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A Persuasive Writing Lesson Inspired by Comparison/Contrast
this writing across the curriculum assignment inspires voice from your students

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This Lesson's Mentor Text:

The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown

This picture book provides a simple-to-imitate format for writing a paragraph or short poem. Margaret Wise Brown's book offers a poetic perspective on many items--rain, snow, wind.


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This Activity's Title:

Three-Voice Important Book Passages

exploring the same topic from three different perspectives, focusing on superlatives

This writing lesson was built to serve as an example for teachers taking the NNWP's Persuasive Writing Across the Curriculum In-service Workshop.

The Northern Nevada Writing Project's sixth print resource--The Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide-- inspired the lesson write-up on this page. Teachers who take any of the NNWP's Writing Across the Curriculum in-service classes receive a copy of this publication for their classrooms. If you would like to purchase this guide, please visit the NNWP's Print Publications page.


Three-Sentence Lesson Overview:

After discussing Margaret Wise Brown's poetic perspective of items in her The Important Book, student will compose different important-passages about the same items from non-poetic perspectives. Next, students will study topics on which people have a variety of different opinions and attitudes. Finally, students will write three important-passages on the studied topic, each exploring a different viewpoint of the topic.

Writing Across the Curriculum Ideas:

In addition to practicing idea development and voice skills, this lesson would enrich a unit on topics that might have a little bit of controversy associated with them:

  • any current social studies topic (illegal immigration, etc.)
  • any past controversial social studies topic (taxation with representation, etc.)
  • any current controversial science topic (stem cell research, etc.)
  • any past controversial science topic (vaccinations, etc.)
  • or...?

Trait/Skill Focus:

In the very best writing lessons, the teacher has pre-determined a trait-based skill that the students all need to show growth with as part of the lesson's objective. For students who can handle more than one trait at a time, the teacher has pre-determined additional skills to focus those students on while they go through the writing process. Here are this lesson's trait skills:

  • Voice - all students will write important passages that examine different perspectives with an authentic-sounding voice.
  • Organization - all students will create an organized paragraph whose introduction and conclusion link.
  • Idea Development - stronger writers will work hard to make sure the ideas presented in each perspective paragraph are completely in original words (not borrowed from another source).

Using the Mentor Text Skillfully:

Ah yes, it's a classic! has been inspiring students to imitate its format ever since it was written. The key with using this mentor text well is to make sure students really think about what's the most important thing about the topic they are writing about. Having to think about a superlative and a topic of study is a great comparison & contrast activity.

Talk to your students about comparing and contrasting different perspectives. Say, "Three different people could look at the same item and have three very different opinion of what's the most important thing about that topic. When Margaret Wise Brown wrote her important-passages, she was thinking from the perspective of a poet. Today, we're going to think about the same topics she poetically explored from different perspectives."

Share any of the important-passages from the book and be sure your students understand the format of these passages. If you need to create a frame for them to successfully write these passages, do so. Here is a picture of a poster-frame we saw in the classroom of Nevada teacher/librarian Amy Hybarger:

Then share the important passage from the book about the rain. Have them listen to it with the ears of a poet, then discuss her poetic, image-filled details.

Ask students to work with a partner and to compose two different important-passages about rain from two different perspectives. Here are some ideas for the passages:

The important thing about rain...
(from the perspective of)
  • a weatherman
  • an umbrella manufacturer
  • the Wicked Witch of the West
  • a global warming activist
  • a global warming nay-sayer
  • a Dust Bowl victim
  • a Hurricane Katrina survivor
  • a commercial fisherman
  • a professional athlete
  • or?

Place the partners' two passages side by side with Margaret Wise Brown's poetic look at rain. Tell them the three passages create set of three-voice important-passages, which they will soon be creating for a different topic.

Student and/or Teacher Models of the Writing:

Here is a teacher model you can show students to help them understand the task at hand:

Three Perspectives on a School Dress Code:
The administrator perspective: The important thing to know about a dress code is that it will bring safety to our school. With uniforms, I will know who belongs on school grounds and who does not. We will deter gang affiliations that are represented through color and clothing. Economic differences will be less of an issue when designer clothes and name brands become a non-issue. But the important thing to know about a dress code is that it will bring safety to our school.
The student perspective: The important thing to know about a dress code is that it won't stop us from being individuals. We are teenagers, and being different from each other is what helps us survive this crazy time in our lives. If you make us dress the same, we will be more likely to pierce and tattoo ourselves. Our hair will become even more radical than it already is. The important thing to know about a dress code is that it won't stop us from being individuals.
The legal perspective: The important thing to know about a dress code is that it infringes on student rights. Freedom of expression is a right given to all citizens in the First Amendment, students included. Liberty (which includes liberty of personal appearance) is guaranteed to everyone with the Fourteenth Amendment, and this violation can be challenged in court. If I take you to court, it will become the school's burden will become to prove the need for uniforms, not mine to prove that they're unconstitutional. So the important thing to know about a dress code is that it infringes on student rights.

We're looking for student-made samples: If you use this lesson with students in grades not represented here, be sure to contact us if you have an excellent and inspirational sample from your classroom. If we end up publishing your students' work at WritingFix, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of the NNWP Publications for your classroom.

A Tool from the Comparison/Contrast Guide:

The three-voice story-board activity from the NNWP's Comparison/Contrast Guide serves as a great pre-write to this writing assignment. Once your students have had time to learn about the topic(s) they will be writing about, have them brainstorm three possible perspectives by creating a three-panel cartoon.

The worksheet from the guide asks students to capture in a single sentence from three people who have a different opinion about the topic; the example at the bottom of the worksheet demonstrates the concept before students create their example in the top half.

When drawing pictures of their cartoon's three speakers, you can use this handout of emotional faces to inspire perspectives that go beyond love it, hate it, and indifferent about it.


Student Talk Throughout the Writing Process:

When teaching persuasive voice, it's important to have students hear one another's writing out loud. Place students in groups and have them share their single sentences from their three-voice story boards aloud. Suggest they try to show a balance of objectivity among their three statements, and require the student groups to help balance that objectivity.

Then have students work by themselves to compose their three perspective paragraphs.

Once drafted, have the student groups reconvene to provide additional feedback on the important passages' objectivity. Be sure to have students read their important passages aloud rather than pass them and quietly read them.

Revision Suggestions:

Revision is a very important step during a skill-based writing lesson. When students revisit and think deeply about the lesson's focus trait/skill after a rough draft has been completed, they are more likely to remember strategies for using that skill the next time they are asked to write. We often gloss over the step of revision when writing lessons go longer than they were supposed to; make certain to find time to include real revision with this lesson.

Attach the following revision Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts to help them determine skill-based goals for their important passages' revision:

Print on yellow paper or yellow Post-it® Note-sized templates.

Print on green paper or green Post-it® Note-sized templates.

Publishing Suggestions:

  1. Have student writers "hire" a three-person acting troupe and direct them to say the three passages aloud with the proper amount of realistic voice. These can be preformed in front of the class.
  2. Create a foldable where all three passages are published with an original illustration or a magazine cut out that represents each speaker.
  3. Submit up to three of your students' best work at our ning for possible publication at the WritingFix website! See the blue box below!

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  You can post up to three of your students' monologues at our posting page for this lesson.


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