Persuasive writing is one of my favorite writing units. My students get so excited about expressing their opinions. After we solve smaller problems at our school, we choose a larger world problem to try to help. Opinion writing for a cause shows my students just how powerful their words can be.
When I first introduce my students to opinion writing, we start small. Each student chooses a problem at school. They use their own personal experiences to persuade their classmates, the principal, or me to agree with them.
Some of my students’ favorite topics are:
- School lunches
- Chromebook free time
- Lunch room behavior
- Recess activities
We use this first writing piece to learn about writing strong thesis statements, developing our reasons, and adding supporting details.
Researching for Debates
Next, we learn about researching to add facts to our opinion writing. I start by taking a poll to see how my students feel about zoos. My class is usually pretty evenly divided. About half of them think zoos are good and the other half think animals should be free in the wild. I assign articles in Google Classroom that support their side of the debate.
As the students read the articles, they write down facts that support their opinion. Once they’ve gathered quotes, statistics, and facts, they meet with the other students who agree with their opinion. They go through their notes and write the facts on post-its.
Finally, we have a whole class debate. The students take turns reading the facts on their post-its and stick them on the board. It goes back and forth from one side to the other until one side runs out of post-its. This debate gets my students so excited about persuasive writing.
After our whole class debate, I pair my students to do smaller debates. One pair of students researches one side of an issue, and another pair of students researches the other side. They write 5 paragraph debate speeches and share them with the class. The rest of the class votes on which side was more persuasive.
The issues we debate are:
- Should phones be allowed in school?
- Should boys and girls go to different schools?
- Are video games good for you?
- Should we have more gym time?
- Are online schools a good idea?
- Should there be homework?
Third graders have very strong opinions on all of these issues. I’m always impressed with how well they use the facts and their personal experiences to support their thesis statements.
I love the Persuasion Map on the Read, Write, Think website. My students use it to plan their persuasive writing.
Opinion Writing for a Cause
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The last part of my opinion writing unit is writing for a cause. I want my students to realize that they can really make a difference through their writing. A few years ago, we researched manatees, and my students wrote letters to their families asking them to donate a dollar. We used the money to adopt a manatee. My students loved getting updates on our manatee and knowing that they helped these amazing creatures.
Last year, my third grade team decided to work together for a bigger cause. We read the book Beatrice’s Goat. It is about a girl named Beatrice who lives in Africa. Her family is poor and can’t afford to send her to school. The organization Heifer International gives Beatrice’s family a goat. By selling the goat’s milk and babies, Beatrice earns enough money to go to school.
After reading about Beatrice, we research Heifer International and their mission. The students take notes and use them to write letters to their parents about why they should donate a dollar to Heifer International.
My team sets up a donation page on the Heifer International website. Parents can donate online or send in donations that we mail. Last year, we raised over $950, and another company doubled it. The total donation was over $1900. Our students were so excited to make such a big difference by donating water buffalo, goats, chickens, and other animals to families in need.
This project is the perfect way to wrap up the unit on persuasive writing. Our students learn that opinion writing for a cause is a great way to make a difference in the world.
If you would like to try this with your class, you can download my Heifer International research guide at the bottom of this post.
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What Do You Think?
What fun writing pieces do you do for opinion writing?
Let me know in the comments below.
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Plus, get this opinion writing research guide to help your students research Heifer International.