Our state standards spell it out pretty clearly. My third graders need to be able to write opinion pieces on topics or texts that state an opinion within a framework of an organizational structure that provides reasons that support the opinion and provides a concluding statement. Oh, and they better use transitional words and phrases throughout. These would be the same 8-year-olds who still can't figure out it's not a good idea to put your boots on before your snow pants.
With all this in mind, meeting those standards seemed like a huge mountain to climb when I was planning out my persuasive writing unit a few weeks ago. I have students who still haven't mastered capitalization and punctuation, so I knew I would have to break down the mechanics of writing an opinion statement into a step-by-step process for them. This week I am happy to share with you a few tips along with the graphic organizers I created to help get my students writing opinion pieces that showed me that my students, while not quite there yet, were fully capable of making it to the top of that mountain.
Introduce the Language of Opinion Writing
The very first thing we did during a writing mini-lesson was go over the language of opinion writing and how certain words, like fun and pretty are opinion clues because while they may be true for some people, they are not true for everyone. We also discuss how other words, called transitions, are signals to your reader as to where you are in your writing: the beginning, middle or end.
After the initial vocabulary is introduced, I challenged my third graders to look for examples of these types of words in their everyday reading. Over the next couple of days, students used sticky notes to add opinion or transition words they found to an anchor chart posted on a classroom wall. Next, I took the words and put them into a chart that I copied for students to glue into their writer's notebooks. You can see our chart below. If you would like to print your own copy, just click on the image.
Introduce Easy-to-Read Opinion Pieces
Most of my third graders have read a wide variety of genres by this point in third grade, but when asked if they had ever read the "opinion genre," they answered with a resounding, "No!" I pointed out to them that they actually read opinion articles nearly every week in our Scholastic News magazine. At that point, I let them dive into the archives of old articles online and they were quickly able to find opinion pieces in several of the issues we had read this year. Students also used the debate section of the online issues.
On the board we listed some of the articles students found in Scholastic News that contained opinions:
Many Scholastic news articles are perfect to use because they are short, and for the most part have a structure that is similar to how I want my students to write. The articles often include:
- Both sides of the argument
- Clearly stated opinions
- Reasons for holding that opinion
- Examples to support the reasons
- Conclusions that are restated with enthusiasm
In the image below, you can see below how easy it was for my students to find the opinions, supporting reasons and examples in the "Debate It" feature we read together on whether the U.S. Mint should stop making pennies.
Model, Model, Model!
Once students read the article about pennies, they were ready to form an opinion. After discussing the pros and cons with partners, the class took sides. With students divided into two groups, they took part in a spirited Visible Thinking debate called Tug of War. After hearing many of their classmates voice their reasoning for keeping or retiring the penny, the students were ready to get started putting their thoughts on paper.
At this time, I introduced our OREO graphic writing organizer. Using the name of a popular cookie is a mnemonic device that helps my students remember the structural order their paragraphs need to take: Opinion, Reason, Example, Opinion. In our class, we say our writing is double-stuffed, because two reasons and two examples are expected instead of one.
Because this was our first foray into example writing, we worked through the organizer together.
My students did pretty well with the initial organizer and we used it again to plan out opinion pieces on whether sledding should be banned in city parks.
Once students had planned out two different opinions, they selected one to turn into a full paragraph in their writer's notebooks. The organizers made putting their thoughts into a clear paragraph with supporting reasons and examples very easy for most students.
With each practice we did, my students got stronger and I introduced different organizers to help them and to keep interest high. Giving each student one sandwich cookie to munch on while they worked on these organizers helped keep them excited about the whole process.
After we worked our way through several of the Scholastic News opinion pieces, my third graders also thought of issues pertinent to their own lives and school experiences they wanted to write about, including:
- Should birthday treats and bagel sales be banned at school?
- Should all peanut products be banned?
- Should we be allowed to download our own apps on the iPads the school gave us?
As we continued to practice, different organizers were introduced. Those are shown below. Simply click on each image to download and print your own copy.
The organizer below is my favorite to use once the students are more familiar with the structure of opinion paragraphs. It establishes the structure, but also helps students remember to use opinion-based sentence starters along with transition words.
Below is a simple organizer some of my students can also choose to use.
