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Teaching Writing Persuasive Essays In Middle School

Last month, I wrote an article about informative/explanatory writing in the classroom. Continuing on the theme of types of writing, today's post will focuses on persuasive writing and how educators can help students use it to improve their critical writing and thinking skills. Use the resources below to assist you in teaching persuasive writing in the classroom!The other day, my seventh-grade son told me he needed new shoes. I was not immediately convinced. I looked down, and I saw black running shoes. Yes, they were a little dirty. Yes, they were a little worn.

“Look, Mom,” he said, “there are holes in the sides! The bottom is coming off! I can’t run very fast!”

My son used reasons and details to convince me that, indeed, he needed new shoes.

This conversation got me thinking about the power of persuasion. Persuasion is an action that takes place every day. It happens with your own children, and it certainly happens in school.

Purpose of Persuasive Writing

The purpose of persuasive writing is to convince reader's to take an action, support a cause, or change a habit/belief. In order for students to become effective persuasive writers, it's important they investigate how purpose will affect the persuasive strategies they use in their writing. Start by reviewing the different purposes of persuasive writing as a class. Analyze persuasive texts, or other forms of media, and then identify the purpose for the text.

Remember, attention to the audience throughout the writing process is just as important as the purpose! Teach students to identify specific details about their audience and to critically think about how characteristics of those readers will relate to their purpose.

Structure of a Persuasive Essay

It's always a good idea to remind students about the organization and structure of a persuasive essay. A well-organized persuasive essay will include:

  • A strong introduction that states the position
  • At least three body paragraphs that present a single idea or set of related ideas that support the position
  • A conclusion that restates the topic and summarizes the main points

Elements of a Persuasive Essay

Persuasive writing follows an organized format. Using the anagram PERSUADE, teachers and students can easily remember the elements of a persuasive essay.

Download this colorful poster to display in your room to remind your students about the parts of the PERSUAsive essay! You can also print it out as a handout to distribute to students.

Persuasive Writing Activities

Have students write persuasive letters that argue for a change they want to see in their lives. With the Writing a Persuasive Letter to Make a Change Activity students will become better persuasive writers because of the extremely personal and meaningful purpose behind their writing.

For the holidays, students could write their mom a letter, convincing her to cook a different meal besides the traditional turkey and stuffing.

In the classroom, students could give mini speaking presentations. They could talk about the length of vacation, gifts they want to receive, or places they want to travel. There are many fun topics to cover through persuasive writing!

 

 

 

MORE RESOURCES

Teaching Students the Many Purposes of Writing

Informative/Explanatory Writing In the Classroom

25 Grammar Worksheets To Improve Students' Writing

Student Objectives

Session 1: The Game of Persuasion

Session 2: Analysis of an Argument

Session 3: Persuasive Writing

Session 4: Presenting the Persuasive Writing

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Work in cooperative groups to brainstorm ideas and organize them into a cohesive argument to be presented to the class

  • Gain knowledge of the different strategies that are used in effective persuasive writing

  • Use a graphic organizer to help them begin organizing their ideas into written form

  • Apply what they have learned to write a persuasive piece that expresses their stance and reasoning in a clear, logical sequence

  • Develop oral presentation skills by presenting their persuasive writing pieces to the class

  • Analyze the work of others to see if it contains effective persuasive techniques

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Session 1: The Game of Persuasion

1.Post the chart you created where students can see it (see Preparation, Step 3). Distribute sticky notes, and ask students to write their names on the notes. Call students up to the chart to place their notes in the column that expresses their opinion.

2.After everyone has had a chance to put their name on the chart, look at the results and discuss how people have different views about various topics and are entitled to their opinions. Give students a chance to share the reasons behind their choices.

3.Once students have shared, explain that sometimes when you believe in something, you want others to believe in it also and you might try to get them to change their minds. Ask students the following question: “Does anyone know the word for trying to convince someone to change his or her mind about something?” Elicit from students the word persuade.

4.Explain to students that they are going to play a game that will help them understand how persuasive arguments work.

5.Follow these rules of the game:

  • Have students get into their groups.

  • Explain that sometimes when you play games the winner gets a reward and that at the end of this game the winning team will get the reward you have chosen (see Preparation, Step 1).

  • Have each team choose a recorder, or designate a recorder for each team yourself. The recorder's job is to write down the team's arguments.

  • Tell students that they must work together as a team for 15 to 20 minutes to come up with the best reason why the class should award their group the prize. Their reasons can be serious or playful.

  • Use a signal to let them know when to begin and when time is up.

  • Have students present their arguments. Students can either present as a group or choose one person to be their speaker.

  • Have the judge decide on a winning group or ask students to vote for a group other than themselves that had a convincing argument.

Note: While students are working, there should be little interference from you. This is a time for students to discover what they already know about persuasive arguments. Use the Observations and Notes handout as you listen in to groups and make notes about their arguments. This will help you see what students know and also provide examples to point out during Session 2 (see Step 4).


Home/School Connection: Distribute Persuasion Is All Around You. Students are to find an example of a persuasive piece from the newspaper, television, radio, magazine, or billboards around town and be ready to report back to class during Session 2. Provide a selection of magazines or newspapers with advertisements for students who may not have materials at home. For English-language learners (ELLs), it may be helpful to show examples of advertisements and articles in newspapers and magazines.

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Session 2: Analysis of an Argument

1.Begin by asking students to share their homework. You can have them share as a class, in their groups from the previous session, or in partners.

