Elaboration Strengthens Persuasive Writing

Elaboration can really strengthen persuasive writing. Let’s take a look at three ways to teach it. As an easy first step, ask kids to add examples. When they get the hang of that, show them how to include details. Finally, you can teach them to generate lists. How can you achieve this? Try modeling. It really works! You can use the anchor charts in this post to get started.


Before you begin elaborating, focus on getting kids to use active voice. Sometimes they’ll begin sentences with phrases like, “There were,” or “There are.” Other times students just say what they see. Ask this: What did/will they do?

  • Child: There were acrobats.
  • Teacher: What did they do?
  • Child: The acrobats flipped around on the stage.

  • Child: You’ll see bears.
  • Teacher: What do they do?
  • Child: Bears perform.

What causes passive voice? Putting the subject at the end of the sentence (as the object). As you can see, asking what the subject will do makes a big difference. Just move the focal point of the sentence to the beginning and tell what they are doing.

Elaboration with Examples

Even beginners can add examples. To get them going, ask kids to add an example after every reason. Teach them to use transition terms like “for example” and “for instance” to signal examples. They may also say “in other words,” “as an illustration,” “to demonstrate,” “in fact,” and so on.

Elaboration with Examples

Elaboration with Details

Adding details takes more work. If you teach it as a step-by-step process, kids will learn to persevere. In the anchor chart below, you see that we first switch to active voice by asking, “What will they do?” Then it’s just a matter of getting more and more specific. Visualizing and guiding questions help.

  • Child: You’ll see lions.
  • Teacher: What do the lions do?
  • Child: Lions do tricks.
  • Teacher: Visualize the lions doing tricks. Is anyone or anything else in the ring with the lion?
  • Child: Yes, trainers get their lions to do tricks.
  • Teacher: What kind of tricks?
  • Child: They jump through hoops.
  • Teacher: How does the trainer get them to do that?
  • Child: Trainers coax lions to jump through hoops.
  • Teacher: Can you think of anything to make it more exciting?
  • Child: Trainers coax lions to soar through flaming hoops.

Elaboration with Details

Elaboration with Lists

Packing sentences with lists can take paragraphs from passive to active in no time. Ask kids to list three different things the subject does. Then they can string them together in a series, as shown below.

Elaboration with Details

When kids learn to elaborate, their writing improves exponentially. These three strategies can be used in any type of informational writing. It’s time to add them to your students’ toolbox!

Persuasive Writing Series

Learn more about improving persuasive writing in these blog posts:

Looking for related instructional materials? Check out the circus-themed video, anchor charts, modeling, and student sheets in my Teachers pay Teachers store.

Circus clip art was created by Kate Hadfield.

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