The new Common Core standards require students to express and defend opinions, even in the primary grades. Since most of my work with primary students has involved personal narrative (“small moment”) and expository (“All About” and “How To”) writing, I decided it was time to see if students at primary grades can write to express opinions.
And, indeed, they can.
I worked in several different kindergarten classrooms at Holly Ridge Elementary in my district, and I was so impressed with what students were able to do. We decided we had to make books because they have been so used to expressing their ideas across pages.
We began with a title page that framed the language of expressing opinions:
_________ is the BEST food because…
We allowed students to pick as many pages as they needed to defend their choices. This was wise, because one student had 7 reasons for choosing ice cream – a pre-stapled three or four page book would have limited her thinking.
We started with food as a topic, but quickly moved to any topic they wanted. So, the second day, students wrote wonderful pieces about other things that are the “best” in the minds of five year olds: transformers, princesses, dogs, cats, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, and – yes – SCHOOL! The student who wrote about school loved it because you can learn and you can have fun. She ended her piece describing how sad she is to leave at the end of a wonderful day in kindergarten.
Barry Lane and Gretchen Bernabei have a wonderful book out with dozens of often hilarious ideas for teaching persuasive writing in elementary and middle school. And, if the kindergarten students I hung out with for a few days are any indication, writing about opinions will be no problem at all. Students were very engaged and some wrote more than one book during the workshop.
In case you are wondering, the most popular BEST food in the world is chocolate cake (because of the sprinkles) followed closely by ice cream (because of the different flavors).