I love opinion writing! That may surprise you, especially if you’ve only considered it as a way to share your thoughts in an op-ed piece or as a classroom assignment to get through.
Certainly there are topics which are heavy and important for opinions. However, you can start out with simple prompts that students think are fun and that build classroom community. There’s a secret to this that I’ll share in this post.
When to Begin Teaching Opinion Writing
Opinion writing can be a great way to get to know your students better. When they share their opinions with each other, it builds classroom community. There’s nothing better than seeing smiles and hearing happy voices as they chat about their opinions and why they feel the way they do.
Before you begin to teach opinion writing, hopefully you’ve already laid a foundation in expository writing.
Summary writing is the first thing to teach. It’s just the facts about the topic, with no opinions allowed.
After students have mastered summary writing, let them tackle compare and contrast writing. Again, it’s just the facts about the topics, with no statements of opinion.
Once your students are comfortable with writing summary and compare/contrast papers, they’re ready for you to begin teaching opinion writing. Let the fun begin! Once students have mastered opinion writing, the next step is to expand it to persuasive writing.
Opinion Writing Can Be Fun
Young people have an opinion about almost everything, right? Yet they don’t often have a way to express their opinions or even understand how to do it well.
When teaching English learners, one of the exercises we practice with them works fantastically well for opinion writing. It’s this question that you’ve probably used many times in your class.
Would you rather? Give me two reasons why.
For example, you ask your student, “Would you rather be a farmer or an astronaut?” The student gives you their answer.
Then you continue, forcing them to expound with support as they express their ideas. “Great! Give me two reasons why.”
This practice can be quite difficult for early to intermediate level English learners. Yet it’s a super effective way to get them to proficiency in oral expression.
You can use this exact same exercise with your students to get them expressing their opinions in writing. First, have them talk to a partner or table group. Give them a “one or the other” type of prompt that is non-controversial. Then require them to give two or three reasons in support of their opinion.
After they’ve completed this activity, which I like to call “oral writing,” they’ll be ready to write.
15 Simple, Non-Controversial Opinion Writing Prompts
- Which ice cream is better? Chocolate or vanilla?
- Do dogs or cats make the best pet?
- What sport is more fun? Swimming or soccer?
- Would you rather be a talented artist or a talented athlete?
- Would you rather be a singer or a drummer?
- Which is the better way to read a book, digitally or in print?
- Should pets be allowed in restaurants or not?
- What is the best way to spend a weekend? Camping or playing sports?
- Do you prefer to go to the beach or go to the mountains?
- Which is better? Solar power or wind power?
- What’s the best thing to do with a sick friend? Watch movies or play board games?
- Which is better? Chocolate chip cookies or chocolate cake?
- Do you think it’s important to learn cursive writing? Why or why not?
- Do you think there is life on other planets? Why or why not?
- Would you like to take a vacation to Mars? Why or why not?
Mentor Texts for Opinion Writing
Mentor texts can be a great source of opinion writing prompts. If you read my posts about mentor texts and mentor text routines, you know I’m a fan of Chris Van Allsburg books for this. His books always leave a sense of mystery, and students love to write their opinions about what really might have happened.
Some of his books that I have used and highly recommend are:
*Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click on one of these titles and buy it, I receive a small commission.*
You can also choose mentor texts that express an opinion. You might even begin by reading the opinions out of a school magazine like Scholastic or National Geographic for Kids.
Another fun place to go for inspiration is Wonderopolis. It has articles about almost everything you can think of. Read the articles as you would a mentor text, and then have students write an opinion based on the article.
We Are Teachers has a blog post with a list of 29 mentor texts you can use to teach opinion writing.
The Problem Solving Teacher shares how to choose and use an inspiring mentor text when you’re ready to take opinion writing to the next level, which is persuasive writing.
The key is to find articles and topics that students can talk about and write about without causing any contention. Keep them light and fun. (At least in the beginning of learning how to write opinion pieces.) This way they’ll love expressing and sharing their opinions.
Using Opinion Writing to Build Classroom Community
This is the capstone of opinion writing. Why learn how to express an opinion without the opportunity to share it?
Students can share their opinion writing in many ways. They can do it in small groups or in a writing workshop meeting. They can turn and talk to share it with a partner. Table groups of three or four students are another way to share opinions.
With the types of prompts I shared above, you can also turn it into a class graphing activity. We always graphed our favorite ice cream flavors. It was fun to graph the opinions about pets.
A quick and simple way to create a class graph is this.
- Give each student a square sticky note.
- Have them write their name and their opinion on it.
- Draw a graph on the whiteboard. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
- Have the students place their sticky notes in the appropriate column.
- Don’t forget to take a picture of the graph. You can use it to talk about their opinion in a classroom meeting.
Anytime you can get your students talking with one another about topics they think are fun, you’ll be building classroom community.
How To Teach Opinion Writing
I didn’t get into the mechanics of teaching opinion writing here. I did that in the post titled, How to Teach Opinion Writing. Of course, you’ll want to teach your students to write the introduction stating their opinion and give two or three reasons supporting the opinion. Depending on the writing level of your students, have them give examples that support their reasons. Finally, they should have a concluding statement that restates their opinion.
If you’ve already taught summary writing, your students know how to incorporate these parts of an essay. It’s simply a matter of adding their opinion. But if you haven’t already taught the lessons or you want to know more, check out the blog post about how to teach opinion writing.
Feel free to download or pin this infographic as a short and simple reminder to your students about opinion writing. There’s another infographic on the other opinion writing post, too.
That’s it for this post, friends! Have fun and I hope you find the joy in teaching opinion writing!
Books mentioned in this blog post:
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for considering a purchase of one of these books and helping to support this site!