Engaging Students In Authentic Persuasive Writing

This is the final post  in a series on the issue of preparing students to write persuasively.
When The Writing Begins...
Encourage the development of a persuasive tone into ALL writing students undertake. All writers try to influence the reader. They have a purpose when they write and we must embed this understanding in the minds of young writers. The writer evokes a response, or a change in attitude from the reader and is thus fulfilled. 

In What Ways Do Writers Influence Us?

By warning us through their writing (fiction and non fiction)

By telling a story that brings the issue to our attention

By telling a story that has a message

By providing examples

By describing details

By begging us to change

By writing letters –public and personal

By writing about something worth preserving or protecting

By describing a scene to highlight a problem

By writing poetry

By writing about how to treat people, places, objects, treasures

By inspiring us to try new things

By inspiring us to be brave or resolute

By describing the benefits to be gained by a particular action/actions

By repeating words, or a group of words (word patterns) to add emphasis

By writing a story with a moral

By employing humour to diffuse an issue

By asking questions

Show students how the writer is using words to influence and inform the reader.

What craft is the writer using to achieve this?

What do you notice about the writer’s voice?

What words are the most powerful?

What is the writer’s point of view here?


AVOID descending into a pale imitation of a persuasive essay. The need here is to focus on the reasons for writing, rather than being mesmerized by the form.


What matters to you enough to want to write about it, or explore it in your writing?
What frustrates or annoys you?
What is something you feel strongly enough about to write it down
How do other authors present such issues and could you do something similar?

Issues and they way they affect people and communities
Ways to bring about a change, or improvement


How they would support a cause or deal with an issue in their writing.

Encourage students to talk about an issue with a partner as if they were talking to a reader.

Some of the words, phrases etc that the mentor authors are using to influence the reader.

Issues that matter to your students
Possible audiences

When young writers initially write persuasively they do little research.
Opinions have little or no justification.
Vague generalizations are made.
Result?  -The reader remains to be convinced.

Is this our starting point?

‘If we want our students to be effective persuaders in their writing we need to engage them in many learning experiences that will strengthen their understanding of persuasive texts and what writers do to effectively persuade others.’

 Source: Is That A Fact Teaching non fiction Writing K-3’, Tony Stead


Reading and Writing stamina

World knowledge

Text knowledge


Oral Language

The ISSUE of Increasing Student Stamina for Reading and Writing

How long do my students engage in independent reading and writing each day?
How do I progressively increase time on task? 

Vocabulary/World Knowledge/Text Knowledge
  • Read to, Share with children good quality non fiction
  • Use vocabulary interchangeably, and explicitly
  • View documentary DVDs on multiple topics
  • Provide good quality non fiction texts for independent reading
  • Deconstruct texts to examine their features and structure

Writers ‘prod’ us to think more deeply about an issue.

 The Issue of Cohesion in Student Writing

(*I am grateful to Jeff Anderson for highlighting this issue in his book, Ten Things Every Writer Needs To Know).
Cohesion is the GLUE that holds the words together. It assists the writer to create smooth joins between sentences.
Cohesion assists the reader to navigate their way through a sea of words

Making Cohesion Work for Student Writers

Teach them about transitional words and phrases

Teach them to summarize with transitions

Teach them the old to new strategy

Teach them that pronouns need an antecedent

Teach them to repeat key words and phrases

Teach them to be consistent with tenses, point of view and mood

Teach them to cull irrelevant text

Teach them to use punctuation and grammar with deliberate intent.

Overcoming Connectivity Problems
Transitional words and phrases help connect ideas. They emphasize details, reveal organization, illuminate comparisons and contrasts
Auto Transitions are familiar to young writers. They overuse them!
Firstly, secondly, thirdly, fourthly fifthly and, in conclusion!

Our students need to actively PROCESS, NOTICE and EXPERIENCE how other authors use transitions in REAL texts.
 Students need to understand the function of various transitions.This must happen BEFORE they are ever provided with a LIST!


Examples of relevant vocabulary for concluding a persuasive text
Ways to sum it up:

In conclusion ….

Given the above points…..

To summarise ……

There are many reasons…

I recommend…

Consequently it seems better to…

The weight of evidence would suggest…

This, in summary 

It can seem that…

I propose…

On balance ….

It would seem that…

The facts are compelling for one to think that…

Modelling- Teachers Need to Model For Students

  • How to organize information
  • How to include persuasive language
  • How to use connectives to link information
  • How to use text features (photographs, labels, charts) to help the reader
  • How to connect concluding statements to introduction
  • Use of facts and opinions to support stance taken.
  • Use of connectives therefore, as a result, because etc.
  • Use of hyperbole, emotive terms, repetition

Encourage Student Reflection:

What’s the point?-  Persuasive texts are designed to persuade people or to convince  people of a point of view. Good persuasive texts tantalise the reader. Does yours do this?
Have you got a plan?- These texts are usually well planned and thought out, Is yours? 
Where to start?- Is your introduction boring, do you think the reader/listener will continue to be interested… 
Have you drawn the audience in by making a bold statement. 
Have you addressed the main issue and stated your position. 
Connect with the reader- Have you used connectives that explain your view like: however, therefore, because, although, yet, in addition to.

 Final Thoughts...

Traditionally teachers used tests as tools. We must be careful NOT to become tools of the test!

'Writing is the largest orchestra a child’s mind has to conduct…Writing assists students to practice being organized and effective. Writing is a platform for thinking and problem solving. Students who work with teachers who demand minimal writing are educationally deprived. They may be less prepared to produce when they attain adult hood.'

The Myth of Laziness, Mel Levine


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