I’ve seen many folks around the district launching their Opinion/Argumentative writing units.  As CCSS states, from Kinder-12th, all students are required to get experience in writing in this genre.  One thing I do enjoy about Common Core is how they take such a layered approach to writing as you venture up the grades.  Check it:

Kinder:  Use a combination of writing, dictating and drawing to compose opinion pieces where students tell the reader their topic and state their opinion

Third grade:  Write opinion pieces that state an opinion, provide reasons, use linking words and phrases and offer a concluding statement

Fifth grade:  Provide opinion pieces that support a point of view by introducing topic, providing logically ordered reasons supported by facts and details, link with words, phrases and clauses and end with concluding statement.

Eighth grade:
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
Establish and maintain a formal style.
Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

The trick with Opinion writing (in my opinion),  is finding topics that MATTER for our students and giving them a REAL audience to write to.  When writing is authentic and purposeful, students are more motivated to write!  When they’re more motivated, they produce better stuff!

Have you heard about the Learning Network from the New York Times?  They just published a list of 301 prompts for writing opinion pieces.  It’s geared towards teens, but what I love is that the topics are so student-centered, relevant and real.  The topics are here!  They also provide student examples and even a writing contest!  I mean, what teen wouldn’t be motivated to write an opinion piece on the Chris Brown and Rihanna break-up?  Or the validity of skateboarding as a sport?

What are topics that matter to our elementary and middle school aged kids?  What will spark motivation in even our most reluctant writers?  All things to ponder before we dive into this type of writing with our students.

Here’s what a 5th grade EL student from Manor wrote to her principal last year.  This student was often reluctant to write, but when she found out she was actually going to put this in the principal’s mailbox, she was thrilled! She also chose this topic as something she wanted to change at her school.

Dear Mr. Richardson,

I’m writing to you because I think that all students should have a mechanical pencil at school.

First, with a mechanical pencil you don’t need to sharpen it.  With a regular pencil, it interrupts your work time because you always have to sharpen it.  Also, when you sharpen your pencil, all the pencil shredding comes out and it makes a HUGE mess.  Finally, the sharpener is very disturbing and you can’t focus.

Furthermore, mechanical pencils are very comfortable.  In fifth grade, we do a lot of writing so we need our fingers to be comfortable.  In addition, a mechanical pencil is much easier to write with on tests.  Finally, with a regular pencil, your fingers slip and get sweaty.

My last reason is that mechanical pencils look cooler than regular pencils.  First, they have twisting erasers and they last longer than regular pencils.  Second of all, there’s a button that makes the lead come out.  To add to that, mechanical pencils come in a variety of colors like neon and pastel.

As I’ve said, I think mechanical pencils are a better option for Manor school.  Mr. Richardson, I hope you will consider this as we think about supplies for next year.

Sincerely,
S.M.

Happy Opinion Writing!!

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