An opinion tells what someone thinks, feels, or believes. An opinion cannot be proved true or false, but its strength can be evaluated by the reasons, facts, and examples that back it up. Two of the main purposes for listening to an opinion are to find out what someone else thinks and to help yourself make up your own mind. Here are some guidelines to help you be a good listener.
Guidelines for Listening to an Opinion
• Identify the topic. What subject is being discussed?
• Notice terms that signal that an opinion is being stated, such as I think, good, bad, and if you ask me.
• Listen for the opinion. What does the author believe about the topic?
• Listen for reasons. Why does the author hold this opinion?
• Listen for details. What facts or examples explain the reasons?
• Evaluate the reasons and details. Are the reasons good ones? Do the details explain the reasons?
Try It Out Listen as your teacher reads aloud an opinion essay written by a student named Lauren Tancreti and published in a magazine for young people. Listen for information to answer the questions below.
• What is the topic of Lauren Tancreti's essay?
• What does Lauren believe about Jane Addams?
• What reasons and other details does she give to
Writing an Opinion Paragraph
A paragraph that expresses a writer's thoughts or beliefs about something is an opinion paragraph. An opinion paragraph has a topic and a main idea. The topic is the subject of the paragraph. The main idea is the writer's opinion about the topic. Every sentence supports the main idea. What is the topic of the opinion paragraph below? What is the main idea?
Remember, the first line of a paragraph is indented.
The aquarium is a great place for school classes to visit. First, teachers don't have to spend their field-trip money for tickets. Admission is free on Tuesdays. Also, the aquarium has a lending library. Teachers and students can borrow books, science kits, and other supplies. The best reason, though, is that the aquarium has excellent hands-on exhibits. Students can observe and handle living sea creatures such as horseshoe crabs and starfish. The aquarium knows how to please all its visitors!
In the paragraph above, the topic is the aquarium. The main idea—the writer's opinion—is that it benefits students and teachers. Which sentence gives the writer's opinion?
The labels show the three parts of an opinion paragraph.
• The opinion statement names the topic and expresses the main idea—the writer's opinion.
• Supporting sentences explain why the writer thinks or feels this way.
• The concluding sentence finishes the paragraph.
Think and Discuss Look again at the paragraph about the aquarium. What reasons are given in the supporting sentences?
The Opinion Statement
The first sentence in a paragraph usually names the topic and tells the main idea. In an opinion paragraph, this sentence is the opinion statement. It tells how the author feels about the topic.
Example: The city made a big mistake when it tore down the old ballpark.
Occasionally, the opinion statement appears at the end of the paragraph. When this happens, it takes the place of the concluding sentence. Which is the opinion statement in the paragraph below? Which are the supporting sentences?
At the newly renovated movie theater, you no longer wait in huge lines to buy refreshments. Now dozens of employees staff a gleaming snack bar. When you take your seat, you practically disappear in the plush new chairs! Forget about juggling your popcorn and your drink in your lap, for each armrest now has a cup holder and a little tray. When the movie starts, the new sound system will knock your socks off! It's loud, clear, and no longer interrupted by static. The renovation of the old movie theater is a huge success!
Try It Out On your own or with a partner, read the paragraph below. It is missing the opinion statement. First, write the topic and the main idea of the paragraph. Then write two possible opinion statements for it.
Opinion statement . First, riding my bike saves time. I can get to school, the ballpark, or my music lessons faster by riding my bike than by walking. Bike riding is also great exercise. By the time I get to school, I am ready to get started! Finally, riding my bike gives me a sense of freedom. I don't have to wait for anyone but me!
Supporting sentences usually follow the opinion statement and give strong reasons to support the writer's opinion. Each reason, in turn, is supported by details, such as facts and examples. The chart below shows how this works in the aquarium paragraph on page 441.
Opinion: The aquarium is a great place for classes to visit.
The paragraph below uses facts and examples in its supporting sentences.
Music is great for changing or improving your mood. Listening to dance music on headphones while I jog allows me to run farther. Playing loud music while I clean my room helps me plow right through the mess! Some scientists offer evidence that music can also help you to relax by making your blood pressure fall. Soft music at the dentist helps slow your pounding heart when the drill starts to buzz. Jazz played low keeps my parents cool when they're fighting traffic. Whether you want to pick up the pace or slow it down, music can help you find the right speed.
Think and Discuss Reread the paragraph above.
• What facts and examples are mentioned in the supporting sentences?
