I bet you could write your own opinion essay on your experience of teaching essay writing, especially teaching opinion writing!
Does this sound like your class? They can tell you one reason for their side of their argument, but that’s about it. Then you think to yourself, “How in the world am I going to get these kids to learn how to write just one paragraph, let alone, an essay?”
Before you begin to worry, I have a few tips and resources that are sure to help you provide your students with a great foundation for writing their own opinion essays.
Tip#1: Use read alouds to introduce opinion writing
As you know, I love using read alouds in the elementary classroom. Even upper elementary students can enjoy and learn from them.
So it’s not surprising when I tell you that using a read aloud that shows a side of an argument is a great way to introduce opinion writing. I love using books like these when we’re getting ready to learn how to write a strong opinion essay. Books such as the ones mentioned below, give students the opportunity to identify how the speaker of the story has used their opinion, reasons, and made a case for their argument. It can help to get your students to express themselves and write an essay that showcases their personal opinion on a topic.
Tip#2: Create opportunities for students to discuss their opinions on any given topic
Give students the opportunity to start sharing their opinions and encourage them to use words that support it. This can be simply done by introducing your kids to a topic and modeling how to share your opinion about it and why you feel the way you do. You can then ask students to share their own opinions and reasons as to why they feel that way.
By sharing, defending, and discussing their own thinking, students will start to get in the mindset of how to share their opinions out loud which will then be helpful when they start writing opinion essays.
Some topics you can use to discuss opinions in class:
- Which pet is better: a dog or a cat?
- Should we have school 5 days a week?
- Should cellphones be allowed in class?
Tip#3: Read and dissect mentor opinion essays
We cannot expect our elementary students to produce a good quality opinion essay without showing them exactly what that would look like. By reading, dissecting, and discussing a mentor essay, students are shown the parts their essays should include. This helps students strive towards a goal and provides them with what the expectation of an essay is.
When students write their own essays, they will remember the parts that were included in the mentor essay and work towards having those parts in their writing as well.
When reading a mentor essay, your students may find it helpful to color code the parts that were included in each paragraph. For example, students may color code the topic sentence, opinion, reason and example of that paragraph. This could be especially helpful for your visual learners.
You may find this resource helpful if you would like to provide your students with mentor essays. It includes two texts that show each side of the argument.
Tip # 5: Practice writing only the introduction paragraph
Before asking your students to write an entire opinion essay, practice writing only an introduction to their essay. The introduction helps students find a clear side of their argument, identify their reasons, and organize what their essay will look like.
With a good, strong introduction, students will be able to expand on these ideas further when they are asked to write the whole essay. Without a strong introduction, the rest of the essay is at risk of being disorganized and the ideas unclear.
Of course, modeling an introduction paragraph which includes a topic sentence, the reasons for your argument, and a closing sentence is key when asking students to complete their own paragraph. You can model this by writing a paragraph on anchor chart paper and labeling each part with your students.
Tip # 6: Write a class essay
This could be a fun activity that will help your students collectively write an essay before they write their own. Students will be able to use the writing process, their ideas that have been discussed, and the strategies they have learned in order to write a class essay.
This idea can be even more effective if you allow it to be a student-centered activity. As the teacher, you can gently guide your students, but allow them to lead this activity by letting them explain their thinking and give each other feedback. If they do find themselves needing some help, facilitate the progress of the lesson by asking open ended questions such as:
- Why is it important to add _____ to the essay?
- Interesting, why did you choose to include that?
- How does ____ connect to other ideas in the essay?
I have found that students learn best when they are given the chance to hear themselves and their classmates explain their thinking. Learning to write an opinion essay is no different!
Tip # 7: Practice, Practice, Practice!
The best way to put all of these learned strategies and ideas to the test is by having your students go through the entire writing process and practice writing their own essay from start to finish. Depending on the needs of your students, it may be a good idea to start off by breaking apart each component of the writing process. You know your students best, but the most important thing to note is the more students practice writing, the better and more confident they will get.
Practicing the entire writing process can feel daunting, which is why I have created this opinion writing unit. It requires minimal prep and includes lessons on how to write each part of the essay, example essays, peer feedback pages, and even rubrics- basically everything you need to carry out no-stress opinion writing lessons!
I’d love to hear if you have any tips that have helped your elementary students become strong opinion writers or if you plan on using any of these strategies!