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Writing Genres: Model Persuasive Lessons
lessons and resources from one of the NNWP's popular in-service classes

"I love taking these classes. The enthusiasm is contagious and I always come away with so many ideas." (Kate C., elementary teacher)

"I left this workshop convinced I could help my students care enough about their own ideas to want to persuade me with their writing. Thank you." (Michael J., high school teacher)

The Northern Nevada Writing Project--sponsors of this WritingFix website--hosts an annual workshop on the topic of persuasive writing. 3rd-12th grade teachers join us to discuss research-based ideas that teach persuasive skills alongside voice skills. This resource webpage has been specifically designed for not only teachers taking our workshop but also for any teacher interested in improving their classroom skills and resources for teaching these two important topics. We hope you find our workshop's resources useful, even if you're not taking our inservice class.

Interested in NNWP inservice classes: Check out their Fall & Spring on-line schedules.

Why a class specifically on persuasive writing? First of all, here in Nevada, the state writing test for eleventh graders must be passed by every student planning to graduate, and the prompts given to our juniors can be either expository or persuasive. Second, we believe persuasive writing is a neglected genre, even though it is clearly embedded in our state standards. Too often, persuasive writing lessons are taught only by our language arts teachers, who only have limited time to focus on this genre because they are teaching so many other genres and modes. We believe persuasive writing is a type of writing that can be practiced in every curriculum area, and we believe with repeated exposure to persuasive writing tasks that our students will be that much more prepared for their high school writing tests. Our new inservice workshop was designed to help teacher participants design thoughtful persuasive writing lessons that would engage students to use their written voices when writing in all curriculum areas.

Earn a free copy of the Barry Lane book our class uses: One important theme in our Persuasive Writing Across the Curriculum workshop is teaching voice with lessons that allow student to use a sense of humor. To promote this theme, each teacher participant receives a complimentary copy of Barry Lane and Gretchen Bernabei's awesome book, Why We Must Run With Scissors: Voice Lessons in Persuasive Writing. In exchange for this book, teacher participants propose an original lesson that we consider posting on this page. Below, you will find several original lessons that were proposed by class participants who are now enjoying their personal copies of Barry and Gretchen's book.

Want your own copy of the Scissors book? We have four left-over copies of this text from our last class session. If a teacher uses one of the three templates below to write-up a mentor text-inspired lesson that we can feature here on this page, we will send you one of our left-over copies. Once the four copies are gone, this offer expires. Lessons or inquiries can be directed to this e-mail: webmaster@writingfix.com

We invite you to freely use this page's resources in your own classrooms, and ask that, if you are sharing these materials with fellow colleagues, you visit our permissions page to make sure you are not infringing on our copyright.

Templates for WritingFix Persuasive Writing Lessons

Template 1:
A 7 Elements Writing Lesson

Click here to see a completed lesson that uses this template.

Template 2:
A Persuasive R.A.F.T.S. Prompt

Click here to see a completed lesson that uses this template.

Template 3:
A Comparison/Contrast Lesson

Click here to see a completed lesson that uses this template.


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...interest group at our Writing Lesson of the Month Ning!

A powerful little mentor text... out of print...find an affordable used copy, if you can

Should There Be Zoos?

by Tony Stead and a class of fourth graders

Also in the NNWP's Library:

Twisting Arms

by Dawn DiPrince
A Foundation for Teaching Persuasive Writing

Even though our students learn basic persuasive writing skills long before they come to school ("I'll be really quiet if you buy me that toy"), they don't come to us knowing how to write persuasively. Writing is different than speaking. To persuade through writing, students need to analyze how they successfully convince others through speaking, then combine those skills with solid writing instruction.

What we've learned is that there must be a strong foundation of other writing skills in place before asking students to write something persuasive. Without the foundation, the persuasive writing your students will do will be flat and uninteresting. The foundation that we stress in our persuasive writing is as follows:

We demonstrate for our workshops participants various mini-lessons on style, perspective, and passion. We invite them to write and share new mini-lessons on these three foundational topics, and then we challenge them to design larger lessons that make persuasive writing feel real and important to students.

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The Seven Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson

Most of our WritingFix professional development workshops challenge teachers to "make and take" a new lesson to bring back to their classrooms for trying out with their own students. True enough, WritingFix provides a plethora of quality lessons that are ready-to-use, and teachers sometimes don't see the point in making something new when so many resources already exist, but we really believe in the importance of every teacher still designing something for themselves. When you borrow a lesson from our website, you are applying someone else's ideas; when you create a lesson inspired by our website, however, then you are learning about topics at a much deeper level.

