Persuasive, Teaching Writing

Daily Arguments

pencil2When teaching students to write persuasively (which Common Core now calls Argument), it’s important for them to realize that they encounter the art of persuasion every day. After all, persuasion is nothing more than influencing someone else. In ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote abut how to persuade others. Three hundred years later, in Rome, Cicero wrote several books about persuasion. Today, daily persuasion can take many forms. Studies show that we receive up to 3000 persuasive messages each day.

Persuasion in any form can be both negative and positive. Television commercials tout foods that are not healthy and target children with ads for toys they supposedly can’t live without. Drug dealers and gang members persuade others to follow their lifestyle. Salesmen push expensive cars on people who can’t easily afford them. On the flip side, persuasion can also be used to encourage recycling or stopping smoking. On TV, a recent series of commercials from Pass It On encourages positive values.

Advertising is an obvious form of persuasion that we encounter every day. The television, radio, Internet, newspaper, magazine, email, direct mail, and billboards all try to convince us we need something. So many choices! Human beings are natural joiners. We want to do what others are doing, to have what they have, so we are very receptive to being persuaded. Advertising agencies, marketing firms, and public relations companies are all full-time persuaders.

While we are being persuaded daily, we also do our own persuading. Parents persuade children to wear certain clothes, eat certain foods, or be nice to a visiting grandparent. Teachers persuade students to learn. Children persuade parents to buy them a new toy, to increase their allowance, or to get a pet. Applicants for a job try to persuade the company that they are the best candidate, and bosses persuade workers to do their jobs well. Friends persuade each other to see a certain movie, read a certain book, follow a certain band. Personally, I try to persuade my husband to take me out to dinner every Friday night.

With persuasion such an important part of our lives, it is important to learn to do it effectively! Can I persuade you to comment on this post? How have you encountered persuasion in YOUR life today?

Persuasive, Teaching Writing

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?

Persuasive, Teaching Writing

Community Service

        book_and_feather    Hooray for Community Service!

by Taman

            The voices of cheerful kids ring in your ears. As you look around, you see smiling kids chattering while piling toys and books into trucks for the needy. Even though some students and adults may think that community service is a waste of time, I strongly believe that doing it is very helpful and critical to a student’s learning of good morals and ethics. Performing good works is beneficial because it teaches kids to care for the community, prepares students for the future, and makes children more responsible.

Some folks may think that doing community service won’t educate children anything useful; however, it can actually encourage students to care for their society. When kids do community service like picking up trash or planting trees, you are cleaning the environment. In the end, the environment will be more fresh and improved. Everyone will be happier! People will no longer have to breathe in yucky, polluted air. If adults and children inhale the disgusting air surrounding them, their bodies will be affected negatively. Nobody wants that to happen! Also, animals will now be more peaceful and cheerful since their habitats will be more sanitary. Animals will also have a smaller chance of dying or getting sick.

People may assume that good work will not actually do anything wonderful for children’s futures, but in reality, it can actually make their future easier and brighter! When kids begin to do community service, it will go onto their application for admission to college. Consequently, there will be a big chance that they can get into one of the best colleges just because of that. Once they get into their particular college, they can start trying to achieve their goals to become a doctor, dentist, professional basketball player, and much more. After that, they will become very successful and can make a lot of money to support their family and themselves. Their parents will be instantly full of joy just to see what their child has accomplished after many years of hard work. But making students’ futures brighter even more excellent isn’t the only reason why community services are fantastic.

Peer pressure from students’ classmates may play a role in this as well. Others may scoff the idea of doing community services because they think that it will not improve their “reputation” nor make their parents happier. In fact, they believe that community service may cause their parents to even expect more out of them and therefore causing them to do more work, but when students do good work, parents start to realize how independent their child is. Everyone will look up to them as responsible, hardworking kids. No one will ever think of them as lazy couch potatoes who watch T.V all day. After that, adults will trust their children to do bigger tasks. Some of the tasks are to babysit their little brother or sister, owning a pet, having a phone, and much more.

Students should do community service because it educates students to take care of their own community and make kids ready for their future. It also creates an opportunity for children to have more responsibility. I encourage parents and teachers to create more opportunities to perform community service as part of school.

Narrative, Persuasive

Narratives vs. Persuasive, Part 2

 

By definition, all writing taps into the creative side of the brain. My nearly-seventh grade students believe that narrative writing, however, is much more right-brain that persuasive.  As Nitya says, “Some students may feel that persuasive allows for you to express your opinion; however, most students agree that narrative writing lets your imagination run wild!”

