Written by Alison Smith
Posted Thursday March 7
Lately, I’ve been contemplating ways that I can help you and your students teach and learn the complex art of writing opinion texts. In particular, I’ve been thinking about opinion writing scaffolds and how they can be a huge support in nailing text structure.
In this blog, I’m going to share with you my perspective on using writing scaffolds and reveal a few quick and effective opinion writing scaffolds that your students can draw themselves anytime and anywhere.
Opinion Writing Scaffolds – The Pros and Cons
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that there are a few pros and cons to using writing scaffolds. There is no doubt that beginning writers can benefit from being taught how to use structured scaffolds. Using writing scaffolds can help your students to:
- get started
- get focused on a writing task
- feel increased levels of self-confidence
- make the transition from guided writing to independent writing
- generate ideas
- organize their ideas
- keep track of their ideas.
On the other hand, writing scaffolds can limit creativity and encourage a formulaic approach to writing. Students can become overly dependent on a particular scaffold and struggle to create an opinion text without it.
Take a Balanced Approach
So, how can we use writing scaffolds without making students feel like they always have to do formulaic writing?
For me, the secret is to use simple writing scaffolds as a base on which students can build more complex and creative structures once they master the simpler format. I love to use the analogy of a building supported with scaffolding…
Once the building can stand on its own, the scaffolding is removed.
Similarly, the prompts and supports in an opinion writing scaffold are taken away once a student is capable of working independently.
The Importance of Planning Writing
Planning is a critical part of creating a coherent, controlled, and complete opinion text. With this in mind, it’s critical that we teach our students how to do it. Amongst other things, planning writing helps students to:
- put pen to paper and get started
- feel more confident
- organize their ideas
- stay on track and avoid tangents.
Huge student progress in writing can be made by spending a significant amount of time teaching the process of planning in isolation. By this, I mean creating just plans, more plans, and more plans without creating a finished text. Teaching planning works well if you include modelled, shared, guided, and independent writing experiences. You can maximize learning by incorporating planning activities into literacy groups, homework tasks, and fast finisher activities.
How Much Time Should Students Spend on Planning?
If time was an infinite resource, then perhaps there could never be too much time allocated to planning. But the reality is that in the time frame of a lesson or an assessment task, planning needs to be easy, quick, and effective. Students are often encouraged to spend somewhere around five minutes planning their writing. This got me thinking…
What if there was an easy and effective opinion writing scaffold that your students could draw themselves anywhere, any time, and quickly?
And so…the Stick Person Opinion Writing Scaffold was created…
Stick Person Opinion Writing Scaffold
The Stick Person Opinion Writing Scaffold is a tried and tested planning tool for opinion writing. I used in my own classroom and it works! It can be used effectively to help your students plan a coherent, controlled, and complete argument that includes:
- an introduction with a clear opinion statement
- a body with reasons and detailed supporting evidence
- a conclusion that reinforces the writer’s opinion.
The brilliance of this planning tool comes down to the fact that the majority of students have been drawing stick people for as long as they can remember! When your students have become familiar with the unusual number of fingers and toes this stick person has, they will be able to draw their own opinion writing scaffold anywhere at any time.
Stick Person Graphic Organizer Template
We have created a FREE Stick Person Graphic Organizer to use as a template to get your students started. This template might come in handy to:
- introduce the concept on your interactive whiteboard
- help your students in the early stages
- stick into the front of their writing book
- include as part of a homework activity
- share with parents and guardians.
Don’t forget that the ultimate aim is that your students will be able to draw their own stick person independently on a blank sheet of paper.
With sufficient practice, your students will be able to whip up a stick person opinion writing scaffold in 30 seconds!
How to Use the Stick Person Scaffold
Teach your students how to use the Stick Person Graphic Organizer as an opinion writing scaffold through a combination of modeling, shared, guided, and independent writing sessions.
- Model how to draw a stick person quickly and easily.
- Add subheadings to show how to use the head, arms, and legs to record ideas.
- Read aloud and discuss a persuasive writing stimulus.
- Model how to write keywords and phrases on the head, arms, and legs to create a solid plan.
- Gradually scale down your role by moving from guided writing to independent writing.
Don’t forget to give your students the opportunity to practice drawing the stick person with an extraordinary number of fingers and toes over and over again until they can draw it with their eyes shut (not literally).
The Burger Opinion Writing Scaffold
If you are not sold on the stick person idea, the burger scaffold is an alternative that works in the same way. The burger graphic organizer is nothing new, but it’s worth tweaking it a little for the purposes of an opinion writing scaffold. It works well because it is based on the five-paragraph structure and helps students to organize their ideas in a linear way.
While we are on the subject of burgers, don’t miss our Free Download: Opinion Paragraph – OREO Planning Template to teach and learn how to write an opinion paragraph.
The Grid Opinion Writing Scaffold
The Grid Opinion Writing Scaffold is as simple as it gets. It’s super quick and perfect for less confident students who feel more comfortable keeping things simple and organizing their ideas in boxes.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
When you have found an opinion writing scaffold that suits the needs and learning style of your class, it’s time to do as much planning practice as you can.
Check out our 5 Opinion Writing Stimulus Sheets for writing stimulus ideas. Immerse your students in persuasive language by making the most of our Persuasive Writing Teaching Resources. We have everything from Opinion Sentence Starters to FREE Persuasive Writing Checklists.
I’d love you to share your ideas. Connect with me anytime on Instagram #teachstarter and share your thoughts, feedback and ideas.
Comments & feedback
Posted Wednesday August 30, 2017 by Cassie (Teach Starter)
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