2.After students have shared, explain that they are going to get a chance to examine the arguments that they made during Session 1 to find out what strategies they already know how to use.

3.Pass out the Persuasive Strategy Definitions to each student. Tell students that you are going to explain each definition through a PowerPoint presentation.

4.Read through each slide in the Persuasive Strategy PowerPoint Presentation. Discuss the meaning and how students used those strategies in their arguments during Session 1. Use your observations and notes to help students make connections between their arguments and the persuasive strategies. It is likely your students used many of the strategies, and did not know it. For example, imagine the reward for the winning team was 10 extra minutes of recess. Here is one possible argument:

“Our classmate Sarah finally got her cast taken off. She hasn’t been able to play outside for two months. For 60 days she’s had to go sit in the nurse’s office while we all played outside. Don’t you think it would be the greatest feeling for Sarah to have 10 extra minutes of recess the first week of getting her cast off?”

This group is trying to appeal to the other students’ emotions. This is an example of pathos.

5.As you discuss the examples from the previous session, have students write them in the box next to each definition on the Persuasive Strategy Definitions sheet to help them remember each meaning.


Home/School Connection: Ask students to revisit their persuasive piece from Persuasion Is All Around You. This time they will use Check the Strategies to look for the persuasive strategies that the creator of the piece incorporated. Check for understanding with your ELLs and any special needs students. It may be helpful for them to talk through their persuasive piece with you or a peer before taking it home for homework. Arrange a time for any student who may not have the opportunity to complete assignments outside of school to work with you, a volunteer, or another adult at school on the assignment.

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Session 3: Persuasive Writing

1.Divide the class into groups of two or three students. Have each group member talk about the persuasive strategies they found in their piece.

2.After each group has had time to share with each other, go through each persuasive strategy and ask students to share any examples they found in their persuasive pieces with the whole class.

3.Explain to students that in this session they will be playing the game they played during Session 1 again; only this time they will be working with a partner to write their argument and there will be a different prize awarded to the winning team.

4.Share the Persuasive Writing Assessment with students and read through each category. Explain that you will be using this rubric to help evaluate their essays. Reassure students that if they have questions or if part of the rubric is unclear, you will help them during their conference.

5.Have students get together with the partners you have selected (see Preparation, Step 1).

6.Get students started on their persuasive writing by introducing them to the interactive Persuasion Map. This online graphic organizer is a prewriting exercise that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay.

  • Have partners enter their names and topics on the opening screen.

  • The goal or thesis is the claim or stance that they are taking on the issue.

  • Students should then brainstorm three reasons to support their claim, and facts and examples to support each reason.
Challenge students to use the persuasive strategies discussed during Session 2 in their writing. Remind students to print their maps before exiting as they cannot save their work online.

7.Have students begin writing their persuasive essays, using their printed Persuasion Maps as a guide. To maintain the spirit of the game, allow students to write their essays with their partner. Partners can either write each paragraph together taking turns being the scribe or each can take responsibility for different paragraphs in the essay. If partners decide to work on different parts of the essay, monitor them closely and help them to write transition sentences from one paragraph to the next. It may take students two sessions to complete their writing.

8.Meet with partners as they are working on their essays. During conferences you can:

  • Ask students to show you the persuasive strategies they are using

  • Guide students to use a variety of persuasive strategies

  • Make sure students are using their Persuasion Map as a guide

  • Check their supporting facts and examples for accuracy

  • Help groups write an interesting beginning and ending

  • Encourage partners to read their paragraphs to and provide feedback for each other

  • Edit for grammar and mechanics

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Session 4: Presenting the Persuasive Writing

1.During this session, partners will present their written argument to the class. Before students present, hand out the Check the Strategy sheet. This checklist is the same one they used for homework after Session 2. Direct students to mark off the strategies they hear in each presentation.

2.Use the Observations and Notes sheet to record your observations.

3.After each set of partners presents, ask the audience to share any persuasive strategies they heard in the argument.

4.After all partners have presented, have students vote for the argument other than their own that they felt was most convincing.

5.Tally the votes and award the prize to the winning team. To end this session, ask students to discuss something new they have learned about persuasive arguments and something they want to work on to become better at persuasive arguments.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Endangered Species: Persuasive Writing offers a way to integrate science with persuasive writing. Have students pretend that they are reporters and have to convince people to think the way they do. Have them pick issues related to endangered species, use the Persuasion Map as a prewriting exercise, and write essays trying to convince others of their points of view. In addition, the lesson “Persuasive Essay: Environmental Issues” can be adapted for your students as part of this exercise.

  • Have students write persuasive arguments for a special class event, such as an educational field trip or an in-class educational movie. Reward the class by arranging for the class event suggested in one of the essays.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Compare your Observations and Notes from Session 4 and Session 1 to see if students understand the persuasive strategies, use any new persuasive strategies, seem to be overusing a strategy, or need more practice refining the use of a strategy. Offer them guidance and practice as needed.

  • Collect both homework assignments and the Check the Strategy sheets and assess how well students understand the different elements of persuasive writing and how they are applied.

  • Collect students’ Persuasion Maps and use them and your discussions during conferences to see how well students understand how to use the persuasive strategies and are able to plan their essays. You want to look also at how well they are able to make changes from the map to their finished essays.

  • Use the Persuasive Writing Assessment to evaluate the essays students wrote during Session 3.

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