The opinion and persuasive writing unit is always a fun and insightful unit to do with second graders. In the book What Every Second Grade Teacher Needs to Know About Setting Up and Running a Classroom, a Responsive Classroom author shares some characteristics about second graders that allow them to really tackle this writing unit with enthusiasm, deep thought and authentic communication.
“I am always struck by the way second graders strive to make sense of the bigger world and to make their personal worlds as orderly and safe as possible. Among other things, they put a great deal of faith in facts.”
Since the beginning of the year our classroom community has had many discussions about the difference between fact and opinion. Through a variety of activities and discussions, the students are learning not only to discern between fact and opinion, but to also respectfully agree/disagree with others.
One such activity is the “tug of war”. Students are given a question to ponder “Should there be zoos?” After some initial thought based on their current knowledge, students are asked to put themselves on the “tug of war” line. Each day students hear a persuasive essay written by a fourth grade student either for or against the presence of zoos. After a brief discussion, students are given the opportunity to change their location on the “tug of war” line, to accommodate changing perspective and new knowledge. The critical thinking and communication skills necessary for this activity are strengthened and help to provide a stronger foundation for the actual writing expectations in this unit.
Students then learn how to gather their thoughts in a logical manner in the form of opinion essays. In the beginning, they are guided through the essay writing process with anchor charts, sentence stems and specific topics to write about.
Some of the topics were simple: Which is the best season?, Which animal would make the best pet?, and Cats vs. Dogs.
“I feel that cats are better than dogs. First of all, cats are cleaner than dogs. Dogs slobber a lot. Second, cats are not much trouble if you have to work a lot. Dogs want a lot of attention. Third, cats don’t jump up on you as much as dogs. All in all, cats are better than dogs.”
“I think dogs are the best. First of all, I LOVE DOGS!. Also cats do their business inside but dogs do it outside. Finally dogs are good friends…and cats are NOT!”
Some of the topics were more in-depth: Should people eat bugs?, Should there be a dress code at PNA?, Persuade Mrs. Hitchcock to let the class do something you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to do, and “How You Look vs. How You Act”.
“People should not eat bugs! First of all it’s really gross. Another reason is that some of them stink. The last reason is it might have bacteria. As you can see, you should not eat bugs!”
“I think we should eat bugs. First of all, bugs are really healthy for us. Secondly, they usually do not taste like so much. Third, they usually have stuff to go along with them. So you see, we should eat bugs.”
As the unit progresses and students become more comfortable in this type of writing, they start to choose which of their own opinions they want to write about. Topics have ranged from “Should there be parks?” to “Are doctors important?” and many in between.
This type of learning not only follows the writing standards for second grade, it also addresses many different skills that the students will need to be successful and respectful thinkers, communicators and world changers in the years to come.