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Meaning this with all gentleness and kindness, and it is JMO, but at the elementary grades, I would want to be nailing down basic writing skills, rather than introducing a complex form of writing that requires advanced thinking. Writing about an opinion means building an argument of support, and that type of writing comes out of the advanced logical *thinking* that doesn't really "click" for students until the abstract and logic portions of the brain start developing along about age 13-14.

Specifically: for writing about an opinion, you start with a complete thesis statement:
1. thesis topic -- the overall subject you have an opinion about
2. thesis claim -- your opinion or position about that topic
3. thesis direction -- overview of the reasons of the argument of support for the claim (opinion) 

Then the body of the piece of writing develops those reasons of the argument from the thesis direction:
- each reason is supported by evidence (examples, facts, statistics,, quotations, anecdotes)
- each piece of evidence is then followed by commentary, which explains how/why that piece of evidence supports, shows, or proves that reason of the argument
- which is followed by concluding commentary, which explains how/why that reason of the argument supports, shows, or proves the thesis claim (the opinion).

All of these parts of an opinion piece of writing come out of logical and abstract thinking.


All that said...

 This blog article shows beginning opinion writing, with the use of pre-made statements, which might be a useful starting point.

These activities model that there is always the need for a *reason* of support for your *opinion*, and the activities model wording for the students. Modeling is going to be very helpful as an introduction to opinion writing. I just question introducing this level of complexity, when the student examples show they are still at a very basic level of working on writing a complete sentence.

From the blog article, it is very telling that opinion writing is not developmentally appropriate writing for these young students -- the blog article author (a classroom teacher) even states:  "They don’t understand the concept of having to thoroughly explain their opinion. I think it might be a developmental issue with second graders..."  

I would be concerned about young students learning bad habits in writing, such as thinking that stating their opinion (in the modeled wording) is enough (talk radio or Internet forums, anyone??? 😉 ). Or supporting opinions with faulty reasons, such as another opinion -- example: "I personally prefer chocolate ice cream because it is the best flavor."

BEST of luck in your writing adventures, whatever you decide to go with. Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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5 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Writing about an opinion means building an argument of support, and that type of writing comes out of the advanced logical *thinking* that doesn't really "click" for students until the abstract and logic portions of the brain start developing along about age 13-14.

I think this kind of generalization isn't super helpful, because it depends SO MUCH on the kid. My kiddo would be better at this than at some standard elementary school assignments, because she'd be less bored doing it, and because she loathes any kind of creative writing with a passion... 

Who is this for, @mathmarm? Last I checked, your DS isn't that age, so I'm curious 🙂 . 

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39 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I think this kind of generalization isn't super helpful, because it depends SO MUCH on the kid. My kiddo would be better at this than at some standard elementary school assignments, because she'd be less bored doing it, and because she loathes any kind of creative writing with a passion... 

Not trying to be argumentative with you, but you have a very advanced child, and you are doing a lot of logic and critical thinking-based math work with your student that could also assist with the types of thinking needed for building an argument of support for opinion-based writing--so I get that your student would be better at something like opinion-based writing than at creative writing assignments that she dislikes. But that isn't a terribly helpful statement for most people with young elementary-aged students, since it is so unique to your particular situation. 😉 

And, from what I have seen of them I am not a proponent of public school writing assignments or elementary writing standards, as I think they are typically very age-INappropriate. 😉 

ETA
Agreeing that brain development is very unique to the student. I am basing my age 13-14 statement off of articles I have read in the past about typical development, and coupling that with my own experience of teaching middle school/high school students -- most of them fit that pattern of just not having the abstract thinking and logical thinking to be able to build an argument of support for a claim or opinion until somewhere along about 7th-9th grade.

Again, speaking from my experience.

Edited by Lori D.
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4 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

But that isn't a terribly helpful statement for most people with young elementary-aged students, since it is so unique to your particular situation. 😉 

I guess I personally like to find out something more about the child before making statements about whether something appropriate. Kids vary SO much, and I don't find that I learn enough from simply knowing the age. 

But it's also true that people have yelled at me about doing developmentally inappropriate things for ages, and I have a reflexively bad reaction to that phrasing 😉 . I have my second 4 year old who's reading to herself in her head and enjoying it... you can guess the kinds of things people have told me for teaching my 3 year olds to read 😉 . 

