Recently I visited a Kindergarten writers’ workshop. The teacher was nervous about beginning an opinion writing unit, stating to me that many five year old children “don’t yet know what an opinion is.” We talked about how engaging students in things that they want to help change is exactly how to teach students what an opinion is. That day the teacher did an open-ended mini-lesson, asking students what they would like to see different in the school or in their classroom to make their school or classroom a better place. The conversation that followed illustrated how strongly young children have opinions even when they might not be able to define "opinion". Some of their responses included:
- I want to have our classroom painted a brighter color.
- We should have our classroom painted like a rainbow.
- Maybe we can raise money to get our classroom painted.
- It is important that we all try to be friends.
- Hockey is a good game for all students to know how to play. We should learn it during PE.
- I wish people would stop wrecking the Legos because we worked hard on them.
- We shouldn’t run or we might get hurt.
- I want people to not yell so I can concentrate.
In the days that followed students branched out into complement letters stating complements to someone and saying “because” to give reasons for an opinion. They have been busily writing opinion posters and letters since. They have learned what an opinion is by stating what their opinions are.
Below is a sampling of their writing.
Give a student space to have an opinion. Tell them their opinions matter. And who knows. They might just change the world. I know a bunch of five year old children who are trying to do just that.