How should you teach persuasive writing? Here are some tips and tricks to get your students started.
Let’s get started!
What is persuasive writing?
Before sending your students off to write, make sure they understand what persuasive writing is.
Persuasive writing is designed to convince the reader to think or act a certain way. Persuasive writing employs these techniques:
- ethos — credibility of the writer
- pathos — appeals to the reader through emotion
- logos — uses logic, reason, and facts
Persuasive writing can be in the form of a:
- opinion piece
Analyze persuasive language
Students love analyzing persuasive language — especially propaganda! You can use commercials (both print and video) to get students started analyzing language.
A quick way to do this is to choose a commercial for your class to view and analyze. You can ask students to determine:
- Who is the audience?
- What is the goal of the speaker?
- What is the speaker doing in order to convince the audience?
- How does the speaker use logic? emotions? his/her credibility?
Once students have had a chance to look carefully at persuasive language, you will want to teach them ethos, logos, and pathos.
Watch a segment of the TV show “Shark Tank” and challenge your students to answer those same questions. This show illustrates how important it is for persuasion to have strong ethos, pathos, and logos.
The short pitches of the show make it a good learning tool. You can start and stop to point out where the speakers use different ways to persuade. Notice that the goal of the speaker is to make a deal — that is the same with persuasive language:
The writer’s goal with persuasive writing is to win by getting the reader to join her side.
Once your students understand what persuasive writing is, they can begin gathering ideas.
Who do they want to persuade? And of what? Provide your students plenty of time to gather a wide variety of ideas.
Try these ideas for generating ideas:
- what is something you want? who (audience) do you need to persuade?
- what do you feel strongly about that you want someone (audience) else to feel the same way about?
- what is your dream for the world? who (audience) needs to share that dream?
Notice that these questions take into consideration both the topic and the audience.
Who is the audience?
As students start gathering ideas, be sure they need to think about the audience for each idea.
Try this: have students create a T-chart. One column can be the idea and the other can be the audience.
Middle school students need more study hall time administration
I need my own computer parent
My friends should join this club with me friend
As students start generating ideas, they can see how different their method of persuasion will differ based on who their audience is.
Need more evidence? Ask your students to watch a few commercials on different channels. Those on children’s networks differ greatly from those on sports networks. Why? Different audiences.
Discuss how your students might approach different audiences. They can look at word choice, tone, sentence structure, as well as content.
Once students have an idea they want to use, have them draft — or even just freewrite about their topic.
It is so helpful for them to just get their ideas down on paper to determine how they are going to persuade. Encourage students to intentionally incorporate ethos, pathos, and logos.
Finished Persuasive Project
One of the fun aspects of persuasive writing is that the true “test” as to whether or not persuasion is effective. That test is — are you persuaded?
Some alternatives to a written paper:
- an elevator speech
- a commercial
- a class “shark tank”
- poster or print ad
Regardless of what the finished product is, be sure to allow students to share their persuasive language. Challenge them to, just like in the case of analyzing a commercial, find evidence of ethos, pathos, and logos.
Enjoy teaching students this critical thinking skill!