I have to admit. I was straight up scared to death to teach writers workshop and the thought of teaching first graders how to write an opinion story seemed nearly impossible over the summer. However, after our first two weeks into this unit, it is quickly becoming my favorite one yet! I know…I can’t believe I just said that!
I love kicking off all my writing units reading about Stella! We love Janiel Wagstaff’s books and how she walks us through the thought process that Stella goes through as she writes. After we read the book, we created a list (like Stella) of all the things we love, are passionate about, and things we think should change.
When I first introduced this unit, I shared with my students that I have a lot of dogs…like a zillion or something… No really…
So, we had a dog show and I shared information about each dog and what made them special. I shared pictures, stories, and personality information so they could really get a feeling of each one. I was really hoping to actually bring them into the classroom, but one is still a puppy and wasn’t quite ready to visit… maybe next year. After this, I gave each student a “Blue Ribbon” paper for them to write their opinion and reasons for awarding one of my dogs with an award. Y’all… for our very first opinion writings, they were AWESOME!!!! Take a look!
After we were finished, we highlighted in yellow our opinions and highlighted in orange our reasons. This was important for the next few lessons. Let’s talk about why.
My students are becoming more and more like me each day. It is getting a little scary. They get excited about flair pens, fancy mechanical pencils, sticky notes and more. So, I played into that and printed reminders for my students on colored sticky notes…orange and yellow…did you catch that??? I used the same colors that we used in previous lessons to highlight our opinions and reasons. We will carry these colors into all of our lessons. When we started our first self selected opinion writing, many students immediately got started. They were super excited to share their thoughts and opinions with the world. Others sat there…then laid their heads down…wiggled around a little…whispered to their neighbor…you get it…you know…
So it hit me, I gave them their yellow opinion sticky note. Encouraged them to write an opinion on the first line. When that didn’t work, I helped them come up with an opinion and then highlighted their paper with yellow where I wanted them to write it down. Magically, it appeared! Then we did the same process with the orange sticky note and highlighter for their reasons to support their opinions. Yay!
Currently, my students are writing about a lot of random topics. Here are a few topics they are passionate and opinionated about:
- Playground equipment
- Water fountain needed on the playground
- Classroom Pets
- Favorite Snacks
- Favorite Toys
- Favorite Sports
- Why I should be a Princess (this might be my favorite one yet)
- Why my Family Needs a Car and not a Van
- Why Mrs. Harris needs a Parapro ? (Ok…I made that one up)
Part of the reason I have found this unit so enjoyable are the amazing mentor text options! I literally could just sit and read these books and have discussions all day long!!! Feel free to use my Amazon list by clicking here!
To make my life a little easier (and possibly yours) I have created sticky notes to pull out text features or good structure, organization and conventions from the books. You can either print directly on sticky notes or just print on regular paper and use washi tape to put them in the book. Reuse these year after year! Click here for more info!
I also added a couple of printables for each book so that you can take a closer look at the characters’ opinions and reasons for those opinions as well. There are also mentor text sentences that focus on specific skills or you can pull more and change the focus all together. Mentor texts are so fun to use because you can literally hit nearly all your ELA standards just by reading and analyzing. Click here to buy my Opinion Writing Mentor Text Growing Bundle! I’ll be adding more to this pack as the month goes on so you can have tons of activities, lessons and text to analyze throughout your opinion unit.
Writing Conference Toolkit
Recently, our district started encouraging us to put together and build toolkits for each of our writing units. Basically it should have everything in it you would need to conference, teach small groups and meet the needs of your students all in one notebook. No pressure or anything. Eekkk!!! What a labor of love. I’m still not anywhere finished with mine, but I am so happy with what I have so far. I’ll be sure to come back next week and share more about the toolkit!
Here are a few of the anchor charts we are currently using as we learn about opinion writing. We will be making more very soon!