Opinion Essay Prompts Esl Lesson

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

Of all the resources we publish on The Learning Network, perhaps it’s our vast collection of writing prompts that is our most widely used resource for teaching and learning with The Times.

This list of 401 prompts (available here in PDF) is now our third iteration of what originally started as 200 prompts for argumentative writing, and it’s intended as a companion resource to help teachers and students participate in our annual Student Editorial Contest. (In 2017, the dates for entering are March 2 to April 4.)

So scroll through the hundreds of prompts below that touch on every aspect of contemporary life — from social media to sports, politics, gender issues and school — and see which ones most inspire you to take a stand. Each question comes from our daily Student Opinion feature, and each provides links to free Times resources for finding more information. And for even more in-depth student discussions on pressing issues like immigration, guns, climate change and race, please visit our fall 2016 Civil Conversation Challenge.

What’s your favorite question on this list? What questions should we ask, but haven’t yet? Tell us in the comments.

And visit our related list as well: 650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.


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