Opinion writing, also known as Persuasive writing, is by far an easy enough genre to teach 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Unlike narrative writing where creativity and flair come into play, the elements of opinion writing are more structured, almost formulaic, and thus easier to assimilate.
Teaching The Structural Components of Opinion Writing
Students are known to turn out better writing pieces if they have direction. Hence explicitly teaching the structural components of a persuasive/opinion essay is essential.
If students are taught the form and structure of opinion writing, the job is half done. The success of the other half pretty much depends upon the writer’s content knowledge of the subject.
Teaching the structure of an opinion essay can thus be broken down into three major sections: The Introduction, The Body, and The Conclusion.
✏ The Introduction of Opinion Writing
How many times have we reminded our students that the beginning of an essay is so very important – that it has to arrest the reader’s attention so they are hooked to continue reading.
For the introduction to be effective, it must have a hook, the writer’s opinion, and a thesis statement. This is the structure of the introduction.
If students just practice writing an introduction on several given writing prompts for a week, adhering to structure for this section, will be second nature.
The Hook In the Introduction
Teaching students just one way to hook the reader in an opinion essay is not enough as different types of hooks would create different effects – besides we need to give our little writers lots of choices when it comes to writing. This flexibility goes a long way in getting their creative juices going when writing supporting details that support their opinion.
5 Popular Hooks to Support the Opinion
So you can teach your 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to begin their opinion essay with any one of the five different hooks. Interestingly, they are also called sizzling starts. And rightly so.
Students may begin with any one of the below hooks:
- Strong Statement
- Rhetorical Question
The first two starters are popular starters and I often encourage my 5th graders to use either of them in their introduction.
Writing the Opinion of an Opinion Essay
Right after the hook, students write their opinion on the issue after weighing the pros and cons.
Now for the lower grades (grades 1-3), students could simply begin their opinion with any of the phrases:
- ‘In my opinion..’
- ‘I firmly believe…’
- ‘I am of the opinion…’
However, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders need to show more sophistication in their writing, so beginning with these opinion starters would not do justice to the writing skill they are actually capable of implementing.
Instead, students need to convey their opinion subtly by reflecting on the issue. This will consequently lead to the thesis statement that follows next and sums up the introduction.
✏ Writing The Body of an Opinion Essay
We can teach our 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to adhere to structure when they write the body paragraphs of their opinion essay too.
Each body paragraph needs to have a reason introduced by a topic sentence, supporting details that support the reason, and a concluding sentence that sums up that body paragraph. If students are explicitly taught this structure, then they are more likely to stay on task and won’t get carried away in their writing.
So, how many body paragraphs should there be?
The best number, I tell my 5th-grade students is – three. Each reason is given its very own paragraph, with the last paragraph reserved for the most important reason.
The least strong reason should be sandwiched between the first strong reason and the last. This is in keeping with the notion that the beginning and end of any piece of writing are the most important.
✏ Writing The Conclusion of an Opinion Essay
Some students are known to get so carried away with their reasoning in the body paragraphs that they often skip this last important section or don’t have the time to write it – if sitting a timed writing examination.
It is in this section, that students need to be reminded to re-visit their opinion, provide a summary statement of their reasons, and the most important of all – give a call to action that causes the reader to reflect on the issue. In a real-life context, this call of action would induce the reader to take action on the basis of the arguments put forth.
The Effective Approach to Teaching Opinion Writing
Now that all the structural elements of an opinion essay have been dissected, how does one go about teaching them explicitly to students – that is the question.
Based on my personal experience and in my opinion, the best approach would be to teach each structural component separately. This would entail providing ample practice and modeling on the elements involved.
Once students have a good understanding and practice of the structural components of each section, then they can write out the entire opinion essay, given a prompt. Prior to doing so, brainstorming ideas for each section on a graphic organizer would help structure students’ writing further and provide direction.
My Summary of How to Teach Opinion Writing to 3rd, 4th and 5th Graders
So just a few take-away points for you when you next teach your 3rd, 4th, or 5th graders how to write an opinion essay.
1. Teach students each structural component separately prior to having students write out the entire opinion essay based on a prompt.
2. Teach students how to write the introduction first in an opinion essay. This should include the different types of hooks, the opinion, and the thesis statement.
3. Teach students how to write the body of an opinion essay. This should also include each reason introduced by a topic sentence, 2-3 supporting details to support the reason, and a concluding sentence to conclude the paragraph and link back to the first reason in the topic sentence. This explicit teaching should be done for all body paragraphs.
4. Teach students how to write the conclusion which restates the writer’s opinion, provides a brief overview of the reasons, and gives a call to action.
5. And above all, remind students to edit their draft prior to publishing.
All this explicit teaching needs to be adequately supported by teacher modeling and ample student practice for each structural component of the opinion essay.
To conclude this post, structure provides focus and clarity of thought. Both of which we desire our students to have in order for them to turn out writing pieces that they are proud of and that we enjoy reading and – yes marking.
Need a collection of self-written mentor texts (no need to spend on books), print-n-go sheets, interactive notebook activities, Scavenger Hunts, flipbooks, anchor charts, posters, checklists, and marking rubrics to teach your students a step-by-step approach to writing an opinion essay effectively? Then access the Opinion (Persuasive) Writing Growing Bundle.
Teaching Opinion Writing digitally? Learn more here.
And if you’d like a set of free Opinion Writing Signal Words posters to display in your classroom, access the link in the image below.
Until Next Time…