To help our teacher participants design something that has the potential to transform their classrooms, Corbett Harrison, one of the presenters at our Persuasive Writing Workshop, shares ideas from one of his favorite original trainings: The Seven Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson. He challenges the workshop's attendees to consciously design a lesson that--at the very least--makes use of five of the seven elements he discusses. To learn more about Corbett's trainings and workshops, you can visit his website.

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Resources for Teaching Voice & Style

Our genre-inspired teacher workshops include discussion topics for all of the six writing traits, but with each class we offer we try to focus in on one. With persuasive writing, our natural focus becomes voice.

In particular, we focus on the following sub-skills for the voice trait:

  • Analyzing and Trying out Different Stylistic Techniques
  • Analyzing Different Perspectives and Points-of-View
  • Writing from Different Perspectives and Points-of-View
  • Showing Passion towards a Writing Topic while Persuading
  • Choosing Words that Convey Tone to one's Audience
  • Audience Awareness Tips for Persuasive Writing

If you'd like to learn much more about the voice trait, visit WritingFix's Voice Homepage.


Two Popular Style-Impersonation Lessons from WritingFix:

Lesson:
Inventing Stories for Favorite Clothing

Mentor Text: Excerpts from the J. Peterman Clothing Company. You can find physical copies of the catalogue or you can print excerpts from the on-line store.

Overview: After analyzing the unique style and voice found in the J. Peterman Clothing Catalogue, students create Peterman-style catalogue entries for their own favorite pieces of clothing. Challenge students to "Convince the reader to want to buy your clothes." Have your students combine all of their writing pieces in one document to create a class catalogue.

Lesson:
Painting Places with Words

Mentor Text: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Overview: Steinbeck certainly had style. After discussing the famous and fluent opening that launches Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, students impersonate the description by applying Steinbeck's paragraph's style and sentence structures to a different setting, creating one-paragraph setting descriptions that attempt to "paint with words" a setting. Challenge students to "Convince your reader to want to visit the location by writing about it so well."


Four Writers Whose Style is Worth Comparing before Teaching Persuasive Writing:

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Rick Reilly

Farley Mowatt

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Find several content-appropriate columns by these two writers, both of who have strong opinions about contemporary topics. Read them aloud with your students. Analyze the stylistic elements in the writing and challenge your students to "try on" these styles the next time they do a quick-write. When it is time to write something persuasive, challenge your students to remember Pitts and Reilly's styles.

The first few pages of the first chapter of Mowatt's The Snow Walker does an amazing job using repetition and rhythm as stylistic devices. When compared to MLK's I Have a Dream Speech, students can have a powerful conversation about the power of repetition when improving voice. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., understood, repetition can strengthen one's persuasive abilities.


An Activity on "Style Impersonation" we do in our Workshop:

Why do we do this activity? NNWP Consultant, Karen McGee, says that you can't teach a student to have voice; the best you can as a teacher is give your students lots of opportunities to "try on the voices of others." This makes sense. Artists find their own style by sketching the work of favorite artists. Musicians find their own style varying the songs of their favorite musicians. Why shouldn't it work for writers too? It does; and when you specifically have students imitate a writer's voice (or word choice or sentence fluency--the two support skills of voice), they begin to discover stylistic elements of writing that might become part of their own toolboxes.

What do we do? Continuing our analysis of Farley Mowatt's The Snow Walker, we seek out for more stylistic elements (other than repetition and parallelism) from his first chapter of this novel. Mowatt's voice/style is pretty sophisticated, and although we know this text isn't age-appropriate for many of our workshop participants' students, we believe this activity works best when you use a text that challenges the reader; thus, we assign the nine-page chapter called "Snow" to our adult learners, and we talk a lot about adapting this activity by using age-appropriate texts with different learners.

In groups of four, our participants revisit the "Snow" chapter during class several times. Each group becomes responsible for making two posters inspired by the skills of voice (or word choice or sentence fluency, two traits we believe build a foundation for voice). To help identify the skills they are looking for, class participants use these three lists of subskills from our Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide. The posters (see sample at right; click on it to see it in larger form) must have three things on them:

  • An identified skill of voice, word choice or sentence fluency;
  • A short explanation on why the use of that skill builds stronger voice;
  • Three or four sentences from the text that demonstrate the skill; these sentences can be successive sentences from the text, or they can be taken from various places in the text.

Below, find the template poster (blank version) each group is provided with and three samples created by our teachers. If you click on the images, you can see them in larger form.


blank poster template

sample poster #1

sample poster #2

sample poster #3


With the style posters made and posted, we find that we have surrounded ourselves with the names of skills that can be imitated by writers, explanations of how those skills enhance writing, and sample sentences that demonstrate the skills in action. This is a powerful visual tool to have when teaching voice.

