Watch the video to learn more about Stella Writes an Opinion.
In Stella Writes an Opinion, Stella gets all excited when Ms. Merkley tells the class they get to write an opinion. After all, she has so many opinions. How will she ever choose which one to write about?
I think of the three main genres—narrative, informative, and opinion—opinion is the easiest. (Ha! Look! It’s my opinion!) As Stella says, “Everybody has opinions—everybody!” We all form opinions or judgments all the time, so it’s natural for students simply to begin by discussing their opinions and then move to writing them down. It’s also natural to share opinions with wider audiences, thus making the writing more authentic.
Point out that we all have opinions on all kinds of topics all the time. Notice things in your day that may elicit students’ opinions. Ask, for example, “What was your opinion about how writing workshop went today? The lunch menu? The book we just read? How Luke handled that difficult situation?” and so on.Then have lots of discussion. Show real interest in what students are saying. Ask questions and encourage peers to thoughtfully listen and engage with the speaker.
Oral language forms the basis for written language. If you get students talking about their opinions first, they’ll have an easier time writing them down. Don’t forget: This is true for all students—young and old.
Teach the Elements of the Genre
Teach the elements of effective opinions in oral language first. One of my favorite ways to teach what makes a good opinion is to model non-examples. I’ll walk up to a student and say, “I really like the book I’m reading,” then walk away. That’s it. No details. No real information. The students laugh and ask, “What book? Why do you like it?”
These examples help us come to the conclusion that in order to write effective opinions we must specifically NAME the topic or text we have an opinion about and give REASONS for our opinions. (Point out how Stella creates her opinion statement on page 11 and develops reasons on pages 14–17.)
Encourage Mature Language
I model using mature language when discussing my opinions. Then I encourage students to follow my model. For example, we often begin with, “In my opinion …” “My belief is …” “From my perspective …” We also use mature language when responding to one another: “I disagree because …” “I have a different point of view ...” I list grade-appropriate examples on a chart. Once students are using words like these in their speaking, they’ll use them in their writing.
Use Stella’s Prompts
Stella has some universal ideas that may lead students to develop highly relevant opinion topics (page 5). Start by modeling some brainstorming, like Stella does on page 9, perhaps using just one of the prompts: “What bugs me or what would I change about school?”
Begin a list by thinking aloud and writing, or, if you’re keeping a Running Topics List, record your idea there. Then invite students to chime in. Maybe you’ll find something you’d all like to write about (you could use shared writing to compose, as you see demonstrated in Stella and Class: Information Experts), or maybe several students will be excited to write about some of the topics on their own. If you have mixed reactions, allow individuals to write on the topic they choose while you work with the rest of the group to compose together.
You might repeat the brainstorming process for other prompts that Stella suggests. If you do, students will have a rich list of possible topics for future opinion writing.
Sentence or Paragraph Frames
Very young or struggling writers often benefit from the support they get from sentence or paragraph frames. Below are a few examples proceeding from the easiest to the most difficult. Display a frame, then model filling it in. Have students talk out their idea then write it using a frame. Depending on their abilities, they might copy the frame and complete it or you might provide a copy with blanks to fill in.
“I think _____ is good/bad because _____.”
“I think _____ because _____.”
“I think the book _____ was _____ because _____.”
“In my opinion, _____ is okay/is not okay because _____. Another reason I think this is because _____.”
Select the PDFs below to view and download various stages of Stella’s opinion piece.