNEW that I had a lot of stuffed animals (and names for EVERY one). I had lesson plans ready and I would write out the schedule (with times) for every part of our day. Spelling? Check! Reading? Check! Math? Check!
It was great! You know what DIDN’T happen? The animals didn’t tell me their opinions. They went right along with all my lessons. They listened to me read stories. AND watched me, ever so carefully, write out math equations on the chalkboard. They didn’t talk over me, throw things at each other OR run around the room. It was fabulous! No differing opinions whatsoever. Such as, why are we reading that story AGAIN? I DON’T want to do THAT! When do we go to recess? No I don’t want the blue piece of paper, I WANT pink!!!! When is it time to go HOME?
It was great!
Well…ummm…wait! Was it? I didn’t know what I was missing UNTIL I became a teacher of tiny humans! All of a sudden I needed those opinions! It made me a better and more engaging teacher…out of survival! My favorite part of their opinions? I could get amazing writing out of them when they cared about a topic! They just HAD to tell ME! So how did I get them to do this? So glad you asked. Hang out with me for a bit and I’ll show you how I teach kids to write their opinion in just 5 steps.
Step 1: Choose an Opinion Writing Topic
I teach thematically so, I’m often finding a really fun topic that goes with our theme. Our themes range from apples, community helpers and Thanksgiving in the fall; gingerbread, polar bears and dental health in the winter; zoo animals, plants and ice cream in the spring. Plan topics that will engage them OR even let them plan their OWN topic.
Step 2: Let Them Talk It Out
Once the hard part is done…picking the topic is hard for everyone, teachers included…then assign them a partner OR let them choose a partner to talk about their opinion. I like to use the format called “Would You Rather…” when I teach opinion writing. Here is how I would teach this.
Let’s pretend it’s spring and we are talking about this season. At some point we would probably discuss rain because that’s what it seems to do in the spring. First you have indoor recess for the snow ALL winter but NOW that it’s spring you get to STAY indoors for the rain. My question to them would be: Would you rather splash in a puddle or dance in the rain? Then my kids would stare at me blankly because they have NEVER been aloud out in the rain. Just kidding!!!! What they would really do is SHOUT out what they think would be more FUN! No matter what they say I would have to agree because I would probably just stay indoors.
So “Partner A” would turn and talk to “Partner B” for 2 or 3 minutes and explain which they would prefer and why. Then we switch and “Partner B” does all the talking. This helps them think through the writing process AND allows them to practice listening skills.
Step 3: Draw and Label
Now it’s time to put their thinking onto paper. They will draw a picture of which they would prefer and write it. This step is especially helpful for students who have SOOOOOO much to say but are not quite ready to write it all out. The picture below shows an example of a page that can help emergent writers.
Step 4: Finish the Sentence and Illustrate
Now you will give them a chance to explain their opinion – WHY did they make that choice? The page below supports younger writers because it allows them to focus on the WHY. This way you are not bouncing all over the classroom trying to support long kindergarten ramblings (similar to my blog posts) but instead you are helping them focus in on ONE key reason. Teach your students to be independent when writing and you WON’T have to bounce around when you teach…well…er…not as much as you used to at least. They can illustrate when finished with the writing.
Step 5: Share Their Opinion Writing
Now let them go back to their partner and share their writing. Turn the opinion writing pages into a class book and read them to the class. Graph or tally mark their opinions and see what your class likes better. Would most of your class rather jump in a puddle or dance in the rain? Are more boys jumping and more girls dancing? Or is it the other way around? Or a mix? It will be fun to find out!
Opinion writing can be done in many ways. You can even just use plain paper and have them draw and write! You do not need to be fancy. But if you are looking for a resource already created for you, look no further. I’ve got you covered (just click the picture below).
If you would like more advice for writing in general check out this blog post here:
Whatever you decide, have FUN teaching. Turn their opinions into work AND play. But remember, if you don’t want to listen to any more opinions you can always get some stuffed animals.