With the focus on opinion writing in the CCSS, I know a lot of teachers will be moving towards teaching this type of (nonfiction) writing during the second semester. BEWARE. The CCSS 2nd grade writing sample for “opinion writing” in Appendix C on page 15 is problematic. I kept reading this sample (with the CCSS title “Student Sample: Grade 2, Argument (Opinion)” thinking this is not a good sample. The student is not making a clear argument, his opinion is subtle and that doesn’t seem to really be his goal – sharing his opinion about the book. Actually, the first sentence is a quote from the book Owl Moon (Yolen, 1987) – if you don’t know the book well, it’s hard to tell because there are no quotation marks. The student responds to the quote – that he likes the quote and explains why. He’s not, though, necessarily endorsing the book.
So I wanted to share a better example with the 2nd grade teachers and went to my old, but well-used and still trusty copy of New Standards text Reading and Writing: Grade by Grade – Primary Standards for kindergarten through third grade (1999, newer edition 2008). Lauren Resnick, one of the writers/designers of the CCSS, was a co-director on this New Standards project. And lo and behold, what did I find? This same writing sample! EXCEPT it is presented as a sample of “responding to literature” and NOWHERE in the analysis of this writing is the word “opinion” mentioned. Huh????
So what can we use as mentor texts for our thinking and for our students’ to consider as well? The writing standards for Grade 2 state – 1) Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement.
When I went searching for student samples – reviewing and recommending books, I discovered a great website with plenty of examples of student written book reviews – The Spaghetti Book Club. I read through several examples and the students (whose reviews I read, all ages 7 & 8) are on track to meeting this standard. There’s also information about how to join and publish your own students’ book reviews – an authentic writing opportunity. (I didn’t explore too much – just noticed as an option.)