Other Resources I Have Used
Scholastic offers many different resources for helping your students become better with their opinion writing, or for younger writers, understanding the difference between fact and opinion. A great one to have in your classroom is: 12 Write-On/Wipe-Off Graphic Organizers That Build Early Writing Skills.
Click on the images below to download and print. There are many more sheets like these in Scholastic Teachables.
A couple weeks into our persuasive writing unit and I have already seen a lot of progress from our very first efforts. We may not have mastered this writing yet, but we are definitely on our way and that mountain doesn't seem quite so high anymore. I hope you find a few of these tips and my graphic organizers helpful! I'd love to hear your tips for elementary writing in the comment section below.
I'd love to connect with you on Twitter and Pinterest!
Teacher Store Resources
I love using the graphic organizers in my Grade 3 Writing Lessons to Meet the Common Core. Other teachers in my building use the resources for their grade level as well. They make them for grades 1-6.
These organizers are customizable--you may type in the headers, subheaders, directions, and instructional material that best suit your needs.
I've included these because sometimes predesigned forms are not entirely appropriate for the task at hand.
This way, if you have a particular book title or a particular main topic that you want to appear in the organizer, you can go right ahead and type it in.
Each customizable organizer displays areas shaded in blue--these are the areas that you may type what you wish. Additionally, when the mouse pointer passes each of these shaded areas, a tool tip will pop up briefly as you see in the yellow box here:
Here are the 17 customizable graphic organizers. The original completed organizer appears on the left side of each slide, and its customizable version appears on the right.
The organizers on the last 5 slides have been rotated 90 degrees to fit into the slide show.
If these graphic organizers are fairly well received, I would be happy to design more of them in the near future.
Return to Top of Page
The following 10 graphic organizers for teaching writing (reduced in size here to fit the slideshow) are available for immediate download.
You may download them completely free of charge here.
If you would like these 10 organizers PLUS the other 40 presented on this page, you may want to download the 50 WRITERizers Collection.
This collection includes ALL 50 PDF graphic organizers for teaching planning and writing as seen above on this page. Whether you use Windows or Mac, these PDF organizers are ready to print!
And, as I mentioned back in the introduction, if you like these, I’ve got a strong feeling that you’ll also like 50 More WRITERizers—the newer sibling of this collection.
Return to Top of Page
free graphic organizers
I would imagine that most of the graphic organizers presented on this page would be suitable for any grade level. I deliberately left out the graphic images on some of the customizable organizers simply because I don't know what grade level you teach. free graphic organizers
Although earlier versions of Adobe's PDF software included a provision for end users to import and add their own graphics, the most recent version does not. free graphic organizers
I am acutely aware of the fact that many more types of graphic organizers for teaching writing could be designed and created. free graphic organizers
Tell me what you need. free graphic organizers
Finally, as I mentioned in the Introduction of my Language Arts Graphic Organizers page, kids just seem to GET IT better when they have a means of visually and pictorially organizing their thoughts.
The "lights" in their eyes just seem to burn more brightly . . . free graphic organizers
Best wishes to you and your kids. And, let the lights shine on.
