In a world where news and information is at our students’ fingertips, being able to distinguish fact vs. opinion has never been more essential! The great news is that teaching fact and opinion to upper elementary school students doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact (see what I did there?), the concept can easily be woven into the reading concepts you have already taught to students.
Introducing Fact vs. Opinion
Before jumping into using fact and opinion in reading and writing, I always begin by introducing the concept to students in a mini-lesson. Inform students that a fact is a statement that can be proven. An opinion is a statement that expresses someone’s attitude, belief, or feeling about something.
We create an anchor chart together, and we go on a hunt for facts and opinions in whatever read aloud we have at the moment.
Then we move on to one of their FAVORITE parts of this lesson! I always try to incorporate a song or video into my lessons (because BUY IN!), and I love this candy “fact” video. We watch it once through, and I have students think about the facts and opinions they give. They focus heavily on the facts since it is touted as a FACT video! We watch it again, and this time, I have them write down specific facts and specific opinions. They are amazed at the number of opinions that are infused into the video. We take this opportunity to talk about how confusing it can be to be reading or watching something factual, but infused opinions can truly make an impact on our interpretation of them.
Fact vs. Opinion Activities
Once you have introduced the concept to students, begin reinforcing and strengthening the skill with different tasks and activities. Here are some activities to use with fact and opinion.
#1: Identify and Describe if statements are fact or opinion.
After your mini-lesson, a great activity is having students simply identify and describe if different statements are facts or opinions. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as using task cards, gallery walks, sentence strips, or my super-engaging Candy Aisle Conundrum!
I created this passage to have my students practice identifying facts and opinions in context. They LOVE this one, and I always enjoy hearing their discussions about some parts that are questionable!
After students have practiced identifying different statements, you can even have students create their own fact or opinion and pass it to a neighbor. Their neighbor can work the same identification process on their peers' statement.
Want some ready-to-go fact and opinion statements? I have task cards that are perfect for 3rd through 5th grade students. There are a variety of different question types: picture cards for students to generate their own facts and opinion, topic cards for generating fact and opinion, identification cards for determining whether a sentence is fact or opinion, and multiple choice cards for picking out the fact or opinion from three different choices. Grab these fact and option task cards here!
#2: Apply fact and opinion knowledge to a reading passage.
As you read different texts in class, help students make connections to fact and opinion. With informational passages, for example, the text will be filled with facts. Help students make this connection and identify facts in the passage.
For fiction and narrative writing on the other hand, the text will contain both facts and opinions. Inform students that this is the case when they read this genre. Then, during reading, practice recognizing these different facts and opinions. Don’t forget to have students take identification a step further by explaining how they know it is a fact or opinion. You can even challenge students by asking why the author included this fact or opinion in their writing.
Looking for a text to practice applying fact or opinion? I have a reading comprehension flip book that reviews several reading comprehension skills, such as main idea, fact and opinion, and sequencing. This activity is great for beginning to weave together previously taught comprehension strategies with fact and opinion.
#3: Compare and contrast information to further challenge knowledge.
As students begin to grow more comfortable with the basics of fact and opinion, it’s time to step up the challenge. One way to do this is to compare a fiction and nonfiction text against one another (ie. an information article about the Grand Canyon and a narrative about a trip to the Grand Canyon). Another way to compare is by giving two texts of the same genre.
After students have read the text, have them compare and contrast the information given in the article. Which passage was based more in fact / opinion? How did the information in the article impact how you felt about the topic? (ie. an informational article about space and a narrative about an astronauts trip to space – how did you feel after reading each one?)
No time to look for a resource? I have two resources that use compare and contrast for challenging fact and opinion skills. This informational text fact and opinion paired passage resource compares and contracts informational texts. This fact and opinion reading skills paired passages resource uses an informational and a narrative text. Both resources contain three mini-booklets, which contain the articles, comprehension questions, and a compare and contrast section.
#4: Write your own passage.
Lastly, one of the best ways to challenge students' knowledge is by simply having them create their own passage. For this activity, I suggest giving students a topic. Then have them write two different passages. One should be factually based and one should be more opinion based. Talk with students about where they can obtain facts for their information article.
After your students have finished writing, give them a chance to share with their peers. Have their peers select the passage that they are more likely to read for that topic and why.
More Reading Skills Tips
Fact and opinion is such an essential skill these days. With lots of practice, your students will become pros at deciphering information, and they will be better digital citizens because of it. Want some ideas for incorporating reading skills into your classroom daily? Check out this reading skill review blog post and this reading skills toolkit blog post for ways to spiral reading skills all year long.