Opinion writing is one aspect of teaching writing that can be tricky in the digital world. Teachers have often used digital tools such as iPads to enhance the learning of their students. Combined with lessons from the teacher, reading books, discussions with their peers, students have used these tools to help move learning forward. While I love technology, I’ve never been one for too much online learning. Those that have been regular readers know that I am a big believer in social interaction during the learning process. It’s all a part of the motivation to learn.
Lately, digital learning has taken a front seat for various reasons and on-line learning has become a bigger part of many students’ lives. I wanted to make sure that at least some of the rich classroom learning through thoughtful and engaging teaching could be done digitally whether students are in class or at home doing remote/home learning. There are 5 things to keep in mind when using digital teaching tools to teach your 2nd graders opinion writing.
1. Images for Impact
Not only do lessons need to be a bit more clear and succinct if students will be doing lessons strictly online but teaching will look a bit different. If you are using digital tools to teach in class, you will have the benefit of being able to connect with your students in a group setting and use these tools to project and teach and assign digital lessons for things like literacy centers. If you are using a digital platform to instruct students remotely, your lessons will need to be shorter and you will need to use images for impact. Because your voice, your animation, your anchor charts etc. may not be as readily available online, you will need to access images so that students can learn concepts visually. This is a great way for most learners to access the lessons. Of course for more differentiation, there should be written directions available as well.
2. Use Ideas or Examples That Interest Students
Kids love animals, cake or cupcakes, playing outside etc. This is why I have used these types of examples in opinion resources in the past. When students aren’t directly choosing their topics as is the case in teacher examples, try to connect the examples to things your students enjoy or have opinions about. It is also helpful to use quality children’s literature (mentor texts) as a way to interest students when you are teaching opinion writing because not only is it visual, but books are packed with vocabulary and events that inspire opinions. You can find an example of what this may look like in a blog post I wrote here.
3. Teach Observation Before Fact vs Opinion
It can be difficult for a 2nd grade student to determine the difference between fact and fiction. Why? It’s because when they see something that is a fact but it is not how they feel or what they believe, they do not think it is a fact. (Many adults still think this way too!) For example, if eating too much sugar has been shown to not be good for you based on nutritional studies but you like candy, it may be hard to discern fact from fiction or opinion because you don’t want to believe it. This is why it is important that you teach students how to observe something (like an image) and teach them to note just the facts. ie. the grass is green. Use the same picture to have them give their opinion. If the opportunity exists for students to discuss and compare their facts/opinions – that is even better! This way they can share the reasons why they feel this way.
4. Students Need to Understand Reasons and Provide Examples
Having an opinion on something is healthy. Having a strong opinion on something with reasons and no examples is not productive. Teaching our youngest learners this in the simplest way, sets them up for healthy and happy relationships later in life. It also helps them in their school relationships, home relationships and their workplace later in life.
5. Students Will Need to Learn the Structure of Opinion Writing
Understanding the structure of opinion writing is important because it makes it easier for the reader to understand. The reader might also possibly be persuaded by the writing which is the goal of opinion writing.
Your students will need to learn the components of introduction, body and conclusion. They will need to learn opinion words and phrases like “in my opinion” or “I think”, as well as transition and linking words to make their writing flow.
All Opinion Writing Has Common Elements
Whether your curriculum is CCSS, you use The Write Traits, you teach in Canada or you follow any other curriculum, these elements are all part of the development of opinion writing. Opinion writing is especially powerful because it gives your students voice. Not only that, opinion writing teaches kids to think critically. It’s never too young to do that. If you are looking for a way to teach opinion writing in an online setting or you’d like to use digital tools for this purpose in literacy centers, I encourage you to take a look at the first in the series of DIGI Write sets. This one is on opinion writing and helps you navigate this curriculum in a digital world. I plan on releasing narrative and research DIGI Write sets in the future.