Strengthen persuasive writing quickly when you use fact and opinion | Mentoring in the Middle

Strengthen persuasive writing quickly when you use fact and opinion

Tip: Students need to understand an important concept about fact and opinion to become stronger persuasive writers.

Looking for an engaging activity to get your students thinking about persuasive writing? 

Okay, everyone, today's question is going to have you moving around the room to take a stance.  If you agree with the question, go to this corner.  Disagree, go to that one.

I enjoy asking questions that get kids moving around a bit.  It's a great way for me to learn about them,  and while they're formulating opinions, they learn a little more about each other.  And kids who are reluctant to answer questions from their desks can be more willing to respond if they see allies in their corner.

It's also a great way to check for understanding about facts and opinions.  When you ask them to defend their stance, you can tell if they understand the nuances that you're looking for.

Respond to this:  "Two heads are better than one."

A two-headed turtle
Watch as kids decide, then put themselves into the deepest part of the corners or more towards the middle.  Some of them will even walk to the middle of the room.  

Have them defend their positions, and see what they are basing them on.  Is it based on emotion or prior experience?  Is their stance fact-based?  Don't correct anyone, just jot down words and phrases you hear.  Let them work individually or together to explain themselves.  

Give them about 5-10 minutes to discuss.

Which way to go?

Students will typically give you emotional responses.  Put the words and phrases you heard on the board.  That's a great starting point for a mini-lesson.  Look at the language they used.  

  • Are there facts?  
  • How can they take the passion of their emotions and opinions and use them to support facts?
Signs that say fact and opinion

What's the difference between the two?

Facts are pieces of information that can be proven to be true or false.  

  • French fries are made from pickles
  • Some cars run on electricity
These can both be proven - even though one is false - so they are facts.

Opinions are pieces of information that someone (or many people) might believe, but they can't be proven.
  • Fortnite is better than Minecraft
  • Two heads are better than one
But you can just as easily turn those around.
  • Minecraft is better than Fortnite
  • It's better to work alone than with a group
That's how you can tell they're opinions.

This is hard!  Sometimes two heads are better, but other times they're not.

Look at the Connections

But there's way more to learn than being able to tell the difference between facts and opinions!  

Good writers use both.  Opinions to hook the reader in and facts to support those opinions.  That's what you want your students to know.

Once students see the interconnectedness of these two, they realize there's a time and place for each.  Persuasive writing needs to be factual, but it doesn't have to be dry.

Turn it on its head

It can be hard to come up with valid facts to persuade your reader to support your argument.  

If students get stuck, turn the idea on its head.  

Take a look at the opposing viewpoint and brainstorm why someone would take that point of view.  Students will need to use that as part of their persuasive writing anyway, but if they do it while they're formulating their thoughts, it helps to solidify their own position.

I hope you can use these ideas to help your students!

    Cover of Christmas trees passage for sale on TpT
  • In Christmas Trees Two Points of View, students read about real and artificial trees and have to develop a position on which one they think is best.  Your students can locate facts and opinions in the passages and persuasive write a response in the questions.

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