 

Expressing feelings, through inner dialogue or actions, has been something we worked hard on this year. Anthony says, “Narratives are a better way to express feelings and communicate at the same time. People can easily tell about events that already happened, or make up fantasies that others can enjoy.” Albert goes on to say, “Unlike persuasives, which are limited to only one side and keep you constrained to a single style of writing, narratives can be used for a wide variety of expressives; pushing opinions, emotions, and other things that make something real.” Rheya praises the two types of narratives that we wrote this year when she says, “Personal and fictional narratives are both equally fun and have their own style. You can make your own stories and get lost in their wonders when you write fictional narrative and you can remember old memories in personal narrative.” The last word on expressiveness in writing has to go to Sahith. He says, “Fictional narratives allow writers to express their creativity and emotions through a fictional form of writing that shows others how you are feeling. Persuasive does not give you that kind of luxury. This kind of writing makes writers forced to write about the topic given, attempting to persuade the reader of a topic they have no clue about.”

 

“Narrative lets your imagination go free!” says Aline, and Fernando agrees, “Narrative is the best form of writing because it unleashes your imagination.” Imagination is a big factor in their approval of narrative writing. Samantha claims, “Narrative just goes with the flow. It can bend your mind. It can do amazing things with your personality if it’s good enough!” Anaisha compares the two types of writing by saying, “If you are doing narrative you can make up whatever you want! From characters, to setting, to plot, anything you can imagine can be a narrative. But in persuasive, it’s all the real life, which is boring.” According to Kassandra, “In narrative, you can look at the world as something more than just a piece of paper. You can look at it as a world that you created.” Chris adds, “You can stretch the story from being really realistic to a story that is about aliens invading the world.” Michelle sums it up by stating, “Narrative is so complex, and you can do almost anything you want. You can let your imagination soar, and there are huge varieties of ideas. “

 

My students also like the creativity of narrative writing. “Most people feel this way,” Catherine explains, “because it expands student’s creativity, it helps students use their imagination, and it helps students with their use of descriptive words.” Raymond says, “Creativeness can allow you to express your feelings. You can be free in writing and jot down whatever pops in your mind. While persuasive, you have to focus on the prompt limiting your ideas in your brain.” Caitlin agrees, saying, “Narrative is more creative and enjoyable,” and Tyler adds, “It brings out your creative juices.” This time the final statement is Sean’s. He says, “It’s like you’re in your own creative world of fantasy when you write a narrative.”

 

Clearly I have my work cut out for me. Next year, my challenge is to create students who love writing expository essays as much as they enjoy narratives! Do you think I can do it?

 

 

Narrative, Persuasive

Narrative vs. Persuasive

Recently I asked my class of sixth graders (well, it’s May—they are almost seventh graders) whether they preferred writing narrative or persuasive pieces. It was a fair question since each type of writing offers different structure and thought processes. This year’s class is awesome at writing persuasive essays; however, they almost unanimously chose narrative as their favorite type of writing. They elaborated so thoroughly on their reasons (a wonderful persuasive skill) that it will take me two posts to share it all with you. So here, from the minds of 31 almost seventh graders, are the reasons why narratives are better writing assignments than persuasive essays.

First, the narrative format gives the writer more freedom. Quentin compares the two by saying, “The only real format for narrative is that there has to be paragraphs. Persuasive is a certain format that you must always follow. Students might not have fun with having to follow the same paragraph format every time when writing. “ Valerie says, “Narrative writing only has a beginning, middle, and end. Persuasive needs a topic sentence with reasons and why the reasons help the topic sentence.” Jordan also prefers the less structured narrative. He says, “Narrative stories are very easy to plan out. Instead of wasting time thinking of reasons for a main idea in a persuasive, you can be very creative about things and make up interesting problems in a narrative.” Caitlin says, “In persuasive you have to come up with multiple reasons to support an opinion that you don’t even feel strong about. “ Wasting time? An opinion you don’t care about? Clearly Jordan and Caitlin prefer narrative.  Amrita is the most passionate when she writes, “The freer format of narrative gives fewer opportunities for errors as well as providing more ways to add detail to a story. Crafting a story unleashes the power of the imagination, opening up new possibilities.”

