Persuasive writing attempts to convince someone of a writer’s point of view or to change his behavior. Writers can choose from a wide range of topics, but sometimes the most persuasive arguments come from something the writer experiences, and he will make it a point to try to change the minds of others. As students begin to experiment with other forms of writing in middle school, persuasive and argumentative writing becomes a key part of their education.
Students learning to analyze and to recognize persuasive writing can get a number of examples from reading newspaper and magazine editorials. With topics ranging from local and national issues, students learn the elements of a good argument and how writers use persuasive language and vocabulary to make their case. They will also understand how opinion writers use and manipulate statistics. Conducting a fact-checking exercise helps students distinguish fact from fiction, an exercise that also allows students to differentiate and identify good editorial and opinion writers. Inviting a local newspaper editorial writer to talk to students about the writing process also helps students gain a different perspective.
Brainstorming is the process of narrowing a topic and begins with writing down anything that first comes to mind. Writing phrases, words, subject matter, resources, references and even sentence fragments gives writers’ one place to put their thoughts. In persuasive writing, brainstorming helps writers focus on just persuasive language and ideas rather than letting their mind wander to other topics and subjects. It can also include the beginning stages of writing specific steps as to how the writer plans to win an argument by listing things with bullets. Teachers using brainstorming for this task should give students a time limit so the process does not take up huge amounts of time.
Convince the Teacher
Teachers start this exercise by picking a topic and asking each of the students to come up with some sort of argument trying to convince the teacher to change her point of view or behavior. Each student quickly learns what persuasive techniques work best and what students may encounter as a problem. This exercise works best when picking an easier topic to start and then making it more difficult. Beginning with topics such as why the teacher should listen to a new recording artist, why she should read a new book or what movies she should see all make great places to begin. Challenge the students by making the subject matter reach across the curriculum by using topics and issues in subjects like world cultures, history and science.
Using peer review as a way to teach persuasive writing allows students to see how others in the class think and how they persuade a reader to action. Reading the writing to their classmates allows them to recognize how they build and develop an argument, what language they use and how they structure a paper. They can also end the activity with an assessment of one another’s work and ask the question “Am I convinced?” as it relates to the argument. Peer review is also good for the overall writing process to help students recognize grammar, style, structure and spelling errors. Students may also not be comfortable sharing the same thoughts with a teacher as they would with a fellow classmate, making peer review invaluable in the teaching of writing.
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