Persuasion and the Writer's Notebook

This week I was planning with teachers as they made preparation for the next term’s work. Their major writing focus will be persuasive texts and the question arose as to how to make a strong connection with the writer’s notebook and the persuasive texts. This set me to thinking.

I have harboured a concern that many teachers are not sure how to use the writer’s notebook across the genres. It seems okay when the focus is narratives or poetry, but they appear uncertain as to how to best use the notebook as a resource for developing ideas. It is important to see the notebook as launching pad for writing. So, how do we make the notebook our starting point?

I started to think about the ways I could support the teachers with whom I was planning. What could I be doing as a writer to model for them and their students?

It was then that an idea came calling! For the next three weeks I intend to link my reading of local, national and global issues such as global warming, drought, poverty, education, climate change etc to my notebook writing. As I notice articles in newspapers, on the internet, in magazines, -or as I watch a television report on a topical issue I will write about that issue from a personal perspective. I will document my various opinions in the hope of finding my voice on these issues.

At this point in time my aim is not to write a persuasive essay. It is purely to develop a stance and see where it takes me as a writer. At the same time, I will talk about these issues, with friends, family and anyone else who comes by. A glass of shiraz, and a stimulating discussion sound quite appealing. In this way these pre writing conversations will assist me to refine my view. I am aware that my writer’s notebook is a place to collect ideas and experiment, so that’s exactly what I intend to do.

When the new term begins, I will have a collection of writing to share with the teachers and students with whom I work. I will be able to share my discoveries and I can invite them to take a similar journey.

I see this notebook writing as a foundation for developing a persuasive essay. When I reach this point, I can look more closely at the text features and structure of persuasive texts. My initial writing will help me find my argument and the structure will assist me to construct it effectively. It is at this point that I lift my notebook ideas out into the light. I will develop them further. My notebook will have served me well as an incubator for my ideas, my thinking, my voice.

Often when teachers ask students to respond to newspaper articles and the like, they dish up a précis, or recount of the documented issue. We don’t want the 5W’s of the journalistic world at this point. We want a response that clearly shows what the writer thinks, where they stand, what they wonder about, and what questions remain. To avoid this time honoured rehashing of events we need to get them to talk to other students regarding their response. This must take place before they contemplate picking up a pen or pencil. To facilitate this, small group discussion, partner sharing or random sampling could be utilised. We must not forget what the aim is here - to get them thinking and talking to their peers. This pre writing conversation allows students to articulate their ideas prior to writing. Their writing intentions and their point of view have a chance to form, and develop. Then it’s off to the notebook to pour out and capture their thoughts.

I look forward to next term, but first I look forward to my personal writing challenge and what I discover along the way…

I'll keep you posted.

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