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Monday, June 8, 2015

Clarifying the Differences Between Opinion, Persuasive, and Argument Writing

While developing materials to assist a 3rd Grader as she learns how to write an opinion piece that supports a point of view with reasons, I had to step back and clarify the difference between 
opinion, persuasive, and argument writing for myself.

Here is a simple chart from that helped me. Click on the chart to take you directly to their website.

Opinion Chart

Then I came upon this very informative  post written by 
the Six Traits Gurus, and I realized that the big difference between these different types of writing is evidence.

For the 3rd Grader that I am working with, I need to concentrate on just having her learn to state her opinion well but with her own voice.

Grade Level Differences: Opinion Pieces versus Arguments
Up through grade 5, the CCSS call for students to write opinion pieces, not arguments per se. The defining characteristics of an opinion piece are as follows:
  • The writer makes a claim
  • The writer offers reasons to support that claim (School uniforms are not a good idea because they are expensive)
  • The writer offers facts or details to strengthen his/her reasons (School uniforms can cost over $100 each, and every student needs at least two of them)
  • The writer uses transitions (For example, To illustrate, Consequently, On the other hand, In addition) to link reasons or details to the main claim
  • The writer sets up the paper by making the issue clear and closes by reinforcing his/her position or otherwise guiding the reader toward a good decision
After reading this post, I also realized that I don't want my 3rd Grader to get sucked into the conclusion pit where they just restate the 3 reasons.  I want them to start to think about a powerhouse ending that contains those reasons without the step by step writing that is so boring (and yet so easy to do). Here's an excerpt from the blog post that started me thinking:

  • A powerhouse ending. Endings matter. They need to stick in our minds, wrap up loose ends, give us new things to think about—and perhaps, in the case of argument, suggest new thinking or action. An ending must be more than a summary of what we’ve read. It is condescending to simply summarize what’s been said, as if the reader were inattentive or not very quick. It’s lazy to leave things dangling, or toss the choice of options to the reader—the old “What do you think?” way out. A good argument might close with a call to action, a summary of the consequences of inaction, or even with the most powerful piece of evidence—one the writer has held back until this moment. A good question to ask is, What doesn’t the reader know yet that will push him/her to a good conclusion?
 She also discusses implications for higher grades as they focus on argumentative writing and on using evidence to support those arguments.  Click HERE to read the whole article.  It's really worth your time! 

Lastly, I did more research on this topic using multiple sources and an old language arts textbook (dry reading)  and the definitions concurred with the above discussion. I didn't want you to think I just found one source on the internet and took that information as the "holy grail."


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