Another reason students prefer narrative is that they believe it is easier. Andre says, “Narrative is easier than persuasive because persuasive has more steps than narrative. It also makes us feel tired.” Other students acknowledge that they had to learn how to write narrative, and maybe the learning itself wasn’t easy. According to Jordan, “Once you know how to do the little things in narrative, they will be very easy to write because all you have to do is write what you are picturing in your head about the story.“ Quentin goes on to say, “The fact that you have to think about the other side makes persuasive harder and take longer.“ I know students have been writing narrative far longer than they’ve been working on persuasive essays, so it might just be that they need to practice writing persuasive before it gets easier. At this time, though, Cristina sums it up by saying, “Narrative is a lot easier to write, and more people would rather write narrative than persuasive.”

Today’s last reason in support of narrative writing is that it is fun. I am proud that my students so firmly believe that! Julia says, “Narrative books are fun to write and come from the soul. With persuasive writing, the reader or writer gets bored! The readers want to put the persuasive writing down as soon as possible. There is no action, romance, or thrilling moments in persuasive writing, making it boring to read or write. However, narrative writing has all of these things, making it fun and exciting.” Marina says, “Narrative is much more interesting to read, more fun to write, and makes the writer feel proud after it is written. When you read a persuasive, you can get bored. Every persuasive has the same format, the same structure…narratives may be based off of some main principles, but each one is different and unique. Also, a narrative is more fun to write. You can put yourself in a situation and watch what happens. In a persuasive, there is no excitement, no interesting problems to watch characters solve. It is simply a message in your head stretched to a multi-paragraph essay.” I may be biased, but I totally agree. Maybe that is why my students enjoy writing narratives so much!

Tune in tomorrow when my student continue trying to convince you that narrative writing is much better than persuasive! In the meantime, if you have objections, make sure to put them in comments!

In paperback: Ramses: Son of Light by Christian Jacq

Persuasive

Daily Persuasion

When teaching students to write persuasively (which Common Core now calls Argument), it’s important for them to realize that they encounter the art of persuasion every day. After all, persuasion is nothing more than influencing someone else. In ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote abut how to persuade others. Three hundred years later, in Rome, Cicero wrote several books about persuasion. Today, daily persuasion can take many forms. Studies show that we receive up to 3000 persuasive messages each day.

Persuasion in any form can be both negative and positive. Television commercials tout foods that are not healthy and target children with ads for toys they supposedly can’t live without. Drug dealers and gang members persuade others to follow their lifestyle. Salesmen push expensive cars on people who can’t easily afford them. On the flip side, persuasion can also be used to encourage recycling or stopping smoking. On TV, a recent series of commercials from Pass It On encourages positive values.

Advertising is an obvious form of persuasion that we encounter every day. The television, radio, Internet, newspaper, magazine, email, direct mail, and billboards all try to convince us we need something. So many choices! Human beings are natural joiners. We want to do what others are doing, to have what they have, so we are very receptive to being persuaded. Advertising agencies, marketing firms, and public relations companies are all full-time persuaders.

While we are being persuaded daily, we also do our own persuading. Parents persuade children to wear certain clothes, eat certain foods, or be nice to a visiting grandparent. Teachers persuade students to learn. Children persuade parents to buy them a new toy, to increase their allowance, or to get a pet. Applicants for a job try to persuade the company that they are the best candidate, and bosses persuade workers to do their jobs well. Friends persuade each other to see a certain movie, read a certain book, follow a certain band. Personally, I try to persuade my husband to take me out to dinner every Friday night.

With persuasion such an important part of our lives, it is important to learn to do it effectively! Can I persuade you to comment on this post? How have you encountered persuasion in YOUR life today?

Persuasive

Supporting Your Arguments

   Persuasive writing is something I have been teaching with varying success for years. It is also a major component of the new Common Core Standards that are gradually being implemented nationwide. At its very root, students understand persuasion only at a very basic level. It takes skilled instruction to make them effective.

When a child first learns the word no, and five minutes later adds a stamped foot for emphasis, it heralds the independent thinking of a new person. No is soon joined by Mine, but it’s not until I wanna springs forth that the seeds of persuasion are sown.

By the time students are in sixth grade, as mine are, they have learned that demanding what they want is not enough. Oh sure, it works for a few years, but no one gives in to a twelve year old with a pouty face saying, “But I want it.” They need to develop logical reasons to support someone giving them what they want, and here is where they fall short. Sixth graders have limited experience with logic.

