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Have you ever tried teaching fact versus opinion and wanted to tear your heart out? That is totally understandable because, for kids on the autism spectrum, learning fact versus opinion can be so frustrating. Children with autism tend to struggle with learning abstract concepts, and fact versus opinion is the first one they encounter in school. Teaching fact versus opinion to children with disabilities might be a challenge but it is completely possible.
Have you seen Inside Out with that scene where Joy knocks over the facts or opinion bin and they shove them back into random spots without checking which is which?
That scene always cracks me up.
That has probably happened in every one of my student’s brains. Sometimes I swear it happens to them every night, and we have to refresh their minds on which is which.
So we have to work on it, and work on it and work on it because knowing the difference between facts and opinions is vital.
In this post, we’re going to break down why it’s important to know fact versus opinion, how to teach the concept and good practice activities.
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Why Does it Matter?
This probably goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway. Teaching fact versus opinion is important for many reasons.
- It’s a basic skill. Your kids will need it to be able to analyze writing and create essays.
- Your kids won’t learn to form their own opinions if they don’t know what an opinion is and how it’s different than a fact.
- Telling the difference helps you be a better citizen of the world. You can’t make up your mind about what to think of politicians without being able to tell the difference.
- Common Core Standards or whatever metric you’re using for your kiddos probably demands it.
In my opinion that last one is the least important. I teach it not because someone told me to but because logic dictates it’s needed.
It might be hard to tell when to start teaching fact and opinion, but if you’re dealing with children who are starting to learn to read and write, I say teach it now!
You are going to wind up practicing fact versus opinion for a long time. No kid can learn it overnight. I know fifth graders who are still practicing this concept, even though they learned it in the first grade!
No shame. It’s hard, and some adults can’t even tell the difference.
How to Teach It
So we know it’s important to teach fact versus opinion, but how do we do it?
Break it down very simply. I always start my lessons on fact versus opinion by explaining what a fact is and asking for an example. We write out lists of every fact we can think of. This gets super fun and the kids love it!
- Lincoln was killed at the movie theater.
- Mercury is the planet closest to the sun.
- Tornados form in thunderclouds.
- Bodies need water to survive.
- Washington DC is the capital of the USA.
It goes on and on. You’d be surprised to see how much your students with autism know.
Next, I ask my kids if they’ve ever heard of an opinion and what they think it is.
I bet money your kiddos will say the same as mine. “A fact is right, and an opinion is wrong.”
So we go over how an opinion is what you think. It can be different from person to person, and no opinion is wrong.
Then we make lists of all the opinions we can think of. Be prepared to hear about everyone’s favorite color.
Then I tend to emphasize the differences.
- Facts are always right and true. No matter the situation.
- Opinions are what people think.
- Opinions can be different from person to person.
If that sounds like a difficult lesson to prep for and plan, you can always purchase my premade interactive google slide show that breaks down the difference and gives kids a chance to practice their new fact versus opinion skills.
What Comes Next?
Next comes practice and practice and more practice.
I like to have kids practice telling the difference between fact and opinion. I’ll write a bunch facts and opinions out and have students practice sorting them into correct categories.
Before each practice session, we review what they are and what the differences are.
If that sounds like a lot of prep you can always purchase my premade sorting exercises. The cutting will give your kids a chance to practice their fine motor skills (BONUS!)
Cut Down on Prep
I won’t lie, both the lesson on fact versus opinion and the practice activities can require a lot of prep.
If you want to cut down on your prep you can purchase my premade interactive google slide show on fact versus opinion. You just need a computer and at least one willing student to practice.
Teaching fact versus opinion is a vital skill because all human adults need to be able to tell the difference to be responsible citizens and form their own opinions.
While it might be hard to help students with disabilities learn this concept, given that it is not concrete, it is completely possible. Emphasize the rules of telling the difference and that will help them feel things are less abstract.
Make sure to also stay ahead and consider how you want your nonabstract thinkers to learn to form their own opinions! I have lots of tips and tricks on that as well! Check out this blog post to learn more!