In the on-line WritingFix assignment based on the chapter called "Snow," student writers are challenged to borrow Mowatt's idea of a "Fifth Element." A fifth element, according to Mowatt's chapter, is a modern day discovery that has the potential to change the world. For the lesson WritingFix has posted, students think of a modern day "fifth element" and write an essay that convinces its reader of the importance and significance of the "fifth element" they have chosen; throughout the essay, students are to try out some of the voice techniques they found in Mowatt's essay on snow.

We are now ready to try this strategy in our workshop. The groups are asked to brainstorm possible fifth elements topics, then to write sentences about their "fifth elements" that use the advice (and possibly the sentence styles documented) on their own posters.

Below, find three "fifth element" sentences inspired by the three sample posters above.

Inspired by Poster Sample #1:

"Fifth Element" Topic: Internet Dating
Inspired by Poster Sample #2:

"Fifth Element" Topic: Modern Viruses
Inspired by Poster Sample #3:

"Fifth Element" Topic: Teleporting


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Resources for Teaching Perspective

Participants in our Persuasive Writing Workshops always receive a complimentary copy of the NNWP's 2008 publication, the Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide. This guide is available for purchase from the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Website, should you be unable to enroll and enjoy our popular Northern Nevada workshop.

The guide's creator--Nevada teacher and literacy trainer Carol Gebhardt--distributes the resource to our participants, and she shares several lessons and resources from its pages.

Carol talks about the importance of having her students think deeply when comparing multiple perspectives, especially when comparing perspectives on topics for persuasive writing; by doing so, students can approach persuasive arguments with more objective understandings of their topic, and they can anticipate an opponent's argument and prepare for it. Studying perspective helps students move beyond the immature "I'm right because you're wrong" argument style.

Carol also talks about the importance of assigning many RAFT writing assignments long before asking students to write to persuade. A RAFT writing prompt asks students to write from the voice of assigned perspective to an assigned audience (as opposed to the traditional prompt where students write as a student for their teacher audience of one person). RAFT writing prompts are great practice for preparing students to think seriously about another's perspective. You can read more about these prompts by visiting WritingFix's RAFT Homepage.

To learn more about Carol's guide, you can visit WritingFix's Compare & Contrast Homepage.


Four Comparison/Contrast Perspective Lessons from Carol's Guide and from WritingFix:

Opposing Points of
View in History

Mentor Text: I Am the Dog I Am the Cat by Donald Hall

Overview: Students will create a comic strip that shows knowledge of two historical characters' perspectives.

Poems for
Two Voices

Mentor Text: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischmann

Overview: Students create and perform two-voice poetry that allows them to hear how perspectives are alike and different.

Are Artists
Good Neighbors?

Mentor Text: When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden

Overview: Students create a friendly letter exchange between artists "feuding" over different artistic styles.

Arguing Voices inside One Character's Head

Mentor Text: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (excerpts from chapters 1-7)

Overview: Students create two arguing voices that might be heard inside one character's head, then create a descriptive scene that shows that character in action.


A Vocabulary/Perspective Activity from our Persuasive Writing Workshop for Teachers:

Why do we do this activity? It's very important to possess a strong vocabulary when writing to persuade. At the heart of a strong vocabulary is knowledge of precise nouns and powerful verbs. We believe you should decorate your room with vocabulary when teaching the traits and the genres.

What do we do? As our class begins, participants brainstorm persons and things that persuade us using this noun-inspired alpha-boxes worksheet; they do this in small groups. Next the groups brainstorm verbs that the nouns they've listed would use to persuade us with this verb-inspired alpha-boxes worksheet. Finally, each participant chooses one verb and creates a piece of "verb art." Their drawings must illustrate/demonstrate the big idea behind their persuasive verbs, and they must surround their verb with nouns that they associate with the verb.

We decorate our inservice classroom with these pieces of verb art, and throughout the workshop, we use the nouns that surround the verbs as "word banks" when we explore different perspectives. We talk about the importance of an activity like this with our students to begin exploring the vocabulary of persuasion. Below are eight unique examples from some of our class's participants. If you click on the images, you can see them in larger form.


persuasive verb: to fuel

persuasive verb: to sell

persuasive verb: to elaborate

persuasive verb: to nullify


persuasive verb: to steer

persuasive verb: to suggest or imply

persuasive verb: to manipulate

persuasive verb: to bribe

Perspective Lessons Created During our Teacher Workshops:

Three-voice
Important Passages

Mentor Text: Margaret Wise Brown's The Important Book

Overview: After studying a topic that can be examined from different points-of-view, students write three important passages from three very different perspectives.

