How do I teach persuasive writing?
How do I teach persuasive writing?
For this response, we turned to writing expert Ruth Culham:
There are three major types of writing: narrative, expository, and persuasive. In the Common Core era of writing instruction, these are labeled narrative, informational/explanatory, and argument (opinion). Opinions are the focus for grades K-5, while middle and high school students should learn to write academic arguments.
Here, in brief, is the purpose of each:
- Narrative: to convey real or imagined experiences or events, using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
- Informative/explanatory: to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the careful selection, organization and analysis of content.
- Opinion/argument: to write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
The first step toward helping students learn to write effective arguments and opinions is to explain that they are built on the back of accurate information. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Brainstorm topics that your students care about. Resist the temptation to assign topics. Help them discover things they have strong feelings about. Tap into their passions. It doesn’t matter what the topic is. After all, what we want them to learn is how to write a strong, persuasive piece.
- Use mentor texts to show students what a well-written argument looks like. You can find examples, grade by grade, in Appendix C of the ELA Standards. Read and discuss these models and help students understand how credible information is used to create an opinion piece, not just personal insight. You can even have students critique the samples.
- Help students gather information about their topic. They can do research on the Internet, take notes, interview people, go the library and/or use any resources available to gather facts, data, charts and graphs to support their opinion. This process will help them focus their topic, moving from a general claim such as “More sports should be offered after school” to “Field hockey should be added to after-school activities for boys and girls.”
- Ask students to draft their piece and confer with fellow students during the process. Offer specific, useful advice on something they could do to improve their work. Use a list of key qualities of the traits for possible places to weigh in with student writing. More information about the traits is available on my website, www.culhamwriting.com. Click on Library, then the Scoring Guides tab. There are versions for teachers and students that you can download and share. Each trait scoring guide is built around the four key qualities of every trait. There are also teacher-friendly and student-friendly scoring guides for each mode of writing.
- Work with students to revise and edit their pieces until they are as clear and read as smoothly as possible. Show them how to create a “Sources Cited” page for any direct quotes they’ve included. Use a model for this page as well.
- Allow time for students to share what they have done in small groups. Discuss the writing process for the opinion/argument pieces with the class. Ask them to comment on what they learned and what they would do differently next time.
Students should write at least two or more argument essays every year to build strengths in this area.