Preparing Student Writers to Write PERSUASIVELY

I recently conducted a series of after school workshops across Melbourne's Western Region Schools ( Melton Moonee Valley Footscray and Wyndham Werribee) dealing with writing persuasively. In May Australian students in Grades3, 5, 7 and 9 will be asked to write in a persuasive manner as part of the National Assessment Program (Literacy and Numeracy) NAPLAN.

To further assist teachers in their important work with young writers I am making the notes from those workshops available. I will spread the posting over three days so the information is less daunting.

The Art of Persuasion

Our role as teachers of writing is to prepare an environment that stimulates and challenges students to want to learn worthwhile things. Historical efforts to ‘prepare’ students for tests have been based on methods that can be characterized as:
De-contextualized (Boyer 1983)
Promoted passivity (Goodlad 1984)
Rote memorization -drill and repetition (McKnight et sl 1987)

When teaching time is directed towards such ends, proficiency in learning that involves: Analysis,  problem solving, written and oral expression (reading and discussing)-are severely limited!
(Darling Hammond & Wise, 1985, Harney and Madaus, 1986, Koretz, 1988, NAEP,1981) This is sobering information. It's telling us that this type of preparation is counter productive at best.

Further research reveals that high stakes testing encourages the use of instructional approaches that resembles testing (Rottenberg and Smith 1990).
Teachers tend to narrow the scope of their curriculum to that which is tested. They also tend to abandon innovative teaching strategies.
With publication of test scores and the implications for the quality of teaching, some teachers feel compelled to teach-to-the-test in hopes of improving their students' scores (Smith 1991a).

We have a CHOICE
Focus on:

·         deeper and more rigorous teaching.

·         teaching that is explorative and meaningful

·         increasing complexity from one learning opportunity to the next

·         student growth and performance

So the challenge is

How do we continue to teach effectively and appropriately?

How do we assist students to develop opinions and ideas about a range of issues and at the same time keep it authentic and engaging?

How do we teach in ways that prepares students to write confidently when asked to write more formal persuasive essays?

NAPLAN Writing 2012

The writer's purpose is to convince. A prompt example might be 'that school holidays should be longer' with a range of pictures to look at to stimulate the thinking. 

Students can present an argument or a discussion.

The form is not specified, but it must cover the text structure elements of a persuasive text (introduction, body, conclusion). 

Importance of vocabulary in Persuasive Writing:

The student writer needs to incorporate world knowledge and demonstrate the technical language available to them to strengthen the weight of the chosen arguments, to exhibit an expansive vocabulary and their spelling of difficult and challenging words. This is where the challenge lies for teachers.

The Challenge

How will students achieve this technical language and vocabulary? The answer lies in multiple opportunities to expand their world knowledge and the language that accompanies this. Students need- Frequent opportunities to listen to, view and read multiple kinds of texts about a wide range of topics.

Tomorrow, I will share some ideas to assist teachers to meet this challenge.




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