Inside or Out? Organize Ideas For An Opinion Essay (Lesson 1 of 3)

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SWBAT brainstorm ideas to create an opinion essay by stating an opinion and supplying reasons and examples.

Big Idea

Inside or Outside recess - Let's hear your opinion and how you support it!


  • large paper for each group of kids to write ideas on with markers (I used butcher block)
  • computer/ipad with '' website for recess sounds- search 'recess' and play the previews (I didn't buy the tracks)
  • OREO organizer for the essay
  • Vocabulary to put on the whiteboard: opinion, essay, reason, example, linking word, introduction, conclusion
  • whiteboard setup
  • Group rules poster


The idea of 'OREO writing' (using reasons and examples to support your opinion), using linking words and stating an opinion in a simple one paragraph essay in the lesson was introduced in a previous lesson, State Your Opinion - Which Dessert is Best?, where the kids wrote a one-paragraph essay.

Second graders need time to work through these writing steps of the writing process (brainstorm, organize, rough draft, edit, final draft). The district expectation for my students is to create a five- paragraph essay, aligning with the Common Core Standards of composing a variety of types of essays, including opinion essays that state an opinion with supporting examples and details. (W.2.1).

This lesson is the first of 3 lessons that guides the kids toward creating a five-paragraph essay stating an opinion.  In the next lesson, Inside or Out-Draft the Opinion Essay (Lesson 2 of 3), the students will create a draft of their opinion essay. In the final lesson, Inside or Out-Edit and Finalize Your Opinion Essay (Lesson 3 of 3), they will edit and then write a final opinion essay.

To give you more background about how to help students write a five paragraph essay, I encourage you to look at some narrative writing lessons that I taught previously in my course: Organize Your Ideas In A Timely Way (Lesson 1 of 3), Draft and Edit a Star Narrative (Lesson 2 of 3), and Finalize and Show What You Know (Lesson 3 of 3). I taught that unit to teach students about writing narrative essays. I used the same ideas of 'main idea' with 'supporting details', writing 2 drafts and editing that the Common Core Standards emphasize to provide evidence for statements that the students make in writing and create strong writing pieces.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Common starting point

  • "We are going to write our own opinion essay today about something that has to do with school. Some days are nice outside and we go outside for recess. Some days are bad weather and we stay inside for recess."
  • "Some kids like to stay inside for recess and others like to go out. There are reasons why both kinds of recess can be the best. You can share examples of each reason."
  • "Today we'll use the OREO organizer that we used in yesterday's lesson to create a five-paragraph essay."
  • Here's a video of my introduction and review of the OREO concept.


When you write an opinion paper, make sure the kids are very familiar with the topic and they have clear opinions about the idea. I chose the topic of indoor/outdoor recess because my kids have strong opinions about this. They really differ on their preferences - some really prefer to stay in when the weather is bad and others want to go outside, regardless of the temperature.

Brainstorm as a group

20 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "We are going to work in groups to think about several reasons why inside and outside recess can be the best."
  • "Each group will get a large piece of paper. Your job is to list 4 reasons why recess can be fun outside or inside. Each reason should have 2 examples." You've heard of 'double stuffed oreos'. Well this is like a 'quadruple stuffed oreo' because we have 4 reasons with examples."   This was the stuffed OREO visual that I wrote on the whiteboard to demonstrate the idea.
  • "When we're done, you will go back to your desk and be able to share your opinion about which kind of recess is best."
  • Here's how I explained using multiple reasons.


Give clear expectations

  • "On your paper, you should write 'REE' 'REE' 'REE'  'REE' down the side (this oreo will have lots of 'stuffing inside)  At the top, you should write 'inside recess' or 'outside recess'."
  • "Next to the first 'R', think of a reason. You can just write a phrase, such as 'get fresh air' or 'run around'.  Then you need to have 2 examples that support that reason. Work together to make sure that both examples really support the reason that you picked."


Assign the groups and monitor (I played the 'recess sounds' on soundhound from the computer to help them think)

  • I picked 4 groups - 2 for inside recess and 2 for outside recess and moved them to the corners of the room. 
  • They were reminded about Rules for Group Work (see materials)
  • "First set up your papers with the REE letters."  Here's a picture of a student setting up the large paper.
  • Keep them on task and make sure their writing is clear. 
  • The examples should support the reasons.
  • Here are 2 examples of the posters that my kids created in their groups: brainstorm poster 1 and brainstorm poster 2.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Groups present

  • Have each group come up and present their opinions. Give them a chance to share the reasons and examples and query the class, 'Does that reasons support the opinion?'  'Is that a good example?'


Students write their organizer

  • "Now it's your turn to decide if you think inside recess or outside recess is best."
  • "I'm passing out the organizer. Remember we only write short phrases on the organizer. You don't need capitals, punctuation or complete sentences.
  • "Start with your opinion at the top. Do you like indoor or outdoor recess?  This will be our introduction."
  • "Use a word that shows it's an opinion ... what were those words?"  (best, favorite, in my opinion....)" I listed the opinion starters on the whiteboard again.
  • "When you're done, you should choose the reasons that you think make sense. Copy the phrases or words on your organizer or you can choose a reason that's not listed, if it makes sense." Ask them about their supporting reasons and examples as they work. Here is one of my students explaining her examples and reasons.
  • "At the end, you'll need to state your opinion again using other words. This will be your conclusion." 


Add transition words


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be scaffolded down, depending on student ability. 

Writing is usually difficult for students with limited academic abilities. I would suggest pulling them into a group and working with them separately as other students write. Perhaps you could create a 'group paper' or support them by writing words/ideas on the whiteboard.