Ordering Reasons In an opinion paragraph, reasons are often organized in order of importance. They may be arranged from least important to most important or from most important to least important. Transitional words, such as also, most important, in addition, and another, help to connect the reasons within a paragraph and can give clues about their importance.
See page 18 for more transitional words.
Try It Out Use the pictures in the collage or your own ideas to complete the opinion statement below. Write three sentences that support your statement. Use transitional words in at least one sentence.
Opinion statement: I would really like to learn how to _____.
The Concluding Sentence
The concluding sentence finishes the paragraph. This sentence can restate the main idea in a new way or make a final comment or observation. In the aquarium paragraph on page 441, the concluding sentence makes a final comment.
Try It Out Read the paragraph below. It is missing the concluding sentence. On your own or with a partner, write two different concluding sentences for the paragraph.
If there were a contest for "Father of the Year," my dad would win first prize. First, he always has time for me. He might have a million things to do, but he drops everything when I need help. My dad also knows how to make me feel special. He's always doing unexpected little things, such as staying at soccer practice instead of just dropping me off. Finally, no one has a better sense of humor than my father. You don't stay down in the dumps for long when he's around. Concluding sentence .
Write Your Own Opinion Paragraph
Now it's time to write a paragraph of your own. What do you feel strongly about? First, write an opinion statement that expresses your feeling or belief. Then think of how you can best support or explain your opinion. Make a list of reasons, facts, and examples that explain why you feel the way you do. After sharing your ideas with a partner, you are ready to write!
Checklist for My Paragraph
• My opinion statement names the topic and introduces the main idea—my opinion.
• The supporting sentences give reasons for my opinion. Details, such as facts and examples, explain my reasons.
• My concluding sentence restates the main idea in a new way or makes a final comment.
Knowing how to write an opinion paragraph will help you write an opinion essay. The diagram below shows how the parts of an opinion paragraph mirror the parts of an opinion essay.
Writing to Express an Opinion
There's nothing I'd rather do than cover paper in colors.
Angela Shelf Medearis wrote an opinion essay about Kwanzaa, an African American holiday. How does she feel about this celebration?
Why I Love Kwanzaa
by Angela Shelf Medearis
Each year I look forward to winter because I love celebrating Kwanzaa. The first reason I love Kwanzaa is that it is an original African American cultural holiday. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga as a way of unifying the African American family and community through a celebration based on our African heritage. Kwanzaa begins on December 26 and ends on January 1. In our house, we celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa.
Another reason I love Kwanzaa is that it involves wonderful food and presents! Food is a big part of most celebrations, and Kwanzaa is no different. Kwanzaa is sort of like an African American Thanksgiving celebration. During Kwanzaa I cook recipes that contain ingredients such as okra, peanuts, sesame, and black-eyed peas. These ingredients were brought from Africa to America and were introduced to Americans by African cooks. Including such ingredients in my Kwanzaa celebration is a way of honoring our ancestral heritage. On the last day of the celebration, we exchange handmade presents or books. I love making gifts that involve food, like homemade vinegars and cookies. I also love buying and receiving books.
Finally, I love Kwanzaa because it focuses on ways we can improve ourselves, help others, and secure our future as a family and as a community. We study one of the seven Kwanzaa principles each day of the celebration. These principles, called the Nguzo Saba in the African language of Swahili, are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Each day we shout "Harambee," which is a pledge to "pull together" to achieve our goals.
More and more African American families are celebrating the holiday, and people of all races attend Kwanzaa festivals. For me, Kwanzaa has become a wonderful way to share my African American heritage with my friends, to focus on improving myself and on helping others, and to share good food and gifts with my family. Harambee!
• How does Angela Shelf Medearis feel about Kwanzaa?
• How many reasons does the writer give for her opinion? What are they?
• What transitional words signal to readers that the writer is about to tell a new reason?
• What details support the reason in the third paragraph?
• Where does the writer sum up her feelings about Kwanzaa?
Think About Writer's Craft
• Sometimes writers repeat phrases to add emphasis and to help make smooth transitions from one thought to the next. Find a phrase that Angela Shelf Medearis repeats.
Think About the Pictures
• What do the photographs tell you about Kwanzaa that is not described in the essay?
Write responses to these questions.
• Personal Response What is your favorite celebration? How are your feelings about it similar to the writer's feelings about Kwanzaa? How are they different?
• Critical Thinking Pick one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa and explain how it is demonstrated, or shown, in the holiday.
What Makes a Great Opinion Essay?