Sixth graders know that if they want their parents to buy something for them, it has to be something that will help them in school or help their self esteem.  They know if they want the school board to keep the school libraries open, the money will have to be found somewhere else. They know if they want to convince their teacher to give less homework, they need to show they can master the material without it. (See my post on Knowing Your Audience)

Those are all good ideas, but they all lack strength. They need E’s. From the Step Up to Writing! program that our school uses, the E’s provide the meat of any expository paragraph. Very catchy, that all nine start with the letter E. Even though some seem redundant, these are designed to help writers jog their brain for supporting statements. Here they are, with examples for the above arguments:

Example: The school board might consider cutting or reducing the music program in order to keep the library open.

Everyday occurrence:  Soccer practice is important to my physical and emotional wellbeing, but homework often causes me to miss it.

Events: Our school could have a fundraiser each year to raise money for the library.

Evidence: When I can listen to music and relax, I do better on my schoolwork, so buy me an iPod.

Expert opinion: My teacher says that every student should have their own flash drive to store their written work.

Elaboration: We already do classwork to master the concept.

Experience: Especially in Social Studies, I never do the homework and I do fine on tests.

Effective illustration: In the silence of the library, I am able to think, to read, to complete my work.

Explanation: Everyone else has a plaid backpack, so if you want me to fit in and feel confident, I need one, too.

Of course, each paragraph needs more than one E, but this is a start. Students need to learn to think about their reasons and generate support for them. Only then will they write effective persuasive essays.

On my Kindle: Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo

Persuasive

Know Your Audience

Persuasive writing can be hard for students for a number of reasons, but one of the toughest is learning to address their words to the right person. Let’s face it. Thinking adults know that whining and stamping your foot will not work if you are asking the president for tax reform, although some politicians continue to try that approach. Conversely, a well-reasoned, heavily supported position does not work on a two year old. When students are learning to write persuasive essays, their audiences are usually their parents, their teacher, the principal or school board, or the city council.

The first step in choosing the best arguments for a persuasive essay is to determine exactly who the audience is. Who is the person or group responsible for making the decision that will give you what you want? If you want an increase in your allowance, to stay up later at night, or to get a pet, then your audience is your parents. If you want a decrease (or increase) in homework, more field trips, or fewer group projects, then your audience is your teacher. The principal would be the one to address if you want more after-school activities, more assemblies, or to change the playground rules. The school board handles issues such as closing school libraries, laying off teachers, and shutting down (or establishing) a music program. If you want a stop sign installed, cleaner sidewalks, or new parks, then you should write to the city council.

Once the audience is identified, you must get inside their head and determine what their objectons will be. On a city or school board level, the objection is usually money. Parents look out for the well-being of their children. Teachers and principals are focused on student learning. Which of the arguments for your position will work best for your intended audience? If you make a well-reasoned, well-supported argument to the school board about how important your idea is for the well-being of students everywhere, they are most likely to counter with a statement that they still have no money. Your argument may have convinced them, but it has not overcome obstacles and caused action. And that action, of course, is why you are writing.

Below are some arguments students have used for various assignments. Which audience would they be most effective with: parents, teacher, principal, school board, or city?

Write your choice in a comment, and add arguments of your own. Maybe use this space to test out arguments for an essay you’re working on.

* I will do my chores every day if I can have it.

* Streetlight maintenance will go a long way to reducing crime on the streets after dark.

*Reducing the amount of homework will allow students to spend quality time with their parents after dinner.

*Saturday school would cost more money because of the need to run heat and lights, and buses.

*Everyone else is doing it.

*Honor roll assemblies should be reinstated because they recognize achievement and that encourages students.

*School libraries should remain open so that students continue to have a wide variety of opportunities to read for pleasure as well as research.

*School projects should be done in groups because it allows the smarter kids to help the ones who aren’t as good.

♥ 

On my Kindle: Ranger’s Apprentice #10: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan

Persuasive

Persuasive Query

Novelists are like football players.  They work hard every day for years to hone their skills and keep their dreams alive, but only a few of them ever see the big time.  Editors and agents sift through stacks of query letters for the next big novel while hopeful authors chew their nails and wait.  Although it is a bit unconventional for the writing world, my persuasive query essay illustrates why On a Wing and a Dare should not be lost in the pile of submissions.  This young adult novel shows how two teenagers approach their transition to adulthood, illustrates that change is hard, and appeals to a currently underrepresented market.

Coming of age is a common theme in YA literature; however, each young person experiences it in a unique way.  In On a Wing and a Dare, sixteen year old Emma, only child of barn leader Hoel, is expected to ride one of the magnificent winged horses in her father’s barn.  She, however, falls in love with the son of a rival barn leader and longs to ride for their barn.  Davyd, also 16, must face his fear of heights to fulfill family obligation and become a winged horse rider himself.  To make matters worse, he is in love with Emma, his brother’s girlfriend.

