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K-5: Fact Versus Opinion

by Scott Ertl, Learn NC

Distinguishing between fact and opinion is important for students to understand. This lesson uses many interesting and concrete examples to help students tell the difference between the two.

A lesson plan for Grades K–5 Guidance

Learning outcomes

Students will distinguish between fact and opinion.

Teacher planning: 45 minutes

Materials/resources

Handouts copied on construction paper, scissors, pencils, and creativity!

Pre-activities

1. Define fact and opinion. Facts can be all or some of the following: can be proven, real for all people and places, can be duplicated, can be observed, historical, or 100 percent true. Opinions refer to a particular person’s (or group’s) feeling, thought, judgment, belief, estimate, and/or anything that is not 100 percent true and can’t be proven.

2. Have students distinguish between facts and opinions:

  • All people must breathe to live.
  • All people love basketball.
  • Blue is the best color.
  • He is stupid.
  • Abraham Lincoln was a United States president.
  • North Carolina is a southern state.
  • I don’t like broccoli.
  • Fire needs oxygen to burn.
  • Pizza tastes great.
  • Most people have two arms and legs.

3. Ask students to identify books where facts can be found (encyclopedia, dictionary, almanac, atlas, text books, Guinness Book of World Records, etc.).

4. Ask students to identify books where opinions can be found. (Autobiographies, self-help books, novels, journals, etc.)

5. Students should distinguish which parts of a newspaper are factual and which are opinion. Ask them to identify the following:

  • letters to the editor
  • restaurant reviews
  • sports scores
  • weather prediction
  • birth announcements
  • rainfall measurements
  • advice columns
  • astrology reports
  • obituaries
  • calendar of events
  • wedding announcements
  • movie reviews

6. Cut out newspaper and magazine advertisements and separate facts and opinions. Students will be amazed to recognize that 99 percent of ads are opinions.

Activities

1. Make sure students understand that just because someone else says something, it’s not necessarily a fact. It’s most likely just his/her opinion. To simply agree with someone else’s opinion is to consider it a fact and thus make it real. For example, believing others who say “You can’t play soccer very well” can either convince you to agree with them and continue being poor at soccer OR motivate you to believe “I’m better now than before and I’ll improve with even more practice!” One’s attitude of others’ opinions can either 1) encourage and help us grow and improve or 2) discourage and inhibit us from growing.

2. Have students create the “My Opinion Matters” wheel using attachment 1 and attachment 2. Students cut out the window that they will use to record in the five sections “What I can say to myself” in response to “When others say…”

3. Write on the board different comments for them to choose from, including:

  • “You can’t read.”
  • “You can’t spell.”
  • “You can’t _____.”
  • “You’re stupid.”
  • “You’re ugly.”
  • “You’re mean.”
  • “You’re lazy.”

4. Have students choose five to record on their wheel with a positive self-talk statement they can use to respond in a healthy way. For example, when someone might say, “You can’t read,” a positive self-talk statement might be “I’m reading a lot better now than before and I’ll be an even better reader by the end of this school year.”

5. After students have completed and assembled their wheels, have them share with a partner and then select volunteers to share with the entire class.

Assessment

Collect the “My Opinion Matters” wheels to read and determine if responses demonstrate positive messages that students can say to themselves.

Students who need additional clarification can be re-taught individually and/or in small groups.

Students who successfully completed four of the five positive self-talk responses correctly have mastered this objective.

Supplemental information

Students can create a Fact Finding Scavenger Hunt, with each student contributing different questions (that they’ve found the answer to!). The teacher can combine everyone’s question to complete the hunt. For example, students can research about your school, staff, or next unit topic with questions like:

School

  • When was the school founded?
  • How many students attend our school?
  • What’s the record number of pizzas served in one day?
  • Which grade has the best attendance?

Staff

  • Where was the principal born?
  • Who was Teacher of the Year last year?
  • Which teacher has been at this school the longest?
  • What college/university did your teacher attend?

Upcoming unit topics

  • What is the largest land mammal?
  • What were some of the most significant inventions during the Industrial Revolution?
  • How long have women had the right to vote?
  • What is necessary for fires to burn?

Comments

Students commonly believe that what is printed, aired on TV, or found on the internet are all facts. It’s critical for them to distinguish between what people say is so and what is so.

Teachers are commonly aware of the Pygmalion Effect and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Both emphasize that we tend to think and behave to prove ourselves right. If we believe something will be positive, it turns out so. If we believe something will be negative, it turns out negative as well. Also, the Garbage In-Garbage Out theory that if we have stinking thinking, we will produce poor behaviors.

Therefore, it’s vital for students to create and maintain positive self-talk statements that they can use regularly to deflect others’ negative opinions. Otherwise, it will be easy for students to believe that what others say is true (fact).

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