An opinion essay tells what the writer thinks or feels about a topic
Use these guidelines when you write an opinion essay.
• Select a topic that matters to you. Let reader, hear your voice when you write.
• State your opinion in the introduction in a clear and interesting way.
• Give three or more reasons to support your opinion.
• Use details, such as facts and examples, to explain each reason.
• Tell your most important reason first or last.
• Write a conclusion that sums up the ideas in your essay.
Use possessive pronouns to show ownership. Use pronouns such as her and their before nouns. Use pronouns such as hers and theirs to replace nouns in a sentence.
Allison France loves living in Florida, and she has a lot of reasons for feeling that way. She wrote this draft to share her opinion.
Living in Florida is great. Here are some reasons why I like Florida so much.
Florida is the twenty-seventh state. Tallahassee is its capital. Florida is a peninsula in the southeast part of the United States.
World-class theme parks are common in Florida. Disney World is a neat place to go. It has a lot of neat rides, great food, nice shows, great scenery, and lots of cool characters. They have neat rides at Universal Studios too. On my favorite ride, "Back to the Future," riders get to bolt into the future, zoom back to the Ice Age, race through an avalanche, and dodge T rex! Shamu the whale attracts many visitors to Sea World. When I went there, I came face to face with sharks, eels, and barracuda, from the safety of an underwater tunnel, of course. You can never be bored in Florida!
I'd have to say that the weather is what I like best about Florida. It never snows, so no one ever has to shovel an icy walk. Here it's frequently sunny and always warm, rain or shine. Yes, we do get some rain, but as a result we are surrounded by nice plants and beautiful
flowers. All in all, you couldn't ask for better weather.
If you're looking for fun in the sun, Florida's the place to go. You can stay in a resort right on the beach! They're lined up all along the coast in Daytona, Cocoa, and New Smyrna. You can do many fun things at the beach, or just relax.
Now you know why I think Florida is the best place to live.
Reading as a Writer
• What did Sal like about Allison's essay? What questions did Sal have for her?
• What reasons did Allison give for loving Florida?
• In the third paragraph, what adjectives could Allison use instead of neat, great, and nice?
• What might Allison do to improve her conclusion?
Allison revised her opinion essay after discussing it with her classmates. Read her final version to see how she improved it.
There's No Place Like Home
by Allison France
What's it like living in paradise? Just imagine beautiful weather, world-class theme parks, and spectacular beaches, and you're looking at Florida, the place I call home. I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
I'd have to say that the weather is what I like best about Florida. It never snows, so no one ever has to shovel an icy walk. It's frequently sunny and always warm, rain or shine. Yes, we do get some rain, but as a result we are surrounded by lush green plants, such as ferns, palms, and grasses, and exotic tropical flowers, like wild white azaleas that bloom along the highway. All in all, you couldn't ask for better weather.
I also love Florida for its world-class theme parks. Disney World has a lot of exciting rides, delicious international foods, entertaining shows, beautiful scenery, and lots of cool characters. They have exciting rides at Universal Studios too. On my favorite ride, "Back to the Future," riders get to bolt into the future, zoom back to the Ice Age, race through an avalanche, and dodge T. rex! Shamu the whale attracts many people to Sea World. When I went there, I came face to face with sharks, eels, and barracuda, from the safety of an underwater tunnel, of course. You can never be bored in Florida!
Last, but not least, if you're looking for fun in the sun, Florida's the place to go. You can stay in a resort right on
the beach. They're lined up all along the coast in Daytona, Cocoa, and New Smyrna. If you feel like taking it easy, you can search for seashells, build sandcastles, or doze under an umbrella. If you're looking for a little more excitement, you can ride the waves or go surfing. As you can see, there's something for everyone to enjoy!
Now that you understand what it's like living in paradise, I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear me say that even if I had my choice of any place to live, I'd still pick Florida. It's a beautiful, fun-packed place to call home!
Reading as a Writer
• How did Allison respond to Sal's questions and comments?
• Why did Allison cut the paragraph about Florida's history?
• What details did Allison add to show rather than tell about the nice plants and beautiful flowers? fun beach activities?
• What changes did Allison make to the conclusion of her final copy? Why is this conclusion better?
Write an Opinion Essay
Make a writing folder for your opinion essay. Copy the questions in bold print, and put your paper in your folder. Write your answers as you think about and choose your topic.
• Who will be my audience? Will it be my classmates? my parents? people in my community?
• What will be my purpose? Do I want to tell people about something that is fun? warn them about something dangerous?
