How To Write Opinion Essay 5th Grade

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We started our opinion writing unit this week. My goal for this week was to have students learn to state an opinion using academic language. Because opinions also require reasons, we did supplying reasons, but I did not ask students to use academic language or linking words to supply reasons . . . yet. We only focused using academic language with the opinion statement.

All of the materials you see in the pictures come from my Opinion Writing Tools packet on TpT.  It has a whole unit’s worth of resources to scaffold and teach opinion writing.

Monday: State an Opinion

Goal: Introduce opinion writing and the concept of stating an opinion and supplying reasons

This was our first day working with opinion writing formally this year. I did what I did last year to introduce opinion writing and we wrote about recess as a shared activity. Since we all go to recess and have that background knowledge, it was the best topic to do as a whole class the first time through.

After doing the whole group brainstorming of activities students can do at recess, pairs went off to come up with their reasons. We came back together to report out one or two reasons for each recess activity. Then, students wrote a paragraph (I use that term loosely here) choosing one recess activity and giving reasons why they like it.

My goal for this day was to introduce the concept and emphasize the need to state an opinion and supply reasons.  Those terms were nailed in over and over throughout the lesson and writing.

Tuesday: Use Sentence Frames to State an Opinion

Goal: Use sentence frames to state an opinion

On day two, I introduced students to using sentence frames to state an opinion. Since this was their first day working with the sentence frames, I kept it simple and stuck to these sentence frames.  I was a hard ball about it and required that students used these frames, at least for today.

As I introduced the sentences to the class, I starred them with different colors and emphasized the level of difficulty. As students move down the chart, the sentences get more complex and more “college-like”.

Whole Group Practice with Stating an Opinion

We did some whole group practice, chorally saying the frames as well as some whole group practice responding to prompts using the frames. The prompts were the same ones students were going to use with a partner during the partner practice.

During the whole group practice, I had students sit knee to knee, meaning they were sitting criss-cross and their knees were touching. I had one student ask the question and the other student answer the question using a sentence frame.

I didn’t give students the prompt strips, but just said the question orally for the whole group. I said it twice, so that the first student could get it and so that the second student had some thinking time. The first student repeated the prompt and the second student answered the question.

After answering, we came back whole group and I called on a few students, emphasizing the different sentence frames they chose to use. We did this with a few prompts, switching who was asking and answering the questions.

Partner Practice with Stating an Opinion

After we had some whole group guided practice, students then did some partner practice. To do this, I printed the prompt strips on one colored piece of paper and a the sentence frames on another colored piece of paper. Each student had to find a partner with the opposite kind of paper. The student with the prompt paper asked the question and student with the sentence frame paper responded. After asking and answering, students switched papers and found a new partner. We did a few rounds of this then came back together whole group.

Individual Writing

Since we had spend so much time on the whole group and partner practice today, I gave students an easy prompt: their favorite food. We did a quick web and I sent students off to write their opinion paragraph. I emphasized that they had to state their opinion using a sentence frame and give three reasons.

I generally don’t like giving students a quantity when writing, but if I didn’t they’d write one sentence and say they were done. They don’t understand the concept of having to thoroughly explain their opinion. I think it might be a developmental issue with second graders or a language or poverty issue. That’s a discussion for another time, but I’d love some insight on it if you want to comment below.

Wednesday: Practice

Goal: Practice using sentence frames to state an opinion

We were three days into our unit on opinion writing. Today, we again practiced stating an opinion using academic language. We practiced a little bit whole group, sitting knee-to-knee, but it was a quick practice.

I then had students go back to their table groups and play a board game. It was a very simple board game where they flipped over a card, gave their opinion using a sentence frame, rolled the die, and moved a marker. This just gave them one more way to practice.

After the board game, I gave students three prompts from the game. Students chose a prompt, wrote an opinion statement and three reasons for it.

While students were writing, I circulated the room and made sure each student had used a sentence frame to state their opinion. I noticed that most students used, “I prefer ___”. This was first on the chart and first on my list. I’m assuming that the frequency of use was because that prompt was first on the lists. Something to think about!