Comparison & Contrast Poetry Between Child & Parent

Mentor Text: Joyce Carol Oats' "Where Are Your Going, Where Have You Been?"

Overview: Students write a comparison and contrast poem written from a parent and a child’s perspective.

This I Believe ...History & This I Believe ...Language Arts

Mentor Text: This I Believe... Essays from the NPR Website

Overview: Students assume the role of a historical figure or a character from literature and write essays using a voice other than their own.

Character
Credo
Poems

Mentor Text: George Orwell's Animal Farm (or whatever novel you're studying)

Overview: Students will assume the role of the character and ten create a “Credo poem” for that character from the character’s point of view.


The Perspective Riddle Activity from our Persuasive Writing Workshop for Teachers:

Why do we do this? An important element when teaching persuasive writing is to ask students to think about different perspectives on interesting issues. Some students think that "Well, I am right about this and you are wrong!" is a valid argument, but it persuades no one. As student debaters learn, when persuading one must predict an opponent's next argument before he/she has ever spoken it aloud. To do that, you need to have thought about others' possible viewpoints.

What do we do? Inspired by the Three-Voice Storyboard Activity from the NNWP's Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide, we ask teachers at our workshop to partner up and create three one-sentence perspective statements about one of the following eight issues. The goal is to imagine three specific roles who would have three differing viewpoints on the issue. Once imagined, they think of three statements that might be uttered by the three roles. This begins to bring their roles to life.

With simple statements written on their three-voice storyboard worksheets, partners are now ready to begin creating Who Said It? posters. As seen in the example at right, the writing partners need to turn their single statements into three- or four-sentence monologues. These monologues will be used as a kind of riddle later. Eventually, others will need to make a guess about who each monologue is being spoken by, so it's important for writers not to directly give away their monologues' speakers in the words they put down.

If you click on the teacher model at left, you can see it in larger form.

Below, you can see (and click on to see larger) four of the posters created by our workshop's participants.



Example 1
Topic: Music Videos

Example 2
Topic: Homework

Example 3
Topic: Fast Food

Example 4
Topic: Text Messaging
 

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Resources for Inspiring Students to be Passionate about or Humorous with their Writing Topics

Meet Nevada teacher Rob Stone. Rob has always shown an amazing passion and energy for teaching, and that passion is contagious among his students. Rob works hard to make writing feel authentic to his high school writers. He wants them to own the ideas they write about, and he wants them to know he cares about what they have to say. Rob's students are allowed to disagree with their teacher and with each other, provided they disagree intelligently.

Rob's students write both passionately and persuasively. Rob has learned how to inspire them. When he presents at our Persuasive Writing Workshop for teachers, he shares insight, but he also shares skillfully-crafted lessons that he created to let his students know they have a valuable voice.

You can view all of Rob's online lessons at his WritingFix Portfolio.

One of Rob's best online lessons:
With Your Own Two Hands

Overview: Using both Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands and John Mayer’s Waiting On The World To Change, students ponder their roles in changing our world, and whether it's realistic for them to actually change it. Their final product is an original poem in which students convince their readers they can or can't change the world.

This lesson has been used by teachers and students worldwide


Two iPod-inspired Persuasive Lessons that Encourage Students to Care about their Topics:

A Show Me You Care about your Topic Lesson:
This I Believe
Essays... Science

Overview: Students will take a stand and decide how they will make a difference in the saving our environment. Once familiar with the structure of NPR's This I Believe... podcasts, they will research environmental issues and create a persuasive essay.

Lesson Author: Yvette Deighton, Nevada high school science teacher

A Show Me You Care about your Topic Lesson:
Where is the Love
in Persuasive Writing?

Overview: Inspired by two songs, students will think about worldly injustices and create an essay based on a persuasive argument. This lesson is designed to ignite a passion in students to stand up for change while writing their persuasive essays.

Lesson Author: Abby Olde, Nevada middle school English teacher


Two More Persuasive Lessons by Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultants:

A Show Me You Care about your Topic Lesson:
What's Your "Fifth Element?"

Overview: In the first chapter of his The Snow Walker, Farley Mowatt shares details about a time when the ancient world was experiencing a paradigm shift, much as our modern world is constantly experiencing a new paradigm shift.  This writing assignment asks students to choose something that is important in this modern world and write an organized case that persuades others of their item's significance as world-changing discovery.