• How will I publish or share my opinion essay? Will I create a booklet? read it aloud? make a poster?
Need an Idea?
Tell how you feel about
• the circus
• a certain law or rule
See page 466 for more ideas.
Choose Your Topic
1. List five topics. List opinions about each one. Don't list people.
2. Discuss your opinions with a partner.
• Can you think of reasons to support each opinion?
• Which ideas does your partner like? Why?
• Is any opinion too broad? Could you write about one part? Notice how a student broke one big topic, holidays, into smaller parts. Each part could be its own essay.
3. Ask yourself these questions about each opinion. Then circle the opinion you will write about.
• Do I feel strongly about this opinion?
• Do I have enough to say about it? Can I support my reasons with details?
• Will my audience care about this opinion?
Explore Your Opinion
Make sure you can back up your opinion with reasons before you share it with others! Strong reasons answer the question Why? about your opinion.
1. Brainstorm reasons. Have a partner take the opposite point of view and challenge your opinion. Your partner's comments and questions will help you generate strong reasons.
2. Make an idea pyramid. List at least three reasons that support your opinion. Use the idea pyramid below as a model.
Part of Allison's idea pyramid
If you can't think of enough good reasons, try another topic.
See page 14 for other ideas for exploring a topic.
You can brainstorm on a computer. Just remember to start drafting in a separate document.
Elaborating Your Reasons
Explain, or elaborate, your reasons with details. Give facts and examples.
Opinion: Science Club is fun.
lots of members
examples: field trips, experiments, speakers
fact: grew to 25 members this year
Check that your details are exact and clear. Expand your details to tell more.
Reason: great activities
planetarium and natural history museum
tested drinking water in lab
geologist and marine biologist
Later, when you start drafting, these details will be in your supporting sentences.
Think and Discuss Look at page 447 of the published model.
• What reason for loving Kwanzaa does the writer give in the second paragraph? What details does she give to support that reason?
Explore Your Reasons
Add details to your idea pyramid to support your reasons. Be sure to elaborate all your reasons with detail
Part of Allison's idea pyramid
Organizing Your Reasons
Now that you've collected your building materials—your reasons—you need to decide on the best way to assemble them. Without a plan, it's hard to know where to begin! Follow the steps below to help you get started.
Evaluate your reasons. Which are strong? Which have the most and best supporting details? Here are three weak reasons Allison took out when she explained why she loves Florida.
Restates Opinion Florida is awesome!
Unrelated The state flower is the orange blossom.
Too General It's a good place to have fun.
Take out any reasons that you have difficulty supporting.
Order your reasons. Which are the most important to you? You should write about the most important reason either first or last.
Use transitional words and phrases. Use these words and phrases within a paragraph to move smoothly from detail to detail. Use them between paragraphs to move smoothly from reason to reason.
Transitional Words and Phrases
another reason, finally, first, also, last, however, therefore, the most important reason, then, to begin with, for example
Think and Discuss Look at Allison's final copy on pages 453-454.
• Why are the reasons in Allison's final copy better than those she took out?
Plan Your Essay
Reread your idea pyramid. Cross out reasons that you can't support with clear, exact details. Number the reasons in the order you will write about them.
Draft Your Essay
1. Write a paragraph for each reason on your pyramid. Skip every other line to allow room for changes. Don't worry about mistakes at this point.
• Write a topic sentence that tells your reason.
• Write supporting sentences that include details to explain your reason.
• Use transitional words within and between paragraphs.
GRAMMAR TIP Use a comma after introductory words in a sentence.
2. Decide how you want your essay to sound. Will it be funny? serious? critical? Let your feelings show through when you write. Remember, the ideas are your own, and the voice you use to tell them should be too. Look at a paragraph from one student's draft.
Dim the screen while drafting. This will help you focus on expressing your ideas rather than avoiding mistakes.
Make your introduction more interesting than Science Club is an enjoyable after-school activity. Compare these examples.
Use your own voice! If you try too hard to sound a particular way, your writing will sound flat or awkward.
Lively Opinion Statement I never thought I'd say this, but I love Science Club!
Question Is our drinking water safe? That's just one important question that Science Club is trying to answer.
Description Ten rain-soaked fifth-graders crouched by the bog gathering slimy algae samples. You might say "Yuck," but I say "Yeah!" Outings like this make Science Club an awesome adventure!
A good conclusion sums up your main ideas and makes your essay feel complete.
