Kid Logic

anpencil3I first published this a year ago, but it is once again true. I added some of the kid logic from the recent V-Chip persuasive.

It’s that time of year again–we’re teaching persuasive writing to our fifth and sixth graders. The students at our school are skilled writers. They get a lot of instruction and a lot of practice. They also have a lot of confidence in their ability. All of this contributes to their eagerness to learn something new. Persuasive writing, however, is difficult to master.

First, let’s look at persuasion in their lives. At this age (most of them are ten or eleven) they are used to asking for what they want and resorting to begging or demanding if they are told no. The fine art of persuasion eludes them.

Given their skill with words, these students are quickly able to master the basics of  a persuasive essay. They can present their reason for writing, state their thesis, and even acknowledge the reader’s concerns. They can write supporting paragraphs and craft a conclusion with a call to action. Why is this so difficult to teach, then? It comes down to kid logic.

We spend a lot of time teaching writers how to write for their audience. A great argument to persuade the school board, for example, is it will save a lot of money. If persuading parents, try it will enhance my self esteem and make me successful. When convincing a friend, the best argument is it will be fun. But no matter how many examples you give, when faced with brainstorming persuasive reasons kids always come up with kid logic.

Actual student examples of kid logic:

* If my parents use a V-chip to control what I watch on TV, I will turn into a bad person because I will want to steal the code.

* If the school has an honor roll, I will do worse in school because I can never make it.

* If the school closes its library, I won’t be able to read.

* If my parents don’t give me an allowance, I’ll be too embarrassed to go places with my friends.

* The city library should be open after school and on weekends because that’s when I can go.

* The V-chip will prevent my parents from watching their shows, too.

* The V-chip will prevent me from learning to make decisions. If someone asks me a question, I won’t know how to answer.

They’re kids. They don’t really understand what motivates the teachers, parents, principals, or government that they are trying to persuade. They don’t understand the complex layers of politics or financial weavings that complicate current issues. The result is kid logic.

So how does a teacher score kid logic? In my school district we use a rubric to score student writing. We look for solid reasons to support the thesis. But how can we expect kids to come up with adult logic? In recent years at my school we have begun to score the writing based not so much on the reason itself, but on how well it’s presented. So even if the reason is weak to the adult mind, it can be scored well if it is well supported with evidence and examples. This way, the writing is solid. The framework is in place for when the logic matures. In the meantime, their essays make for an entertaining read.

What do you think? If you’re a student, do you like persuasive writing? If you’re an adult, do you write persuasively?

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