Opinion Writing is such an important genre to teach students these days. And the great thing about opinions is that everybody has one. However, it takes quite a bit of skill to compose a logical and convincing opinion piece. Frank Sonnenberg once said “Opinions held in secret never make a difference,” and these words are spot on! The Ice Bucket Challenge is an amazing example. One person decided that we should all give to a good cause, and they expressed their opinion in a fun and creative way to persuade others to participate. This viral challenge raised over $220 million dollars worldwide! Persuading the masses can be a powerful tool, which is why we want our students to learn to compose a credible argument with facts.
First things first, though. We need them to buy into this concept. Opinion writing can’t just be another lesson on another school day! This unit is going to be extensive and really stretch the minds of our students, so we need them to be all in and excited about what we’re about to tackle in class! In my time in the classroom, I’ve compiled a number of fresh, creative, and engaging ways to introduce opinion writing to students. Here are some of my favorites to get them hyped up about this unit.
- Challenge students to act out an argument and reasons to the class, charades style. This activity gets students up, out of their seats, and thinking creatively. This can be done in partners, small groups, or as a whole class. Check out Apple Slices Opinion Writing Units for 4th, 5th, and 6th if you are looking for powerful debate topics to easily assign for this activity!
- Divide your students into small groups and dare them to rap an argument in front of the class. This activity really gets their creative juices flowing! Provide a few background beats and they’ll take off running with the lyrics!
- Pinpoint arguments that your students HATE, such as implementing school-wide uniforms or a longer school year. Assign them to come up with facts to back up this opinion, even though they dislike it! This activity always starts with protests, but really challenges students! I let them know they need to do this just to show they can have an open mind. A good lawyer must always be able to argue both sides of any case! This is a great way to get students fired up about opinions!
- Present students with speech and essay FAILS. In the past, I have written my own opinion speeches that didn’t quite hit their mark. I was sure to use a big red marker to show my students where I FAILED at getting my point across. I then handed out copies of other speeches I had written that weren’t so great. I keep this lesson positive, as we all learn from our mistakes, but my do those kids get pumped up about grading their teacher’s writing and giving me an F! By seeing where I went wrong in my writing, this sets them on path for success with theirs.
- Allot each student their own section of “real estate” on the classroom or hallway wall. Assign them an argument and let them use this space to visually represent their opinion and reasons. They can use colored paper, post it notes, magazine pictures, streamers, etc. Remind students that advertisers always use every inch of their billboard space to persuade their audience!
Overall, there are many ways you can get students fired up about expressing their opinions! Ultimately, you want to choose meaningful topics for students, and ensure there is a real-world payoff for their writing. Maybe they send their argument about the dress code to the principal or their argument about new recess equipment to the PE teacher. Once students realize that voicing their opinions CAN make a difference, it will bring their writing to a whole new level!