Thursday: More Practice

Goal: Work with academic language and provide more practice

On Thursday, students sorted opinions and reasons. We did a whole group sort with opinions and reasons I had taken from their writing the previous three days. I cleaned up the writing a little bit, but used mostly their writing with a few other more difficult ones thrown in.

During the whole group sort, I used the same headers, State an Opinion and Supply Reasons. We first sorted the strips of paper into option and reason. Then we matched the reason to the correct opinion. This whole group activity mirrored what I wanted students to do during their independent activity.

Students did their own sort. The worksheet had sentences modeling the sentence frames and high-level language. The sentence structures are much higher than what students are producing in class.  This gives them exposure to accurate academic language for opinion writing.

After sorting, students chose one opinion and reason pair. They wrote that opinion and reason on a blank paper and wrote two more reasons to go with that opinion.  Not only was I able to get another piece of writing from students, they used the given opinion statement and matching reason to practice some higher-level writing.

Friday: Practice Writing Opinion Statements

Goal: Practice writing opinion statements flexibly

On Friday, we again discussed the sentence frames, and, using a few prompts from Monday, we practiced with a partner. I had one student ask if he could combine sentence frames, which opened up the discussion for how to adjust the sentence frames. I love it!

Although I had said all week that students had to use the sentence frames when they stated an opinion, I also repeatedly said that they could adjust the frames to meet their needs. Today was the day that most students actually got it. They were able to see how they could manipulate the sentence frames. I added a couple extra words to show students how the phrases can move around and be used with different frames. We practiced a bit with these additions.

Students then went back to their seat and practiced just stating their opinion four times.  I told them that because we had used “I prefer__” so often that they couldn’t use that frame.  They also had to use a different frame for each prompt.  One student had the brilliant idea to cross out the ones that were already used.

Here are a few student samples so you can see where they’re at with their writing.

This student needed some coaching on finishing his opinion in #4.

I’m not sure why he erased “to the”.

This is one of my highest students. #4 isn’t completed, but it gives you the idea.

This is one of my lower students who has come a long way this year.

This student is one of my lowest English learners.  She did an awesome job using the sentence frame, but the rest of the sentence was missing a few components to make it clear.

From here, students chose one opinion statement to develop into a full paragraph with reasons.  By this day, students’ reasons were so much better.  They were actually complete sentences!  I still have a few kiddos who are having difficulty coming up with reasons.  Do you have any suggestions for those students?

Throughout the whole week, I made sure that students were writing an opinion and set of reasons each day. I want a set of student work that we can refer back to and revise over the coming weeks as we delve deeper into opinion writing. Plus, I felt that students really need to write each and every day, not just practice the component (state an opinion) we were working on for the week.

By writing each day, I could really see students writing develop throughout the week. The biggest change was the use of the word because. I started emphasizing that students couldn’t use it at the beginning of the week because students were not writing their reasons in complete sentences. By the end of the week, I had complete sentences. Albeit, very simple sentences, like I can kick the ball, but it’s a complete sentence that is a real reason.  I can work with that.

A complete sentence will allow us to work on supplying reasons using academic language and linking words. Without a complete sentence for the reason, that would not have been possible.

All of the materials you see in the pictures come from my Opinion Writing Tools packet on TpT.  It has a whole unit’s worth of resources to scaffold and teach opinion writing.

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Filed Under: WritingTagged With: opinion writing

Our state standards spell it out pretty clearly. My third graders need to be able to write opinion pieces on topics or texts that state an opinion within a framework of an organizational structure that provides reasons that support the opinion and provides a concluding statement. Oh, and they better use transitional words and phrases throughout. These would be the same 8-year-olds who still can't figure out it's not a good idea to put your boots on before your snow pants.  

With all this in mind, meeting those standards seemed like a huge mountain to climb when I was planning out my persuasive writing unit a few weeks ago. I have students who still haven't mastered capitalization and punctuation, so I knew I would have to break down the mechanics of writing an opinion statement into a step-by-step process for them. This week I am happy to share with you a few tips along with the graphic organizers I created to help get my students writing opinion pieces that showed me that my students, while not quite there yet, were fully capable of making it to the top of that mountain.