Science Club keeps me very busy. My friend wants me to join the Movie Club, but I don't have enough time to participate in two clubs.
Experiments, chats with scientists, and interesting trips have become regular events in my life, I never knew that learning could be so much fun!
Think and Discuss
• Why is the strong conclusion better than the weak one?
• What kind of introduction does the author use in the published model on page 447? in the student model on page 453?
Draft Your Introduction and Conclusion
Write two introductions and two conclusions for your essay. Choose the ones you like better.
Evaluating Your Opinion Essay
Reread your opinion essay. Which parts need improvement? Use this rubric to help you decide. Write the sentences that describe your essay.
Rings the Bell!
• The introduction states my opinion in an interesting way.
• My reasons are strong and are supported with details.
• This essay really sounds like me!
• My reasons are in a clear order of importance.
• The conclusion sums up the important points.
• There are almost no mistakes in capitalization, punctuation, or spelling.
• The introduction could be more interesting.
• Some reasons are vague or unclear. Some need more details.
• In places, the writing doesn't sound like me.
• My reasons are not in a clear order of importance.
• The conclusion doesn't sum up the important points.
• Mistakes make the story confusing in some places.
• The introduction is dull!
• I have fewer than three reasons. I need a lot more details.
• This essay doesn't sound like me at all!
• It's hard to follow the connections between my ideas.
• This essay just ends. I didn't write a conclusion.
• There are a lot of mistakes in capitalization, punctuation, or spelling.
Revise Your Opinion Essay
1. Revise your essay. Use the list of sentences you wrote from the rubric. Work on the parts that you described with sentences from "Getting Stronger" and "Try Harder"
2. Have a writing conference.
When You're the Writer Read your opinion essay to a partner. Discuss any questions or problems you're having. Take notes to remember what your partner says.
When You're the Listener Tell at least two things you like about the opinion essay. Ask questions about any parts that are confusing.
Cut apart your working draft so you can rearrange paragraphs or add new ones.
What should I say?
The Writing Conference
If you're thinking ... / You could say ...
The opening doesn't catch my interest. / Could you start with a description, opinion statement, or a question?
This reason doesn't seem very important. / Does this reason really explain why you think or feel this way?
This reason isn't clear. / Can you give more details to support this reason?
I can't tell where one reason stops and the next one starts. / Is each reason a separate paragraph? Can you add transitional words to connect your reasons?
This writing seems flat. / How do you really feel about this topic?
The essay just stops. / Can you sum up the important points?
3. Make other revisions to your opinion essay. Use your writing conference notes and the Revising Strategies on the next page.
Elaborating: Word ChoiceSynonyms are words with the same or nearly the same meaning. Using synonyms for words you use a lot will make your writing more interesting and exact.
I like flying. Takeoff is neat. The crew is always nice. If the pilot is good, the landing is okay.
I adore flying. Takeoff is exciting. The crew is always welcoming. If the pilot is skilled, the landing is smooth.
Replace three or four words in your opinion essay with synonyms.
Use the Thesaurus Plus on page H81. See also page H13.
Elaborating: Details Add details within a sentence, or write more sentences.
You can see many things below.
You can see winding rivers, huge forests, or bustling cities below.
Find at least three places in your opinion essay where you can add details. Sentence Fluency Make your sentences different lengths to keep them from sounding choppy.
Choppy sentences The view is delightful. We look out the window. We see sparkling water. We see rocky mountaintops.
Smoother sentences The view is delightful. When we look out the window, we see sparkling water and rocky mountaintops.
Try making at least three sentences different lengths. Does your essay sound less choppy?
Proofread Your Opinion Essay
Proofread your opinion essay, using the Proofreading Checklist and the Grammar and Spelling Connections. Proofread for one skill at a time. Use a class dictionary to check spellings.
• indent all paragraphs?
• correct any fragments or run-on sentences?
• write possessive pronouns correctly?
• write interjections correctly?
• correct any spelling errors?
Use the Guide to Capitalization, Punctuation, and Usage on page H57.
Read your essay aloud to a partner. You may notice mistakes when you hear them.
Grammar and Spelling Connections.
Possessive Pronouns Possessive pronouns show ownership. Use pronouns such as her and their before nouns. Use pronouns such as hers and theirs in place of a noun.
Pronoun Before Noun
My essay was about our flight to Colorado.
Pronoun in Place of Noun
This essay is mine.
Interjections An interjection is a word or words that show feeling or emotion. Use an exclamation point or a comma after an interjection.