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A fun entry-level “opinion-based” assignment  is one I’ve used before with fourth graders. They wrote a letter to a character in a story that made a bad decision. They had to identify the decision and then explain why they felt it was wrong and what the character should have done instead. This can be fun to do before they know the outcome and before the character has hopefully learned from their mistake. My students sure gave their characters an earful!

The Writing Revolution book has some good ideas for opinion writing for this age that serves as a warm-up for more evidence-based writing as they develop their skills. Kids this age may still be developing their reasoning skills, but they love sharing their opinions, and I think it can be helpful to harness that enthusiasm and use it to teach them a basic argumentative structure that can be built upon later. I’d keep it to just a paragraph at this age.

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8 minutes ago, lovelearnandlive said:

A fun entry-level “opinion-based” assignment  is one I’ve used before with fourth graders. They wrote a letter to a character in a story that made a bad decision. They had to identify the decision and then explain why they felt it was wrong and what the character should have done instead. This can be fun to do before they know the outcome and before the character has hopefully learned from their mistake. My students sure gave their characters an earful!

The Writing Revolution book has some good ideas for opinion writing for this age that serves as a warm-up for more evidence-based writing as they develop their skills. Kids this age may still be developing their reasoning skills, but they love sharing their opinions, and I think it can be helpful to harness that enthusiasm and use it to teach them a basic argumentative structure that can be built upon later. I’d keep it to just a paragraph at this age.

Oh, that's a fun idea, thank you!! 

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7 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

I think this kind of generalization isn't super helpful, because it depends SO MUCH on the kid. My kiddo would be better at this than at some standard elementary school assignments, because she'd be less bored doing it, and because she loathes any kind of creative writing with a passion... 

Who is this for, @mathmarm? Last I checked, your DS isn't that age, so I'm curious 🙂 . 

None of my older kids did any creative writing .... ever. 

they only started opinion writing  at around 15 , and only 2 of them did that.

 

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I tried doing opinion writing with my fourth grader this year but dropped it pretty quickly. He's a bright, logical kid so I thought it would suit him, but instead I ended up feeling like it just didnt make sense yet.

He could do it BUT it took a ton of guidance from me, and it felt really constricting. I'd rather have him work on descriptive writing and narrations for now. I also think that's a better way for him to build up the skills he'll need later as a writer. 

That said, obviously all kids are different:)  

 

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11 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I tried doing opinion writing with my fourth grader this year but dropped it pretty quickly. He's a bright, logical kid so I thought it would suit him, but instead I ended up feeling like it just didnt make sense yet.

What kinds of opinions did you try, if you don't mind me asking? 

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54 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

What kinds of opinions did you try, if you don't mind me asking? 

I dont remember the exact topics, but  I  mostly picked things he was interested in -- sports, history, things in the neighborhood. I think his favorite was a letter to the parks department complaining about changes to the local park:)

Like I said, he was able to do it but I felt like I had to give too much guidance throughout. I also felt like he needed to get better at observation and narration. 

Editing to say -- it didnt feel like he was making progress towards something, if you know what I mean. More like I was trying to guide him to do my idea of what the result should be.

 

Edited by Little Green Leaves
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We use Evan Moor Text-Based Writing as one aspect of our writing instruction in elementary, and each level includes some opinion and argument paragraphs/essays. We focus primarily on other types of writing, but I do coach them through the opinion and argument paragraphs periodically to get them used to the necessary formula. It is much more restrictive than the other types of writing they do, but I would rather they learn how to crank out organized, formulaic opinions and arguments now so that in middle school it isn't much of a jump to start including multiple sources and citations. I'm hoping that by high school they will have had so much practice with the opinion/argument formula that they will be able to break out of the mold and start writing more interesting essays that still fulfill all the requirements.

Our Steps:
We start with simplistic opinions that they feel strongly about and can be easily supported solely from personal knowledge/experience. Perhaps: Legos are better than wooden blocks.

Kiddo comes up with 2-3 reasons and we sum up each reason with a "trigger word". So, perhaps one reason is that legos stay together while wooden blocks don't. We would call that "connect". And reason 2 might be you can buy special Lego sets based on TV and movies. We might use the trigger word "themes".

Next, we come up with a possible counter-argument. This is the hardest part for my kids because they all struggle with perspective taking, so I will take anything they offer even if it is very weak. Sometimes I have to ask guiding questions to lead them to a counter-argument. Between us we might come up with something like, "wooden blocks don't hurt as much when you step on them."

