Opinion Writing in First Grade

Do you use the Lucy Calkins' units as a resource for writing workshop? They are brimming with ideas and detailed teacher scripts, which can make them a bit cumbersome, if not intimidating. Today I'm sharing how I have used Lucy's first grade unit for persuasive writing. Hopefully you can get some helpful ideas for your classroom.

Before we started writing, we explored facts and opinions. One fun way to do this is with a taste test! I used Cheetos and Pringles- not so nutritious, but YUM! Of course, we graphed our opinions (sorry no pic!) and then wrote only an opinion statement using the word <because>. I felt like this would be a good way to scaffold for writing more details later on! Here is the writing paper I used. Click on the picture to get a copy. 

I loved Lucy's suggestion to ask students to bring in a collection of favorite things to write about because it's concrete, authentic and meaningful for your kids! I drafted this letter and sent it home to parents a few days before I wanted my kids to bring their collections to school. Feel free to grab a copy by clicking on it!

Whenever I plan for writing, I read Lucy's lessons and pull out what I think will work for my kids and my schedule. Time is often tight, so I don't usually follow everything in the units, but that's ok- Lucy wants teachers to make those units their own, so don't be afraid that you are going to mess anything up!! Add your own ideas and personality to it!

I find it helps me to outline the unit so I have a general sequence to follow, but I can still modify what I teach a long the way to meet my students' needs. Here are my notes after reading up through the "first bend".

Opinion Writing Unit for First Grade, 2016, 6-7 weeks

  1. Review checklist for students (kid friendly?)
  2. Discuss prompt: how will we word it?
  3. Give pre-assessment
  4. Norming meeting- score a piece together, then score by self using rubric
  5. Assign writing partners for kids

Week of Jan 3rd
What’s the difference between fact and opinion?(an opinion is a judgement)
  • Taste tests (use <because> to share verbally)
  • Class graphs
  • Position teams for debate
  • Read picture books, “The Best of Show”
  • Letter to parents about sharing a collection

Week of Jan 10
1) Make judgments
People talk and write about their opinions- Share your own collections of items and explain “judging” connection.
Students bring in their own collections
What do judges do (anchor chart)
Students judge their collection and write/support opinion
Model: paper with award ribbon: color blue, red or yellow

2) Write to explain judgement/opinion
Model: reread and revise to elaborate on the reasons
“For example” and I think that because”
Use half sheets of paper to add on (revision tabs)
Add details that tell how the item is special
Fishbowl share: what did you DO as a writer to improve? (reflect)

3) Form- What is the format of opinion writing?
Intro checklist/rubric
Analyze and evaluate student exemplar
Students self-assess personal piece
Begin revisions for missing components
Set goals

Weeks: Jan 17-31 (3 weeks)
MIni-lesson ideas
  1. What are HFW for this genre that we should spell correctly? Create a word bank with students and give a copy for their folder
  2. Brainstorming Ideas- our favorite/best in show
  3. How to write a lead
  4. Organizing - 3 parts/pages
  5. Using Transitions
  6. Elaborating with details
  7. Writing an ending
  8. Spelling by onset-rime, syllables/word chunks

Weeks of Feb 7 & 14
Pick a piece to edit and publish
Celebration on Feb 11th????
(My team and I decided to keep on with the next bend and then have a celebration!)

I then reworked her checklist to better match what I would be teaching and what my students would need. For example, I don't use a word wall; my kids have their own high frequency word (HFW on the checklist) folders that they keep with them at their seats along with their writing folders. Click on the picture below to download!

I made some paper that would go with the "best in class" or "blue ribbon" idea. I left the ribbon blank so my kids could write in it, and then color it to match the item's ranking; many wrote about the 1st, 2nd and even 3rd best items in their collections! Click on the picture below to download! You'll find different kinds of pages as well as revision tabs. By the way, the circle at the bottom right is to help kids remember to number their pages. (I like to teach them to write their beginning, middle and ending on separate pages- I think it helps them with the trait of organization.)

So, here's the fun part! Sharing collections! I shared a collection of earrings as a topic for my modeled writing- my kids loved sharing their opinions about which pair was the best.

Sharing cars and lego creations were very popular!

When they brought in their collections, they each shared with a partner and discussed their opinions. I modeled the writing a lot more than Lucy suggested and used some of the lessons from "bend 2", like "Writing Catchy Introductions and Conclusions" because it just made more sense.

I felt that my students would need to see examples of how to write beginnings and ending NOW, not during the next part of the writing unit!

 After the mini-lessons, they would write about their collection. I'd say this lasted about a week, and then it was time to send those collections home, and write about other opinions.

Sea shells get two thumbs up!
This friend brought in a collection of shells and "fossils". Knowing that they will need to rewrite some terms over and over throughout their piece, I often write topic-specific words on small post-its so my kids can spell them correctly.

After our collections, we wrote more developed opinion pieces, and now we are ready for "bend 2", writing reviews. Now we will focus our efforts on being more persuasive!

I'd love to hear how you teach your students about opinion and persuasive writing in the comments below!


  1. This is awesome! We are just starting this! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. You're welcome!!! Hope it goes well! :)

    2. Thank you for the great templates and for your blog. It was very helpful!

  2. Thank you for Opinion Collections letter! I really appreciate it!

  3. what book did you use for "week of January 3rd"? You noted "Best in Show". Is this a picture book?

    1. That's the unit! I have this same curriculum. The opinion writing is using toys or whatever you have around to demonstrate how you are the judge and are judge the "best in show" then you give your opinion why you think that. The students then bring in their collections and pick their "best of show" and prove why they think that. Hope that helps!

  4. Thank you for this blog! I'm student teaching and am doing my unit on opinion writing, using Lucy's curriculum. Really appreciated this clear cut way of doing it...such an organized way and easy to follow. Thank you!

  5. Thank You very much for sharing!

  6. Do you have a post for the other bends?


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