Introduce the Language of Opinion Writing

The very first thing we did during a writing mini-lesson was go over the language of opinion writing and how certain words, like fun and pretty are opinion clues because while they may be true for some people, they are not true for everyone. We also discuss how other words, called transitions, are signals to your reader as to where you are in your writing: the beginning, middle or end.

After the initial vocabulary is introduced, I challenged my third graders to look for examples of these types of words in their everyday reading. Over the next couple of days, students used sticky notes to add opinion or transition words they found to an anchor chart posted on a classroom wall. Next, I took the words and put them into a chart that I copied for students to glue into their writer's notebooks. You can see our chart below. If you would like to print your own copy, just click on the image.


Introduce Easy-to-Read Opinion Pieces

Most of my third graders have read a wide variety of genres by this point in third grade, but when asked if they had ever read the "opinion genre," they answered with a resounding, "No!"  I pointed out to them that they actually read opinion articles nearly every week in our Scholastic News magazine. At that point, I let them dive into the archives of old articles online and they were quickly able to find opinion pieces in several of the issues we had read this year. Students also used the debate section of the online issues. 

On the board we listed some of the articles students found in Scholastic News that contained opinions:

Many Scholastic news articles are perfect to use because they are short, and for the most part have a structure that is similar to how I want my students to write. The articles often include:

  • Both sides of the argument
  • Clearly stated opinions
  • Reasons for holding that opinion
  • Examples to support the reasons
  • Conclusions that are restated with enthusiasm

In the image below, you can see below how easy it was for my students to find the opinions, supporting reasons and examples in the "Debate It" feature we read together on whether the U.S. Mint should stop making pennies.


Model, Model, Model!

Once students read the article about pennies, they were ready to form an opinion. After discussing the pros and cons with partners, the class took sides. With students divided into two groups, they took part in a spirited Visible Thinking debate called Tug of War. After hearing many of their classmates voice their reasoning for keeping or retiring the penny, the students were ready to get started putting their thoughts on paper. 

At this time, I introduced our OREO graphic writing organizer. Using the name of a popular cookie is a mnemonic device that helps my students remember the structural order their paragraphs need to take: Opinion, Reason, Example, Opinion. In our class, we say our writing is double-stuffed, because two reasons and two examples are expected instead of one. 

Because this was our first foray into example writing, we worked through the organizer together.

My students did pretty well with the initial organizer and we used it again to plan out opinion pieces on whether sledding should be banned in city parks.

Once students had planned out two different opinions, they selected one to turn into a full paragraph in their writer's notebooks. The organizers made putting their thoughts into a clear paragraph with supporting reasons and examples very easy for most students. 


With each practice we did, my students got stronger and I introduced different organizers to help them and to keep interest high. Giving each student one sandwich cookie to munch on while they worked on these organizers helped keep them excited about the whole process. 

After we worked our way through several of the Scholastic News opinion pieces, my third graders also thought of issues pertinent to their own lives and school experiences they wanted to write about, including:

  • Should birthday treats and bagel sales be banned at school?
  • Should all peanut products be banned?
  • Should we be allowed to download our own apps on the iPads the school gave us?

As we continued to practice, different organizers were introduced. Those are shown below. Simply click on each image to download and print your own copy. 

The organizer below is my favorite to use once the students are more familiar with the structure of opinion paragraphs. It establishes the structure, but also helps students remember to use opinion-based sentence starters along with transition words. 


Below is a simple organizer some of my students can also choose to use.


Other Resources I Have Used

Scholastic offers many different resources for helping your students become better with their opinion writing, or for younger writers, understanding the difference between fact and opinion. A great one to have in your classroom is: 12 Write-On/Wipe-Off Graphic Organizers That Build Early Writing Skills.


Click on the images below to download and print. There are many more sheets like these in Scholastic Teachables.

A couple weeks into our persuasive writing unit and I have already seen a lot of progress from our very first efforts. We may not have mastered this writing yet, but we are definitely on our way and that mountain doesn't seem quite so high anymore. I hope you find a few of these tips and my graphic organizers helpful! I'd love to hear your tips for elementary writing in the comment section below.



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Teacher Store Resources

I love using the graphic organizers in my Grade 3 Writing Lessons to Meet the Common Core. Other teachers in my building use the resources for their grade level as well. They make them for grades 1-6. 




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