Opinion essays and informative essays
Mentor texts help kids write great opinion and informative essays. Opinion essays are often considered one of the hardest essays for kids to write. Partly that’s because they are still developing opinions about many topics. But party it’s hard to give the reasons behind an opinion.
Opinion Essay: Choosing a Topic
The difficulties in writing an opinion essay begin with the topic selection. Too often, the topics assigned don’t offer real options. For example, an opinion essay about changing bedtime from 7 pm to 9 pm offers very little to write about. Of course, kids want to stay up later, and of course, parents will say no.
Kids can’t articulate a reason for staying up late, except that they WANT to.
On the other hand, elementary essays about sensitive political topics aren’t useful either.
Instead, it’s helpful to think about topics for which there are clear criteria.
Criterion are rules or ideas that control how you evaluate things.
If you have a criteria that students are always polite in the classroom, then you can evaluate every statement against this criteria. Was there comment polite or impolite?
We often have multiple criteria for choosing something. These criteria help us form an opinion.
HGTV’s House Hunters
One fun thing to do with kids is to choose an appropriate episode of HGTV’s House Hunters to watch and discuss. I especially like the International House Hunter’s version since they focus on housing in other countries. Each episode follows a family as they look at and evaluate 3 different housing options. At the end, there’s always a grid comparing the options based on criterion appropriate for that family.
- Big Garage
- On a Lake
- Big Yard
There’s always a compromise because no house ever meets all the family’s criterion. It’s a great example of using criterion to form an opinion and make a choice.
Dogs and Cats
One of the easiest elementary opinion essay topics is what breed of cat or dog is best for a student’s family. That’s because there are simple online engines that help students sort through the variety of breeds.
This simple tool uses ten criterion for choosing a dog breed: size, energy level, exercise needs,play needs, affectionate level, presence of other pets, training, protection, grooming, and climate. At the end of the quiz, the app recommends a breed and gives alternates based on your criterion. Students can also add their own criterion such as family tradition, health of family member, personal preference, hunting needs, and so on.
Writing the Opinion Essay
Once the criterion are clear, it’s easy to add the needed details to an opinion essay. One girl, for instance, said that her dad had back problems and couldn’t lean over. Therefore, he needed a big dog so he could still pet the dog. Another said her Grandma always liked lap cats, so she needed a cat who would enjoy the constant contact. Each family will present different circumstances, which means each student’s essay will be unique.
Out of the ten criterion from the tools, plus the individual circumstances criterion, most students will focus on 3-4 criteria. Each criteria can be discussed in a separate paragraph, which makes the essay’s structure simple.
Opinion Essay Mentor Texts
Our titles, I Want a Dog and I Want a Cat are mentor texts for going through the process of answering the criterion questions. Cousins Dennis and Mellie must decide on the best dog or cat for each family. They talk about the different needs of each family. Each book culminates with an essay that serves as a mentor text for writing an effective opinion essay.
Writing opinion essays are easy for elementary students when you start with criterion. It allows the students to evaluate choices based on something other than whim or un-reasoned opinions. By starting with a simple choice about the best pet for a student’s family, you bring the topic to their interests and knowledge level.
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Writing the Informative Essay
Likewise, informative essays about cats and dogs are simple for elementary students because there’s so much information.
One strategy is to write about cat or dog breeds. For example, there are several classes of dog breeds: working dogs, toy dogs, and so on. It’s simple to research these broad categories of dog breeds and write a well-organized essay. Each category will receive its own paragraph. Look for topics with a similar built-in structure!
Another type of essay required in elementary school is the how-to informative essay. These essays are essentially instructions on how to do or accomplish something. My Dirty Dog: My Informative Essay provides mentor texts for a how-to informative essay and one for an informative essay based on categories. The trick to getting these essays right is the time words: first, next, before, after, last and so on. When students understand these words and concepts, it’s easy to put the steps in the right order.
One way to facilitate this is to present the steps on separate cards and put them into the correct time order.
Use these mentor texts and the printables to make opinion and informative essay writing in your elementary classroom a fun and simple lesson.