Phil: Wow! That ride was scary! Is there anything tamer?
Jamie: Well, I suppose we could try the teacups.
Spelling the |O| Sound The |O| sound is often spelled o, o-consonant-e, oa, or ow go, those, coast, show
See the Spelling Guide on page H67.
Publish Your Opinion Essay
1. Make a neat final copy of your opinion essay. Be sure to fix all errors.
2. Title your essay. Think of a title that will make your readers interested, such as "The Greatest Invention" rather than "The Internet."
GRAMMAR TIP Capitalize the first, the last, and each important word in the title.
3. Publish or share your essay in a way that suits your audience.
Tips for Making a Stairstep Booklet
• Fold four sheets of paper to form flaps of 3, 4, 5, and 6 inches. Tuck them inside one another. Staple them on the crease.
• The top flap is your cover. The other flaps are for your reasons. Write one on each flap.
• Open the first flap. Write your introduction and the paragraph for your first reason. Continue for the other reasons. Write your conclusion after the paragraph for your third reason.
• Add drawings or magazine art on each flap.
Ideas for Sharing
• Create a stairstep booklet.
• Write a letter to a newspaper. See page 503 for tips.
• Invite parents and friends for an evening of oral reading at school.
• Read your essay aloud to begin a panel discussion. See page 476 for tips.
• Make a poster with a picture for each reason.
Write about your writing experience. Use these questions to get started.
• What did you learn about writing an opinion essay?
• What was easy to do? What was most challenging?
• How does this paper compare with other papers you have written?
Use these prompts as ideas for opinion essays or to practice for a test. Decide who your audience will be, and write your essay in a way that will be clear to them.
1. Name the invention you think has most improved our lives. How has this invention made our lives safer? more fun? more convenient? What would life be like without this invention?
2. Some athletes make millions of dollars each year. Do you think that is right? Why or why not? Write a letter to a local newspaper to explain your opinion.
3. Do you think it's better to be an only child or to have sisters and brothers? Tell the advantages and disadvantages of each.a What's your favorite movie? What did you like best about it? Write a review of the movie for someone who hasn't seen it.
4. What's your favorite movie? What did you like best about it? Write a review of the movie for someone who hasn't seen it.
Writing Across the Curriculum
5. FINE ART What would it be like to live in a building like this? Write your opinion of the architect's design.
This prompt to write an opinion essay is like ones you might find on a writing test. Read the prompt.
Name the invention you think has most improved our lives. How has this invention made our lives safer? more fun? more convenient? What would life be like without this invention?
Here are some strategies to help you do a good job responding to a prompt like this.
1. Look for clue words that tell what to write about. What are the clue words in the prompt above?
2. Choose a topic that fits the clue words. Write the clue words and your topic.
Remember that an opinion essay tells what the writer thinks or feels about a topic.
most improved our lives
I will write an essay describing how cars have made life more enjoyable and convenient.
3. Plan your writing. Use an idea pyramid.
4. You will get a good score if you remember the description of what kind of opinion essay rings the bell in the rubric on page 461.
Special Focus on Explaining
Writing a Book Report
Writing a book report is a way to share information and opinions about a book you have read. Read Nora's report on When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
by Barry Denenburg
If you want to learn the facts about the Civil War, read a history book. If you want to know what it was like to live during the Civil War, read When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
Emma Simpson is a teenager living on a plantation in Gordonsville, Virginia. Her diary tells about a year when the war turned her family's world upside down. First her brother dies. He is a soldier in the South's Confederate army. Later, Union soldiers from the North take over their house. They force Emma, her mother, her aunt, and her young cousins to live on the top floor. Emma and her family live in fear. They feel trapped and can only fix meals when the soldiers are out of the house. The soldiers stay for about two months. When the soldiers leave, they almost destroy the home.
This book is fascinating, especially if you like history. It is sad and exciting. Read When Will This Cruel War Be Over?, especially if you want to find out what happens to Emma after the soldiers leave.
Reading as a Writer
• The title gives the name of the book. What is the title of this book?
• The author is the person who wrote the book. Who is the author?
• The introduction presents the subject of the report and captures the reader's interest. How did Nora begin her report?
• The description tells what the book is about. What is this book about? What did Nora tell about the book?
• The opinion tells what the reader thought of the book. What was Nora's opinion?
• The conclusion sums up the report and leaves the reader with something to think about. How did Nora conclude her report?
How to Write a Book Report
1. List the title of the book and the author's name.
2. Introduce the book by making the reader curious about it. You might begin with a quotation from the book, a surprising piece of information, or a question.
