The first writing standard for our kindergarteners states that students should use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic.
Students' opinions are a crucial step in the foundation of good writing, so we need to provide our kids with ample opportunities to express themselves through their own opinions. In addition, it is imperative that we show students they need reasoning to back up what they say. I think it is important that we go ahead and begin teaching students to back up their writing in Kindergarten, because it really helps build the foundation for students' future with text-dependent questions.
Here is why, in my classroom, I have found it necessary to teach my students to support their opinions with reasoning.
Prior to this lesson, students will have had a mini-lesson or two about what exactly an opinion is. Students should have a foundational understanding of what it means to form an opinion in order to be able to perform adeptly in this lesson. Students will have done some accountable talk with their own opinions, comparing and contrasting opinions and justifying their feelings.
Also, students will, maybe on the day before this lesson, have participated in their Introduction to Opinion Writing lesson. This lesson is an extension of the introductory lesson.
Although this is the second step in this process, this lesson is done in the whole group, since it still provide introductory information. Students sitting on the carpet and me in front of them.
"Today, we are going to be able to extend our opinions! Remember: when we express our opinions, we tell people how we feel. Yesterday, you told me your opinion about one vegetable that you will never, ever eat." (wait time) "Now, we are going to give a reason for our opinion, to make our writing even stronger!"
"Yesterday, we read a story called, I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. After reading, we figured out what the main character's opinion was. Now, today, we are going to see if she was able to support her opinion in the story! I am going to re-read the story and I would like for you to listen to see if you feel like the main character gives reasons for her opinion."
I will re-read the story to my students.
After we read the story, I have a conversation in response to the text.
"So, we already said that the main character's opinion was that she would never, ever eat a tomato." (wait time) "I want you to think... think about whether or not the girl in the story was able to give reasons to support her opinion. Take some think time." (I will give students about one minute to think.)
"Share with a friend WHY you think the little girl in the story did not want to ever eat tomatoes!" (I will give students about two minutes to share their thoughts. I will walk around and listen to conversations, while monitoring and adjusting where necessary.)
"Let me give you an example of what we are looking for. I could say that I will never, not ever eat a sweet potato... I don't think they seem like they would taste good." (wait time) "Now, who can tell my if I supported my opinion?"
(I will call on a student that I am confident will be able to give the correct answer.)
"Yes, ______ thank you for noticing. I did give a reason to support my opinion about sweet potatoes; I said that I don't think they seem like they would taste good... That was my reason. Now, doesn't that help you understand a little better why I said what I said?" (wait time)
"Now, you guys are going to go and do the same thing I just did. You are going to take yesterday's writing and tell me WHY you said what you did."
At this time, students will head to their seats and grab their pencils. I will pass out students' papers saved from the previous day's lesson.
Students will have completed the simple frame, "I will never, not ever eat a _________."
I like for this sentence to be short and sweet because I am basically focusing on students' ability to support their simple opinion here.
Students will sit at their seats and will add a sentence that provides the reader with a supporting reason for their opinion. I do expect students to sound out and write their own words expressing their reasoning here to connect to their phonemic awareness and phonics skills!
Since the purpose of this task is just to get students to support their opinions, the assessment process isn't very time-intensive or detailed. Basically, I make sure that students were able to indeed provide (at least) one complete sentence that supports their opinion.
If students were unable to support their opinion with an extra idea, I will pull them for re-teaching and will guide them through creating a reasonable supporting sentence.