Return to Daily Teaching Tools from Free Graphic Organizers for Planning and Writing
Daily Teaching Tools: Links LibrarySoftware ToolsFree Teaching Software for Language Arts Middle School Kids Teaching software: Talking avatars teach 30 language arts mini-lessons via digital projector or SMART Board while you relax, 20 writing tutorials, 60 multimedia warm ups . . . Free Writing Software: Great for Journalism and Language Arts This free writing software is designed for individual workstations. 20 step by step tutorials are available for producing articles, reviews, essays . . . Middle School English: A Dynamic Collection of Multimedia Warm Ups Free download of middle school English warm up activities for display via digital projector, SMART Board, or the classroom TV. 5 activities for each of 12 categor . . Language Arts: Great Free Teaching Software for Middle School Talking avatars teach 30 language arts mini-lessons via digital projector or smart board while YOU relax. Author's purpose, how to summarize, main idea . . . Strategies and Methods ToolsMotivating Students: This Set of Strategies Really Works with Kids A comprehensive strategy for motivating students: enhance classroom participation, teamwork, individual effort, and more. Free downloads are available. Using Teaching Strategies to Increase Participation, Interest, and Motivation Teaching Strategies: Step by step examples for planning, implementing, and evaluating inductive and deductive activities that really work with kids . . . Teaching Methods: Deliver Meaningful Content with the Deductive Approach Teaching methods: The deductive approach is a great way to deliver concepts quickly and efficiently. Start with the objective and use students' responses to structure the lesson . . . Teaching Methods: How to Effectively Use Inductive Teaching Activities with Kids These inductive teaching methods are guaranteed to increase student motivation and participation. Kids learn content while sharpening processing skills . . . Teaching Methods: An Awesome Inductive Teaching Approach for All Subject Areas Of all the inductive teaching methods, this one, is clearly my favorite. Students learn content while establishing their confidence as learners. This REALLY works! Teaching with Technology: Using the Internet, Classroom Computers, Elmo, and Wow them by teaching with technology! Useful tips on using digital projectors, classroom computers, the Internet, Elmo, and SMART Board. Free downloads. Classroom Management ToolsA Comprehensive Classroom Management Strategy that Really Works with Kids Classroom Management: Establishing classroom routines, providing warm up activities, structuring instructional time, the "Going to the Movies" approach, setting expectations, and . . . Effective Classroom Management: Organizing to Enhance Discipline and Order Organizing for effective classroom management: Use these reliable strategies to greatly improve discipline and order. A place for everything and . . . Establish Effective Classroom Routines to Guarantee a Successful School Year Classroom routines: Controlling traffic, preparing students for instruction, obtaining materials, managing the pencil sharpener, maximizing instructional time, more . . . CHAMPs Classroom Management: Designing and Implementing the System CHAMPs Classroom Management: How to develop strategies for multiple instructional approaches, tips on how to implement strategies, examples of CHAMPs strategies, and . . . Tools for Teaching WritingWriting Prompts: Over 200 for Practice Essays, Journal Entries, and More Persuasive and expository essay writing prompts, reader response questions and statements, and journal writing prompts for every day of the school year. 180 Journal Writing Prompts: Enough for Every Day of the School Year Journal Writing Prompts: These high-interest prompts will encourage kids to describe, explain, persuade, and narrate every day of the school year . . . Reader Response Questions and Prompts for Fiction and Nonfiction Reader Response Questions: These prompts give students focus and purpose as they respond in writing to fiction and nonfiction they have read . . . Essay Writing Prompts For Persuasive and Expository Compositions Essay Writing Prompts: Over two and a half school years' worth of prompts for persuasive and expository compositions. Use them for practice or for the . . . Tools for New Teachers
First Year Teachers: Great Tips for Enhancing Effectiveness Ideas for first year teachers: Establishing connections with kids, showcasing relevance, managing the classroom, using classroom routines, communicating with parents, and . . . First Day of School: Absolute Musts for Getting Off to a Great Start Ideas for a great first day of school: Use the Wow! Factor, create immediate opportunity for success, establish the tone, provide motivation, describe expectations, and . . . Establish Effective Classroom Routines to Guarantee a Successful School Year Classroom routines: Controlling traffic, preparing students for instruction, obtaining materials, managing the pencil sharpener, maximizing instructional time, more . . . Teaching Resource ToolsClassroom Libraries: Acquiring Books, Establishing Procedures, More Classroom Libraries: Everything from acquiring and organizing books to establishing procedures. Free downloads of several pertinent documents. Online Teacher Resources: Free Websites Offer Great Classroom Tools These free online teacher resources offer a wide variety of useful tools: activities, incentives, reference resources, downloadables, lesson plans, and more . . . Ideas for Teachers: Please Help Us with Your Experience and Expertise What ideas for teachers could you share with us? A strategy or procedure, perhaps? Something that you have found to be effective with kids? Tools for Your Students (much more coming shortly)25 Language Arts Graphic Organizers Language arts graphic organizers: story maps, double entry diary, concept wheel, 5 paragraph essay planner, think-pair-share chart, Venn diagrams for 2 or 3 topics, Tools Coming SoonIdeas for Bulletin Boards Bulletin Boards: All you need is card stock paper for this pile of ready-to-use, fully-customizable signs and posters. These downloadables are entirely free of charge. © Copyright 2012 by Chad Manis, DailyTeachingTools.com. All rights reserved.