Monday, November 16, 2015

Turkeys! Fact-Based Opinion Writing

During the week of Thanksgiving last year, my third graders did some opinion writing that was centered around the question: Should turkey be Thanksgiving's main dish?

When I posed the question to students, their feelings were surprisingly strong...

"Of course we should have turkey! We've eaten it every year in my family." Or, "Are you kidding me? Let's get rid of it! My dad always overcooks it. It's so dry and disgusting. I'd rather have pizza."

Needless to say, students could explain their opinion by pulling from their personal experiences.

But I knew we could do better.

I discussed with the class that when you are trying to build an argument to support an opinion, a carefully chosen FACT that is explained and connected to your opinion can make a big impact on your audience. 

But where to get the facts? Sure, we could launch into a bunch of research to find the perfect fact to support our opinion, but that's a whole other thing, isn't it? I really wanted to focus the activity on the writing, not research.

So that's why I had already prepared some turkey facts for them!

I had collected eight facts about turkeys, and put each one on a different card. After reading through the facts together, students cut apart their cards and worked together to sort them into categories: facts that supported YES, turkey should be the main dish; and facts that supported NO, turkey should not be the main dish.

When students shared how they sorted their facts, the differences were interesting. Sure, some facts strongly supported one opinion. For example, most students said the fact, "Turkey has more protein and less fat than other meats like chicken and beef," supports the opinion that turkey should be the main dish because it's a healthy option. But other facts, like, "An average size turkey takes about 4 hours to cook in an oven," could support either opinion. Some students said that it would be better to have a food that didn't take as long to cook, but other students said that cooking in the oven so long was a good thing: it gave families more time to visit together and it makes the turkey seem more important.

From my perspective, I just loved how students were thinking and analyzing each fact, independent of their personal opinion.

I then had students choose the facts they thought would help support their own opinion. I modeled how to effectively incorporate a fact into your argument, how you can't just throw it in and leave it up to your reader to interpret (we just found out that some facts can be interpreted differently). You needed to explain how the fact supports your opinion.

The last step was to write their opinion piece!

Afterward, I liked how the lesson went so much that I created a few more pieces to go with it, including:
  • a preliminary "poll question" to hook students
  • a poster of the turkey facts
  • a poster of the focus question
  • a planning organizer for the student writing
  • an extension activity where students look at the focus question from different points-of-view.
It also includes a detailed lesson plan. If the full resource interests you, click the image below for more details.

You can pick up the sheet of Turkey Fact Cards and the fun Writing Paper for FREE! Just click the image below.

Happy Thanksgiving! Stop by my blog, The Thinker Builder, anytime!


  1. I've put your materials on my wish list! We're pages deep into a narrative told from a turkey's point of view, so I won't use it this year. I think it's officially on next year's to-do list though. Thanks for sharing!
    Laughter and Consistency