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Opinion Writing: How to Engage Your Students

February 24, 2015 No Comments

This is the time of year where writing starts to click with my students.  They are more independent during writing workshop, they know to rely on partners rather than just the teacher for help, and they are furiously writing and not just drawing pictures…teacher truth. In the next few days we will be celebrating our informational chapter books that the students have been working so hard on.  I’m so proud of their writing and can’t wait to showcase some of it here on the blog.  

As exited as I am for that day of celebration, I realize that the next unit in our writing workshop curriculum is a big departure from what the students are used to.  This unit,in my opinion (see what I did there hehe) is one of the more difficult kinds of writing for my kids to do.  For this reason, I wanted to set aside a week of activities where I could immerse my kids in wonderful mentor texts and hands-on activities that engage them in this kind of work. I am so excited for what has come from this little brainstorm!

This packet uses mentor texts such as, UNICORN Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea, the Pigeon series by Mo Willems, and Red Is Best by Kathy Stinson, to engage students in activities to form their own opinions.  

To start the activities off I plan to use my “This or That? Snack Mats!” to get my students thinking and talking about their opinions.  I mean who doesn’t love snack time?!  Why not use it as a powerful teaching moment! Laminate the snack mats or pass out the same mat to each student.  Ask students to decide, this or that?  Which one would they rather choose.  Once they have formed an opinion, pour their snack over that side of the mat.  While the students are eating, start a discussion about why they chose the side that they did and ask them to give reasons to defend their opinions. A friendly debate is sure to take place!  There are several snack mat options in the packet!

You can continue “This or That? Snack Mats!” throughout the first few days of the unit, throughout the whole unit, or sporadically throughout the year!

The next activity pairs with the AWESOME picture book UNICORN Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea.  Even if you use nothing else from this packet, do yourself and your students a favor and buy this book!  It’s so funny and engaging, the students LOVED IT!

After reading this tale about Goat and Unicorn, ask students to decide who they would rather be friends with. You can have a lively class discussion, use pen talks, or use the response sheets provided in the pack to answer the question.  I’m even thinking of doing a little hot seat activity with the two characters…the possibilities are endless!

Within the pack there are two more activities sure to incite discussion and motivate students to share their opinions using more mentor texts.  Pigeon Party uses a classic classroom favorite, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and other Mo Willems books to create a classroom debate over a favorite book.  But, it also engages other classrooms by writing letters to other students asking them their opinions of the same books!

The last activity that I’m planning to use with my littles to help them understand what an opinion is and how to form one compliments the book, Red is Best by Kathy Stinson.  The kids will work in pairs with a stack of “What is Best?” cards.  On each card, students will decide what is the best…of different topics!  I know there will be some heated debates with a few of these!  I can’t wait!

I’m hoping that you’ll find some of these ideas helpful and easy to adapt to your classroom. Opinion writing can be so much fun but difficult for some little ones to grasp right away. For more ideas and activities, please visit my TpT store and check out the full packet here!

Don’t forget to shop the Teachers are Heroes Sale this Wednesday on TpT!  Use PROMO code HEROES at checkout and TpT will give 10% off your entire cart.  My products will all be an additional 20% as a huge THANK YOU to everyone for my first successful month on TpT!

Can’t wait to see what everyone has in their carts!  Enjoy!

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Hi! I’m Jayme! A former elementary teacher turned stay at home mom sharing toddler activities, mom tips, and educational resources to help you learn and play with your children. I believe in the power of PLAY and creating meaningful activities for you and your little ones to enjoy together.

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