Lesson Author: Carol Lubet, Nevada middle school teacher

A Prove to Me You Are Right Lesson:
How Big is Hagrid?

Overview: Using knowledge of what makes good persuasive writing, students will critically read a section of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and then use mathematics and the evidence from the reading to decide on the size of the character Hagrid. Students create a life size cut-out of Hagrid, writing their explanation of work according to the state ideas and development portion of the writing rubric.

Lesson Author: Holly Young, WritingFix's NumberFix Coordinator


Jigsawing Humor-Inspired Writing Lessons Activity from our Persuasive Writing Workshop for Teachers

Why do we do this activity? When students can use humor to write about a topic, they learn to care about the topic more.

During the 2009-2010 school year, we received a small grant that allowed us to purchase books for all of our persuasive writing workshops' participants. The book we chose to purchase for them was Barry Lane and Gretchen Bernabei's Why We Must Run With Scissors: Voice Lessons in Persuasive Writing. This book is designed to spark students interest on the topic of persuasive writing, and many of the lessons ask students to think about persuasive writing techniques with a sense of humor. The book is full of very useable lessons and exercises.; as a whole group, we study the first chapter of introductory lessons, and we study the book's title lesson: Why We Must Run with Scissors. To help our participants see the variety of lessons in the remainder of the book, we do jigsaw activity.

What do we do? Each group randomly draws one of the assigned chapters from this 5-page jigsaw packet. They have thirty minutes to create a presentation that 1) summarizes the book's activity; 2) extends upon the book's suggested "spin-offs," and 3) discusses how the book's suggested mentor text (each activity suggests a supplemental text that can enhance the lesson) might be used when teaching it.

If you would like to earn a copy of Barry Lane and Gretchen Bernabei's book, be sure to see the offer at the top of this page.

 
The Five Jigsaws:
 


Jigsaw A: Lesson #14 from the book

Mentor Text 1: Why We Must Run With Scissors
Mentor Text 2: Dear Mr. Blueberry


Jigsaw B: Lessons #19 & 20 from the book

Mentor Text 1: Why We Must Run With Scissors
Mentor Text 2: The Jolly Postman
Mentor Text 3: Amelia's Notebook


Jigsaw C: Lesson #25 from the book

Mentor Text 1: Why We Must Run With Scissors
Mentor Text 2: Letters from a Nut



Jigsaw D: Lesson #37 from the book

Mentor Text 1: Why We Must Run With Scissors
Mentor Text 2: That's Good! That's Bad!


Jigsaw E: Lesson #50 from the book

Mentor Text 1: Why We Must Run With Scissors
Mentor Text 2: The Tortoise and the Hare Continued...


Preparing Our Jigsaw Presentations...

 


Presenting our Jigsaws to Each Other:

Persuasive Writing Lessons Inspired by Humor

Don't Eat Me Monologues

Mentor Text: Steven Layne's My Brother Dan's Delicious

Objective: Students practice persuasive writing skills through humor as they provide alternative arguments to something that looks down on them from the food chain.

Lesson inspired by: Amy Richards, NNWP Consultant and elementary teacher

A Most Nutritious Election

Mentor Text: Rosemary Wells' Otto Runs For President

Objective: Pretending there is an election for the Fruit or Vegetable of the Year, students will write speeches for fruits or vegetables trying to be elected.

Lesson inspired by: Nevada elementary teachers Julie Schmidt and Samantha Shoolroy

Creative Convincing

Mentor Text: Doreen Cronin's CLICK, CLACK, MOO: Cows that Type

Objective: Students assume the voice of an animal who wants something and write friendly letters that persuade humans to give them what they want. 

Lesson inspired by: Vicky Hood, Nevada elementary teacher


Unusual Friendly Letters

Mentor Text: Mark Teague's Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School

Overview: Students will use voice and try their hand at the mentor text's letter writing techniques as they pen an unusual friendly letter that attempts to persuade.  

Lesson inspired by: Jennifer Mitchell, Nevada elementary teacher

Thanksgiving Turkey Protests

Mentor Text: Keiko Kasza's My Lucky Day

Overview: Students, borrowing ideas from the mentor text, create an original story about a turkey convincing a human not to eat him/her on Thanksgiving.

Lesson inspired by: Barbara Surritte-Barker, Nevada middle school teacher

I Wanna [Something]

Mentor Text: Karen Kaufmann Orloff's I Wanna Iguana

Overview: Students write persuasive letters between two characters; they can write letters from both characters' perspectives, or they can write as one of the characters and exchange their letters with another student who is writing as the second character.

Lesson inspired by: Summer Sprenger, Nevada elementary teacher

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