While growing up presents individual problems, the world has issues of its own.  In Tremirson, where the winged horses have thrived for generations, tradition directs the lives of human and horse.  Wealthy patrons expect their barn to do well in the annual Aerial Games, so parental and town expectations reflect what has worked well in the past.  Then the horses start to die, and nothing is as it should be.  Emma and Davyd must match their goals to a changing future.

Even though vampire or edgy paranormal novels may be the current trend, there are many other bestselling genres.  On a Wing and a Dare appeals to  lovers of fantasy, adventure, and romance.  The winged horses capture the imagination, but the characters are as real as the person sitting next to you.  In today’s market, authors must assist with marketing their books.  I have a short story published in an anthology called A Visitor to Sandahl (2010), and I have edited two anthologies of my students’ work (Novel Central (2009) and Novel Central 2 (2011).  To publicize them, I have written articles and blog posts, linked them to my website, and held author signings in area bookstores.  I look forward to doing the same with On a Wing and a Dare.

Complete at 65,000 words, On a Wing and a Dare is a young adult fantasy that will appeal to readers of Robin McKinley’s Pegasus and Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books.  The first chapter is posted on my blog (http://ulleseit.wordpress.com), and the full manuscript is available upon request.

This breaks all the rules for novel queries, but matches exactly the persuasive essay format my fifth graders use.  Maybe some publishing professional will see it and decide it works!  What do you think?  If you were a publisher, would you want it?

On my Kindle: Escaping Fate by Delsheree Gladden

About Writing, Persuasive

On Demand Writing

Writing is a creative process, and anyone who is in the business of creating something knows it takes time to mold a polished finish product.  First you must consider the idea, then let it percolate in your head awhile with various characters.  You might begin with outlines or brainstorming or sketches.  Then you draft and revise and revise and revise, each time making your work sing a little more.  I have long encouraged students to work on an essay or story for days.  Sometimes they will start two or three stories and select one to polish to completion.  Sometimes after a day off the ideas begin to flow again and they are ready to revise.  Sometimes they need to read it aloud a few times to see where it needs work.

Why, then, do district and state personnel require on-demand writing?  In California, fourth graders take a state writing test.  In our district this year, every grade will do an on-demand writing test.  Officials claim they are trying to improve the teaching of writing in our schools; however, these tests are contrary to everything I know about writing.  On-demand writing sets unrealistic expectations, it is a skill rarely used, and it kills the joy of writing.

Although some officials have admitted these on-demand writing samples are merely first drafts, it is still an amazing amount of work for one sitting.  Students are taught to plan every type of writing they do.  They outline essays and create roller coaster plans for stories.  They plan topic sentences, reasons and details, or rising and falling action.  From the plan, students write a draft.  They choose the best words that come into their heads and try to vary sentence length, include sensory details, plan poignant dialogue for stories, and insert relevant details for essays.  No one does it perfectly the first time around, but with on-demand writing there is no second time.  Yet the scoring rubric sets the bar high and measures these first drafts against it.

While most of the skills taught in elementary school are critical for future success, on-demand writing is not.  Students may need to write in one sitting for testing situations such as SAT college prep tests, but most of the writing they will do for school will be over a couple of days.  As an adult, writing they do for business or pleasure will also be done in more than one day.  No one ever wrote a quarterly report, business plan, or award-winning novel in an on-demand setting.

Proponents of on-demand writing claim they want to assess the level of writing our students can produce, but by doing so they are ruining any pleasure in the production of a finished work.  Students enjoy mentally taunting their characters with a variety of situations before choosing what events will be included in their piece.  Some wild ‘what ifs’ have led to some of the most exhilirating scenes I’ve ever seen students produce.  Having the luxury of a few days to bounce ideas off classmates validates young authors as they ‘road test’ plots and endings.  In my own novel, the ending has changed three times over the past year.  That first rough draft ending was awful!

I am perfectly willing to supply my students’ writing samples to anyone who wants to see them, but I, like them, want those samples to be something I am proud of.  First drafts dashed off in a single sitting cannot be their best work, and turning in something short of their best is disheartening.  I want to start a new trend and advocate writing proficiency tests that span three days.  School officials will get writing that better showcases what students are capable of and they’ll get pieces everyone can be proud of.

 

Written in one sitting…..yeah, I know…but do you recognize the format?

On my Kindle:  A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon  (one of my favorite authors)