Text-based opinion writing is a form of essay writing that is usually taught beginning in fourth grade. In this type of writing, students are asked to read anywhere from 2 - 4 sources. Then, they respond to a prompt by stating an opinion and supporting it with evidence from the texts. As you can imagine, this is a very complex and multistep process. As a teacher, it can be difficult to know where to even begin. Breaking it down into mini lessons supported by anchor charts and an opinion writing graphic organizer is extremely helpful. It can really help you organize your teaching and help stack the building blocks needed for students to develop a solid essay.
This post will share how to introduce an opinion prompt, teaching students how to gather text evidence, and create a solid plan for their writing by using a graphic organizer as a planner.
How to Teach Students to Plan for an Opinion Essay
1. Start with the Opinion Writing Prompt
Define an opinion writing prompt for students. Let them know that it consists of a few sentences that raise an issue or a question that they will respond to in an essay. It is the first thing they should read before heading into the sources.
Show students several prompts and have them identify keywords within the prompt. A couple of words that identify the prompt as an opinion writing prompt are 'opinion' and 'whether.' Then, have students underline keywords they should be referring to as the read and write.
Have students write these steps in their journal or provide them with a poster they can refer back to when they need it. Having students create a table of contents for their journals can also be beneficial because it will allow them to find these notes quickly and refer to them as often as needed.
2. Gathering Text Evidence While Reading
Provide students with a set of texts based on the same topic. It is best to make sure one text offers a variety of pros while the other offers a variety of cons.
Have students annotate the text as they read looking for pros and cons. Some of the symbols I suggest to my students are:
- + / -
- pro / con
- for / against
- 😊 / 😞
3. Choosing a Side
Teach students how to analyze their evidence. Explain to them that in order to have a well written essay, they will need to be able to support their choice and elaborate on it. Review with them some of the questions they should be asking themselves:
- Which side has an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting it?
- Which side do I feel more connected to?
- Which side can I elaborate the most on?
4. Introduce How to Plan Your Writing
A well written opinion essay will be organize, supported with relevant facts, and include tightly connected elaborations. Introducing your students to an opinion writing graphic organizer will help guide them in their thinking and planning for their essay.
I have introduced many planners in the past to my students, but the 4-paragraph opinion writing graphic organizer pictured here is the one that has been the most helpful to my students.
Show students how each part represents a paragraph and go over what should be included in each one. Students should realize that bullet points and phrases are the best way to plan.
5. Model Filling in the Graphic Organizer
Now that you've gone over what goes in each section, model how to fill in the planner as students copy what you are writing. Think aloud through the process, so they understand what their thought process should be as they fill out their opinion writing graphic organizer.
Include the side you are choosing and write down words from the prompt. (The "hook" can be added to the planner later.)
Include the answer.
For "cite," just include the source and the paragraph where the information is found. (Ex. Source #1 Paragraph #1) They may include a keyword or two, but it should not go further than that. Having students write out the entire evidence will waste precious writing time and may frustrate them as well.
In "elaborate," have students write a word they might want to define, a connection they may make, or a remark they want to add to support or clarify.
Refer back to the introduction for keywords and circle back to where they started.
Grab a FREE Graphic Organizer
Looking for More Support?
Hopefully, these tips have helped you organize your beginning opinion writing lessons.
If you would like more than the opinion writing graphic organizer, you can check out this resource that includes teacher notes, pacing guides, posters, anchor charts, and more. Just click on the image to take a closer look.