Opinion Writing: Expand the Possibilities of Genres You Teach

When planning any genre study, we can ponder: 

How can the experience children have with this genre become more like the experience they can have with it in the world?

In doing so, we can draw from our own experience with writing. We can study the craft of other writers. We can peruse bookshelves. We can question the purpose the genre plays in life, for both writer and reader. We can embark upon a quest to uncover the ways authors in the world paint outside of the genre lines.

Beginning with the possibilities for what work within a genre can look like allows us to study the curriculum and create opportunities for children to make the kind of decisions authors get to make.

As with any genre, we can begin dreaming of ways to expand an opinion writing unit of study by looking at what opinion writing can become in the world.

Opinion writing can become lyrics to a song, like Xiuhtezcatl Martinez’s Light.

Opinion writing can become signs, like the ones held in the Youth Climate March.

Opinion writing can become speeches, like Autumn Peltier’s address to the United Nation.

Opinion writing can become poetry, like Sara Abou Rashed’s “I Am America.”

Opinion writing can become letters, like this one, from Marley Dias.

Opinion writing can become reviews, like the video reviews created by Olivia Van Ledtje.

Opinion writing can become essays, like those featured in the New York Times Student Opinion Section.

Preparing Writers for Opinion Writing in the World

Expanding the possibilities of a genre means expanding the choices writers have. But before doing so, it’s important to ground ourselves in the goals and standards that align with the genre.

According to the Common Core State Standards, children in grades K-2 should be able to state their opinion on a topic, provide reasons to support, and include a sense of closure:

From here, we can build more choice into the unit, while still focusing on the development of genre-specific skills.

Expanding Choices: Immersion

Just as we teach young writers to show, not tell, we can frame our teaching the immersion phase as show, not tell — centering the question, What do opinion writers do? Using a rich variety of texts (similar to the the ones offered in the beginning of this post), we can guide children with discovering the characteristics of the opinion writing genre. The co-constructed understanding they form will shape the work they do, as they, too, become opinion writers.

Co-constructing a chart during a genre immersion, such as this one, will guide students with understanding what opinion writing has to have, and what opinion writing can have.

Expanding Choices: Topic

Though our curriculum may narrow the range of topic, we can build in time during the unit for children to write about their opinion for meaningful and purposeful topics.

By broadening choice this way, we help form the understanding that in the world, we can share our opinion through writing when there is:

  • something we wish to change. 
  • something we wish for others. 
  • something we wish can happen.

Additionally, we can invite children to write about their opinions throughout the year, as a means for action: when they notice a problem, try something new, or request something for the classroom. We can also lean on this kind of writing as a shared experience, when similar opportunities arise.

Expanding Choices: Structure

What makes our opinions unique is the perspective and experiences that shape them. We can list reason after reason, but personal anecdotes and emotions are powerful ways to support an opinion, and they add more variety to the structure. Learning about each other’s stories and feelings also helps readers build compassion and empathy. Additionally, supporting an opinion with facts is a great opportunity for children to practice research skills. Children can study the ways opinion writers support their opinion while in the immersion stage and create a chart similar to this one:

Expanding Choices: Delivery

An engaging way to end an opinion writing unit is to offer the choice for how to deliver an opinion, with a specific audience in mind. Children can compose lyrics, write a poem, letter, or essay; deliver a speech, or create a sign — revisiting mentor texts from the immersion phase, or seeking their own mentor texts.

As we begin to expand the possibilities of any genre study, we can return to Matt Glover’s words and consider the space that will be open for inquiry and the room that authors will have to create.

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of each of the following books: Craft and Process Studies: Units that Provide Writers with Choice of Genre by Matt Glover and Focus Lessons: How Photography Enhances the Teaching of Writing by Ralph Fletcher. Thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a print copy of this book.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of Craft and Process Studies and Focus Lessons, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, February 9th at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Betsy Hubbard will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. His/her name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, February 10th.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so Betsy can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Betsy will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – EXPAND THE POSSIBILITIES. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.