Forming an Opinion

For the last week or so, my class has been working on developing opinion paragraphs. Although expressing opinions is very engaging, it has been surprisingly difficult for my students to differentiate between opinions and facts and to clearly state where they stand on an issue.

Because of this, I decided to take a class period to carefully address this difference with the students and help them visualize the concept of an opinion. The following presentation is the one I used to clarify and practice this idea with my students.

For the first slide, we talked about the features of a good opinion paragraph. This is something we have done with every type of paragraph we have discussed so far this semester and the textbook outlines these principles fairly well. We reviewed what the textbook had to say about each of these things and then moved on to differentiating between facts and opinions.

I explained to my students the cultural importance to support your opinion with facts when talking with an American and especially when writing for academics. The students supplied their own examples of both facts and opinions and then we talked about why it would be important to include both facts and feelings in an opinion paragraph.

On the third slide, I have two short video clips listed. Although the language is above level in both clips, they are popular films I already knew my students were familiar with in their L1. The first clip is of Buzz and Woody arguing about the core question of the movie Toy Story: Real? Or toys? We discussed the reasons each character has for forming the opinion. We also discussed that even when you have very good supporting details, the opposite point of view does not always change their opinion. The purpose is to explain why you think what you do and make it strong so the other person listens, even if they choose not to accept your way of thinking.

The second video is from Pirates of the Caribbean and has a similar question: Is the Black Pearl a real ship? Or just a story? I had them talk with a partner about which opinion was stronger and why. Again, the vocabulary of this scene was difficult for the students, but with the subtitles on and their previous exposure to the film, they were all able to participate fully. We talked about how important it is to have lots of facts to support your opinion. The one soldier only had ONE fact to support his belief, and this is why he lost the argument in the end.

The last two slides of the PowerPoint give examples of good opinion topic sentences. With these topic sentences we played the game “Four Corners.” This is a popular game and was incredibly helpful in demonstrating how opinions work.

For this version of “Four Corners,” you assign each corner of the room a degree of agreement. One corner was “completely agree,” another “kind of agree,” then “kind of disagree,” and “Completely disagree.” As I read each of the opinions, students had to choose the corner of the room that represented their own feelings about the opinion being expressed. For example, I moved to the “completely agree” corner for the first opinion because I prefer cats to dogs.

As the students moved from corner to corner, they recognized that not everyone agreed on the topic. They were often surprised to see who was on the opposite side of the room and which opinions their classmates felt strongly about. Once they settled into a corner, I asked one person from the agree side and one from the disagree side to give ONE reason (either fact or feeling) for why they chose that corner.

Benefits of this activity:

  1. Students recognized topics that they had strong feelings about.
  2. Students saw that there is always someone with the opposite point of view when we are talking about a true opinion.
  3. Students generated excellent supporting details for their opinions.
  4. Students debated and often tried to convince friends to change their positions.
  5. Students used this activity to create good topic sentences for their own opinion paragraphs.
  6. Students enjoyed the activity and were able to discern between facts and opinions during the summary at the end of class.