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As one of only two long writing tasks on the OSSLT, the opinion piece (series of three or more paragraphs expressing an opinion) is key for students to master if they are going to pass the test.
- developing a main idea with sufficient supporting details
- organizing ideas and information in a coherent manner
- using conventions (spelling, grammar, punctuation) in a manner that does not distract from clear communication (EQAO, 2012)
These are challenging skills to master, and ideally, students develop them by practicing writing that is meaningful and relevant to their lives.
Why use the opinion piece to assess these skills? EQAO doesn’t spell out their reasons, exactly, but sampling some of the questions they’ve put to students over time, it’s easy enough to draw some conclusions.
What follows are opinion piece questions that have appeared either on the OSSLT or in online practice tests over the past several years.
- Should zoos exist?
- Are today’s famous people good role models for young people?
- Is it a good idea for high school students to have a part-time job?
- Are cellphones necessary in teenagers’ lives?
- Is participation in extracurricular activities an important part of secondary school life?
- Do teenagers place too much importance on what they wear?
- Should every student be required to take a Physical Education class every year of high school?
- Should Ontario high schools allow students to eat junk food and sell junk food in their cafeterias?
- Should the sale of junk foods be banned from Ontario secondary schools?
- Should Canada join the United States?
- Is it important for teenagers to pay attention to world news?
With a couple of exceptions, it’s safe to say that most teenagers could quickly form opinions on these topics — they’re current, relevant to the lives of most teens, and some may even elicit a strong reaction. Asking students to express opinions also invites them to make connections between their lives, ideas, and what they’re writing.
These kinds of questions are probably designed to help students form opinions as quickly and easily as possible. In other words, the questions are easy because organizing and writing the answers is difficult. Why muddy the process by adding overly complex content?
Expect a similar question on this year’s OSSLT. Finally, remind students to proofread their work for obvious grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. Results from last year’s test show that a significant number of students would improve their scores by taking the time to check their work.