We are less than a month away from my favorite essay of the school year – the persuasive (argumentative) essay. The persuasive essay unit will be five weeks long. This is one of the most important essays that the students will learn to write in sixth grade. It is likely that they will write many more persuasive essays in the rest of their middle school years and their high school years (in both English and history class; possibly even science class). With it being a little less than a month from the start of the persuasive essay, I will spend the week preparing for this writing unit.
The persuasive writing basics (strategies that I will teach the students):
- Know your purpose/reason for persuading (Know your opinion)
- Keep your audience in mind
- State the facts/reasons clearly and well
- Look at the other side’s opinion and prove them wrong
- Connect with the audience’s head and heart
- Say what you want, or ask for action
- Think about “quality” words, not quantity.” (Keep it short but powerful)
As we prepare for the persuasive essay, we will learn how advertisers persuade. We will read an article entitled “How Advertisers Persuade” from Writing magazine (September 1999). The article may be twenty years old, but the strategies and tactics are still relevant today. We will visit (in Google Hangout) with a director (from Hero Status Films) who produces commercials, short films, and one full-length film about the strategies he uses when producing commercials. We will watch and analyze commercials (looking for the strategies used).
Then, we will learn how lawyers persuade a judge and/or jury. We will watch the court scene film clip from the new Miracle on 34th Street. We assess the lawyers on their closing arguments with the persuasive writing strategies (listed above). The students will then be assigned specific court cases (school uniforms, year-round schooling, curfew), and working in small groups, they will write and present closing arguments. They will need to use the strategies that we learned at the beginning of the unit to develop their closing arguments. The presentations will happen in class (court room setting) with their peers being the jury. Their peers will assess their closing arguments on how well they presented the closing argument while utilizing the persuasive writing strategies.
Independently, the students will write a paragraph answering the question, “Who is the greatest ___________?” The students will pick a topic (example: basketball) and a person (LeBron James), and then, they will use the digital resources within our school’s library to research the person. They will write a paragraph about why the specific person is the greatest at the specific topic. The paragraph will only contain details that are relevant (example: no details about the person’s birth) in persuading the reader. The students will be assessed individually on their paragraphs (and utilizing the seven strategies).
Using the same digital database, the students will choose a topic and begin researching. After doing thorough research and gathering three (or four) articles about their topic, they will begin writing the persuasive essay. They will be encouraged to use the “Opposing Viewpoints” as part of their research. They will write a four-paragraph essay persuading the reader (their peers and myself). Each student will work through the writing process to write, revise, and edit the essay. This will serve as the final assessment of the persuasive writing unit.