3. Summarize information that describes the book. Include at least one event from the story in your summary.
4. Give your opinion. Tell what you thought about this book and why.
5. Write a conclusion that wraps up your book report.
6. Revise and proofread your report. Use the Proofreading Checklist on page 464. Use a dictionary to check your spelling.
7. Display a neat final copy of your book report in your classroom's reading center or in the school library for others to read.
Tell About This!
Ask yourself these questions.
• What one event stands out?
• Is the story funny, sad, suspenseful, or frightening?
Poets sometimes tell a story in a poem. The story might be serious or silly, describing a real experience or something the writer made up. A good story poem will also delight the reader with its use of language.
Read these models to see how the writers spin a tale in a poem.
Daddy Fell into the Pond
Everyone grumbled. The sky was gray.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day
And there seemed to be nothing beyond.
Daddy fell into the pond! And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed." Click!
Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed.
Oh, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
Daddy fell into the pond!
maggie, and milly and molly and may
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
E. E. Cummings
One day in Thrift-Rite Supermart
My jaw dropped wide with wonder,
For there, right next to frozen peas,
Sat frozen French-fried thunder,
Vanilla-flavored lightning bolts,
Fresh-frozen raindrop rattle—
So I bought the stuff and hauled it home
And grabbed my copper kettle.
I'd cook me a mess of homemade storm!
But when it started melting,
The thunder shook my kitchen sink,
The ice-cold rain kept pelting,
Eight lightning bolts bounced round the room
And snapped my pancake turners—
What a blooming shame!
Then a rainbow came
And spanned my two front burners.
X. J. Kennedy
Reading as a Writer
• In a sentence or two, sum up the story that each poem tells.
• Look at how the lines are grouped in each poem. Why do you think the poets grouped their lines in these different ways?
• In each poem, which lines end in words that rhyme? that almost rhyme?
• Which poem uses dialogue? What does it add to the poem?
How to Write a Story Poem
Tell me a story! Make me weep! Make me laugh!
1. Decide on a story idea. Here are ideas from the poems you just read.
• Tell about something that happened to you, as Alfred Noyes does.
• Write a story about other people, as E. E. Cummings does.
• Go on an imaginative romp, as X. J. Kennedy does. Write about your talking vacuum cleaner or the day you turned into a bird.
2. Map your story. Make a chart like this one, with notes about the people, the place, the events, and details about how things looked, smelled, tasted, felt, and sounded. Add dialogue if you wish.
3. Think about stanzas. Stanzas are groupings of lines, separated by a space. They can have different rhyming patterns. In two-line stanzas, which are called couplets, the end words usually rhyme as in the last four lines of the poem on page 471. Here are some rhyming patterns for longer stanzas.
And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed." Click!
One day in Thrift-Rite Supermart
My jaw dropped wide with wonder,
For there, right next to frozen peas,
Sat frozen French-fried thunder.
Decide on the number of lines to put in each stanza. Look at the poems on pages 470-472 for ideas. Then select a rhyming pattern.
4. Write your poem.
• Use ideas from your chart.
• Leave a space between stanzas. Try writing a stanza about each main event.
• End your poem in a memorable way. You might tell what the story means or finish with a pleasing image, like the rainbow in "Instant Storm."
5. Reread your poem. Does each stanza have the right number of lines? Did you follow your rhyming pattern? Is any part too wordy?
Even after you've chosen a stanza and a rhyming pattern, you can "bend the rules" a little if it helps you write a better poem.
Keep It Light!
Some words are like extra baggage. Follow these hints to keep your poem from getting bogged down in wordiness.
• Cross out very, really, and so. Instead of very bright, use an exact word like brilliant.
• Replace forms of to be and to have with strong exact verbs.
• Don't use unimportant, rambling phrases. Dive into the story.
6. Revise your poem. Read it aloud to a partner, and ask for feedback. Make more changes if you need to.
Decide on capitalization and punctuation in your poem. Many poets begin the first word of each line with a capital letter, even if the word does not begin a new sentence. Follow this pattern if you wish.
Use the Thesaurus Plus at the back of this book.
7. Proofread your poem. Use a dictionary to check spellings.
8. Publish your story poem. Act it out for your class, or deliver it in a dramatic reading. Use an overhead projector to show your poem to the class, or put it on your school Internet site.
See pages 350-351 for dramatizing help.
