Teaching persuasive writing methods to third or fourth graders? Begin with a simple graphic organizer. Then elaborate, improve word choice, add transitions, and vary sentences. Before you know it, kids’ writing will shine!
Ms. Sneed Loves Teaching Persuasive Writing Methods
On Monday morning, our favorite fourth grade teacher scurried around her classroom. Today, she’d start the unit on argumentative writing.
After the bell rang, shewelcomed her class. “As I take attendance, think about the mythology unit we just finished. Which character would make the best president?”
The class buzzed as kids began sharing with their neighbors. Ms. Sneed finished the lunch count and took a seat in the front of the classroom. Then she clapped a snappy beat, the class clapped back, and she smiled at them intently. “So? Have you picked a character?”
As she watched the kids nodding their heads, she continued. “You will write a persuasive paragraph. Your goal is to convince your audience to vote for that character for president.
Teaching Persuasive Writing Involves Modeling
As she walked to the projector, she continued: “Let’s review the structures of persuasive writing. Unlike other types of writing, persuasion uses second person. That means you’ll directly address the audience using the word ‘you.’ At the beginning, you’ll state your opinion. And at the end, you’ll call the audience to action. Actually, you’ll be giving them a command, like, ‘Do this now!'”
Beginnings and Endings
Ms. Sneed projected an anchor chart and fully launched into teaching persuasive writing methods. “Here you see a sample opinion and call to action about the circus. Notice that they’re both in second person. At the beginning of the paragraph, we tell the audience what to do. Then, at the end, we give a command.”
The teacher continued, “Beginnings and endings can also unify the style of your paragraph. . To open the paragraph, offer an invitation to read on. For example, hook them with a question, dialogue, or surprise statement. At the end, wrap it up. Specifically, match the hook with an answer, more dialogue, or surprise statement.”
She pulled out a piece of paper with a few notes. “I’ve written some samples that go with this circus paragraph.”
As she launched into an explanation, the class grew more attentive.
Question and Answer
- Hook at the beginning: Would you like to see what’s inside that tent?
- Matching ending: You will find out what’s under the big top.
- Hook at the beginning: Come one, come all, to see the most amazing sights in the universe.
- Matching ending: Welcome to the circus.
- Hook at the beginning: Lions and tigers and bears are roaming the town!
- Matching ending: Don’t delay! They’re unloading the elephants.
Ms. Sneed noticed that a few students already jotted down beginnings and endings for their upcoming pieces. As usual, a small teacher smile spread across her face.
Next, she pulled up a second anchor chart for teaching persuasive writing. “Let’s take a look at how to organize your paragraph. It’s actually quite easy. First, you state your opinion. Second, you state three reasons. And third, call the reader to action.” Ms. Sneed continued with simple examples about the circus:
- You should visit the circus.
- You’ll see lions.
- You’ll see elephants.
- You’ll see bears.
- Get your ticket to the circus today.
“Hey,” said a child in the back row, “that’s not a very good paragraph.”
Ms. Sneed’s smiled widened. “So glad you noticed. We still have work to do.”
Elaborating with Details
The next anchor chart featured lions. “Let’s do a bit of elaboration,” said Ms. Sneed. “First, we need to stop saying, ‘You’ll see.’ Instead, what is it that lions do?”
“Tricks!” the students exclaimed.
“Right. But saying that still isn’t that good. I could say that trainers get their lions to do tricks. But I feel that we could do better. So maybe we’ll say that they coax the lions to do tricks. But that’s still not specific enough. Maybe we can say that the trainers coax lions to soar through flaming hoops.”
“Yeah,” she heard someone whisper. Now they were getting somewhere.
Elaborating with Lists
The next poster showed kids how to elaborate with a list. “For the next sentence, we’ll add some action verbs.”
She pointed as she explained. “Again, what are the animals doing? Well, as I watch the elephants at a circus, they parade, stand on their back legs, and make a loud trumpet-like noise. Now I take all of those great verbs and make a terrific new sentence: Elephants parade, stand on their hind legs, and trumpet majestically.”
“That’s better,” said the kid in the back row.
Ms. Sneed’s smile widened. Yes, she was enjoying teaching persuasive writing.
Elaborating with Examples
Finally, Ms. Sneed displayed an anchor chart for the sentence about bears. “This time,” she said, we’ll add an example. Of course, we don’t want to say, ‘You’ll see bears.’ Instead, we’ll say, ‘Bears perform.’ That’s pretty short. So I think about how they perform.”
The teacher paused for effect. Then she pointed to the pictures. “For example, they may balance on a tightrope or attempt to form a pyramid.”
Choosing Wow Word
Ms. Sneed looked out at her class. Now that the hard word is done, well add some specialized words to make our paragraph as good as it can be.
The next anchor chart provided a lot of great circus-specific nouns.
“I don’t need to remind you,” Ms Sneed said with an intent smile, “about the importance of word choice.”
The kids sighed and laughed weakly. True, their teacher preached this all the time.
“As usual, choose specific nouns and active verbs. For this form of writing, it’s even more important. When you sound like you know what you’re talking about, your audience will trust you. It gives you credibility.”
Next, Ms. Sneed displayed a comprehensive list of transition terms. “You’ve seen this before,” the teacher said to her class.
“We won’t spend much time talking about them. You know what to do. However, today, we will talk about additional ways to add transitions.”
A new anchor chart with pictures of a ringmaster showed up on the screen. “Forth this paragraph, think about how, when, and where. Then use prepositional phrases to help your audience share the experience with you. If for example, you wanted to say that the ringmaster announced the act, you might begin with:
- In a bellowing voice,
- In the center ring, or
- At the right moment.”
A few kids squirmed in their seats. “Ugh-oh,” Ms. Sneed thought, “teaching persuasive writing is taking just a little too long today.
She put one last anchor chart on the project. “For the grand finale, let’s talk about varying sentences,” she said.
“Now listen up. This is important. First, to magically improve your writing with little effort, begin each sentence in a paragraph differently. Second, instead of using all statements, or declarative sentences, add an exclamation or question. At the end of your paragraph, you’ll also use a command to call the reader to action. Third, use both long and short sentences. Longer sentences flow, and shorter sentences punctuate.”
Writing Persuasive Paragraphs
“Ready to write?” Ms. Sneed asked.
Now everyone squirmed in their seats. “Yes!” came the chorus.
“Alright, I’m done teaching persuasive writing methods for now. Let’s get started.”