Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Kids to Write: Writing to Persuade
This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our   Kaleidoscope Collection :   Polar Bears   and   The White Whale . She has been writing a series of posts on teaching children to write;   you can view her earlier posts by clicking here!

Writing to Persuade

Can I have a pet? Can we go to the pool? Can I buy a new bike? Children are experts at coming up with things they would like to have. Truth be told, we as adults are very similar, though our wants may be a little pricier: a new car, a new house, or an exciting vacation. We are bombarded with media trying to convince us to fulfill our wants.

Teaching your students to write a persuasive essay creates an opportunity to channel their passions.   Ask them to brainstorm 3-5 things they want or would like to accomplish:

  • Wants: a dog, summer camp, new tennis shoes, an iPad, a fishing trip
  • Accomplishments: guitar lessons, swimming lessons, gymnastics class, job, horseback riding lessons

Next, ask them to discuss the list and prioritize the items.   This requires some conversation about why each thing is important. The dialogue would also provoke a possible plan of action to reach the goal. As they discuss the list, ask them to jot down notes that are important points in the discussion. Ask them to compose a one-page argument using the notes. Share the essay with a partner first, then a group or class. They may want to revise the ideas based on feedback from others. 

After a few opportunities in organizing their own thoughts and opinions and creating a plan of action, the class might like to come up with a group project.   Small groups of students could prepare speeches as to why their project would be best for the class. After this information is presented, a vote could be taken to select the most popular idea. 

Examples could include cleaning up a playground, recycling soda cans, making signs to help with littering, or teaching younger students about bicycle safety and why they should wear bike helmets. These ideas could be written as a plan of action to be shared with other classes, an entire school, or a Parent Teacher Association group

I Want to Be a Scuba Diver   by Anita Goodwin (Level H) in the Kaleidoscope Collection is told from the point of view of a young boy. He tells about the adventures that his family members have while scuba diving and why he wishes he could join them.

“Mom likes to dive with her underwater camera. She takes pictures of sea turtles and different kinds of coral. Dad likes to dive in caves. He has lights on his helmet. He looks for fossils in rocks. I ask Dad, 'When can I dive?'"

This book could be used as an example for showing how the boy creates his reasons to want to be a scuba diver. 

Pet Day   by Nancy Brekke (Level G), is another book in the Kaleidoscope Collection. This is a story about children bringing their pets to school. Read the book as a discussion opener to why different people prefer various pets. Ask the children to look for describing words about the pets.

“Carter brought his salamander. It was very slimy.”

“Ethan brought his pot-bellied pig. It looked kind of ugly.”

“Brianna brought her guinea pig. It had a potbelly, too.”

“Our principal brought his pet. It was a python snake. No one wanted to touch it.” 

Talk about the care that would be required for each of these pets. Each student could create an illustrated brochure listing the positive reasons that they think their pet is best. Share with the group to develop speaking skills. 

Extend the activity by thinking of some unusual pets: hedgehog, lamb, spider, etc. Talk about why some animals do not make good pets and are best left in a zoo or the wild. Examples include a monkey, raccoon, skunk, or deer.

Three fun books from the Joy Cowley Collection are told from the pet’s point of view. They give advice on what to do and not do.

“Do not fly over the dinner table. Humans do not like feathers or anything else dropped in their food.”

“In your new home there is an oven with a glass door. This is not a dog TV.”

Providing children with a personal reason to write is a fantastic way to motivate them.   Persuasive writing, when applied to real life, can show them that words on a page can create positive change. Newspaper editorials are another example of persuasive writing. This is just one example of author’s purpose. Ask the question, “Why is the author writing this piece?” They may wish to respond to an editorial with their viewpoint.

  • Create situations where the students are assigned opposing roles on an issue. Ask them to defend their views. Then, mix up the group and have some students switch views. It may be an eye opener to look at the issue from the other side.
  • Create a school survey to take the pulse of how students feel about a particular issue. Tally the results. Assign groups to defend each view. Share.
  • Many stories have been written that show a traditional tale from the other point of view. Look in the library for these titles and share with the class.

For more information on the   Kaleidoscope Collection  containing books written by this author, you can download an information sheet by clicking on the image below. To learn more about the Joy Cowley Collection, which includes the book shown in this post,   click here to visit our website , or click the image to the right below for the information sheet for that series.  

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