Writing an Acrostic
Do you have a favorite word? Maybe it's a food you love, the name of your pet, or your own name. You can use this word to create an interesting poem called an acrostic. In an acrostic, the letters that begin each line often spell the subject of the poem.
Jumping up high to block the ball
Making a goal
Each team was surprised when I
A lot of
Pears falling off a
Pear tree and
You pick up the pears and make a pie.
Reading as a Writer
• What words did the writers choose for their acrostics?
• What event does each poem describe? What connection do you see between the event and the acrostic word?
How to Write an Acrostic Poem
1. Pick a word that is interesting to you. It might be the name of a person or a place, something you like to do, or any noun, verb, or adjective that tickles your imagination.
2. Brainstorm a list of things and experiences that the word brings to your mind. Include sensory words and phrases that describe sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, and smells. Circle the best ideas.
3. Write an acrostic based on the word you chose. Try not to write each line on a different topic. Focus the poem on one main event or idea.
4. Revise and proofread your poem. Cut unnecessary words.
5. Publish your acrostic.
COMMUNICATION LINK Listening/Speaking
Having a Panel Discussion
In a panel discussion, a group of people talk about a topic in front of an audience. Each member of the group is called a panelist. Panelists take turns sharing their information and ideas. Each is given a limited time period in which to speak.
• announces that the panelists can now discuss the topic together for ten minutes
• talk and disagree politely
• asks questions of any or all of the panelists for ten minutes; panelists respond
When you take part in a panel discussion, you are both a speaker and a listener. Be sure that you understand the other speakers' opinions and reasons before you agree or disagree.
Here are some guidelines to help you be a good panelist.
Guidelines for Being a Panelist
When You Are Speaking
• Clearly state your opinion about the topic
• Give reasons for your opinion. Support your reasons with facts.
• Speak loudly enough so that everyone can hear you.
• Be polite when you disagree with others.
Organize your ideas before you speak. Write key ideas on note cards.
When You Are Listening
• Pay close attention to the person who is speaking. Watch the speaker's face and listen to the tone of his or her voice. Try to block out sounds that make your mind wander away from the discussion.
• As the speaker presents his or her thoughts, take notes that you can refer to if you need to ask questions.
• Try to understand each speaker's point of view. Listen to the reasons the speaker gives for his or her views. Are the reasons based on facts or opinions? Do they make sense?
• Don't interrupt another panelist. Use your notes to ask questions after the speaker has finished.
Plan a panel discussion. Choose a topic and decide on time limits for the panelists. Research the topic and then write your opinion about it. Follow the guidelines above when you are speaking and listening. After the discussion, answer these questions.
• Which guidelines were difficult to follow? Why do you think so?
• What kinds of topics do you think would work well for a panel discussion? Explain why.
A Need a Topic?
• favorite sports
• countries to visit
• the best seasons of the year
Finding Points of View in Visuals
Every day you see hundreds, even thousands, of visuals or images. People create these images to send messages to audiences. Each visual has a purpose. Some inform or entertain, for example. Instead of giving all the facts, though, an image may give only one viewpoint. A viewpoint is a way of thinking about a subject.
Think It Through
Look carefully at each photograph. Notice that the main focus, or center of interest, of each photo is a woman at work. The photos send different messages, however. Look at the details in the first photo. The stacks of paper and the woman's expression suggest that she is greatly overworked. The message about work in the second photo is different. What do you think it is?
When a photographer takes a picture, he or she has a purpose. It may be to capture a moment of fun, to inform, or to make money. The purpose shapes the choices a photographer makes about what to shoot and how to do it.
Here are some ideas to help you find the viewpoint in visuals.
Guidelines for Finding Points of View
• Look for the center of interest in the image. What do you notice first? bold colors? unusual shapes?
• Look at the whole visual. What is its purpose?
• If you know who the audience is, you can tell a great deal about the purpose of the visual. Are the audience voters? parents? or consumers?
• Look for the message. What is the visual telling you about the subject? Is the message one-sided?
• The people who made the visual have a way of thinking about the subject. What do you think it is?
Visuals have many purposes:
• to persuade or influence
• to make money
• to express an opinion
• to inform or mislead
• to entertain
Find two visuals that have the same main focus but send different messages. For each one, write a caption that tells the visual's message. Then write a sentence that tells each visual's viewpoint. Use the guidelines to help you. Before you write, think about these questions.
• What feelings, such as joy or sorrow, does each image communicate?
• What is the message of the first image?
• How does the message change when you view the second photograph?