Bingo, we are done. Now it is just a matter of plugging those elements into the formulaic thesis statement:
While/Despite/Even though [counter-argument], [opinion using are/are not or should/should not] because trigger 1 and trigger 2 (and trigger 3 if using).
Despite being more painful to step on, Legos are much better than wooden blocks because they connect together and come in fun themes.

In 3rd grade they use the thesis as the topic sentence, simply add one sentence each explaining the counter-argument and each reason, end it with a conclusion sentence and call it a day.

In 4th grade we switch to a three paragraph format: a 3 sentence intro paragraph (hook, bridge, thesis), a short counter-argument paragraph, and then a longer paragraph detailing the reasons and ending with a strong concluding sentence.

In 5th we move to the standard 5 paragraph models: Intro, Counter-argument, Reason, Reason, Conclusion or Intro, Reason, Reason, Counter-Argument, Conclusion.

In 6th we are ready to tackle sources, citation and synthesis essays.

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6 hours ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I tried doing opinion writing with my fourth grader this year but dropped it pretty quickly. He's a bright, logical kid so I thought it would suit him, but instead I ended up feeling like it just didnt make sense yet.

He could do it BUT it took a ton of guidance from me, and it felt really constricting. I'd rather have him work on descriptive writing and narrations for now. I also think that's a better way for him to build up the skills he'll need later as a writer. 

That said, obviously all kids are different:)  

That is very typical -- opinion (argumentative) writing also requires a fair amount of real life experience for the student to have enough to draw on to come up with reasons, or make connections between opinions and reasons, or to understand what a valid reason actually is. Hence, needing a lot of guidance. (A lot of the 9th graders in my classes need guidance for awhile in figuring out what a valid reason of support is for their thesis claim.)

Like Wendyroo suggests above, teaching a formula to start with helps narrow things down so that the student only has to focus on generating a few things, and does not have to also figure out all of the structure. But again, like Wendyroo describes (and like that early elementary blog article I linked above), it is teacher-intensive and a very teacher-guided process to start with.

SO it is also absolutely fine to wait until the middle school years when the student's thinking skills are more developed, and the student also has more life experience to draw on. And the student also is more solid in the foundations of writing, such as complete sentences and paragraphs, beginning to include "style" as part of their writing (word choice, variety of sentence lengths and structures), and the stages of the writing process (brainstorm, organize, rough draft, revise, proof-edit).

YMMV as to when it works best for each child to work into this type of writing.

Edited by Lori D.
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Thank you all so much for your individual perspective and wisdom. However, I need to teach a short unit on basic Opinion Writing on the 3rd-5th grade spectrum, so I am in need of resources and guidance (thanks Lori D and Wendy) more than anecdotes and (no pun intended) personal opinions on whether or not Opinion Writing can/should be taught at this grade range.

The guidance offered was especially helpful and I am selfishly asking for any more that The Hive may have.

 

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1 hour ago, mathmarm said:

Thank you all so much for your individual perspective and wisdom. However, I need to teach a short unit on basic Opinion Writing on the 3rd-5th grade spectrum, so I am in need of resources and guidance (thanks Lori D and Wendy) more than anecdotes and (no pun intended) personal opinions on whether or not Opinion Writing can/should be taught at this grade range.

The guidance offered was especially helpful and I am selfishly asking for any more that The Hive may have.

 

Who are you teaching it to?

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4 hours ago, mathmarm said:

... I need to teach a short unit on basic Opinion Writing on the 3rd-5th grade spectrum...
... and I am selfishly asking for any more that The Hive may have.

Following the opinion with the word "because" helps to prompt coming up with a reason of support:
"I think _________ because __________."
"I prefer ________ because __________."
"I believe _______ because __________."

The tricky part about this if the child fills in the blank after because with another opinion, like: "I prefer chocolate ice cream because it is the best flavor." -- "The best flavor" is not a reason, it is another opinion ("best" -- why is it best?). What is needed are factual statements as reasons. Examples: "I prefer chocolate ice cream because ...
... it is less expensive than other flavors."
... it has a smoother and creamier texture than ice cream with bits added in."
... chocolate contains antioxidants that are healthy."

Sometimes it is easier to come up with reasons if it is a comparison, like @wendyroo's  Lego/wooden block example above.


Here is an article from Scholastic on how to teach opinion writing to grades 3-5, plus examples of graphic organizers: "Scholasic: Graphic Organizers for Opinion Writing"

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