Convince Me: The Start to our Persuasive Writing Unit


This is probably my favorite writing unit. I've found it very easy to scaffold and build, which is super important for my EL cluster (and really- most of my students). It's engaging and it shows how writing can impact others. We've been working on it for about a week now and we are slowly learning the art to persuasion. This is a work in progress- some charts aren't complete yet, graphic organizers only half-filled, but by the end of the week (hopefully- I'm home sick) we should be ready to write our first draft!


I wrote my own persuasive piece in a morning message one day to launch our new unit. In addition to that, we watched a few Kid President videos. I literally had kids say out loud, "I want to make today awesome!" We talked how Kid President made his message so believable to them and that we would be doing the same thing as him: Trying to make the world better through persuasive writing- starting right at our school.


I wanted to do an On Demand to see what they would bring without any of my teaching. I told them to think of a problem here at school and write a persuasive (opinion) speech. This gave me great insight into what the previous grades focused on and it allowed me to give some feedback to my students. I wrote down a glowing moment (lightbulb) and a growing moment (seedling) to tell them what to keep doing and what a goal might be.
We then started this chart. We'll continue to add to it as we learn about the structure of a persuasive speech. The top part as to just define it and state the reasons as to why write this type of writing. They then began to brainstorm problems in our school that they could image solutions for. We used my teammates AWESOME resource for our planning purposes. 

I've used the same student's work throughout this post so you can see the different steps we took. I'm really proud of this kiddo, as he is one of my ELs who have found a love for writing this year.


After we brainstormed and selected a problem to solve, we stated our solution in the form of an opinion. Our curriculum has them call it a thesis statement. We did some work around bold and brave vs. wishy-washy statements and they had their opinion ready to support!


We started talking about audience right away so that when we start thinking of examples and reasons, they are tied to our audience. We did this activity that I made up last year to get them thinking about talking to their audience throughout their speech (which is exactly what Kid President does too).  We practiced with the cards from my updated pack Convince Me that includes this hand out and the cards! They had to talk to the audience listed on the card and convince them of the opinion also on the card by thinking how their audience might react and what they might think. Check it out!

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Now, it was time to come up with reasons. And this was the part they always struggle with. Their reasons are usually weak and they don't think about their audience at all. I found an excellent post from Teresa at Confessions of a Teaching Junkie and used most of it in my room this year and it worked like a charm. You should definitely check out her original post.

We defined the word "valid" with a shade of meaning visual. I found the book Teresa recommended on Youtube since I didn't have a copy. As the book was being read, I jotted down the different reasons the boy gave to his mom as to why he should have a pet iguana, while the students enjoyed and listened.
Sorry for the poor quality- these were taken on my phone up on the SMARTboard


We then thought about the audience, which was his mom, and thought which reasons would be most convincing to a mom. As long as they could defend it (defensible) and it made sense (logical) we considered it valid. We slowly erased the reasons until we had what we thought were the 3 strongest reasons. I didn't necessarily think that the iguana being eaten by another animal was a valid reason, but two kiddos had rather convincing statements, so as a class, we kept it. 

We then tried it with my reasons I jotted down the previous day for my "model" persuasive speech. They helped me determine which ones were most valid.


Then, it was their turn and I saw a lot of students going back to the reasons they jotted down originally and adding more, crossing out invalid reasons and picking their top 3. 


Once we picked 3, we added them to our planning page, my free OREO page from my store.

With this kiddo (and many others) we'll go back to our reasons and write them as strong, full sentences as opposed to ... because... so... etc. type of statements during our revision stage. But, his reasons are pretty valid in my eyes!

What's next for us?
  • Come up with strong examples
  • Add in transitional phrases to flow from one reason to the next
  • Add a hook involving a question or anecdote before we state our problem and solution (opinion)
  • Add in a conclusion to call our audience towards action
  • Find places to "talk" to our audience
My hope is to get these drafted, revised, and editing and then actually record these speeches into mini-videos so we can send them to our target audience and get their reactions. Time will tell if we can accomplish all of that!



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1 comment

  1. I love how you always start your lessons with "hooks" to engage your students from the start! I really like those glowing and growing statements, too. I like how you spent so much time on identifying valid, logical reasons, too. I've never done that before, but I will next time. I always love reading your posts, Kelli!

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