After listening to Shawna, Marsha, and Danielle’s presentation Wednesday night about the persuasive writing genre, I felt the importance of teaching this genre to my students. My 9th graders enjoy debating and I figured this would be a great way to lead into persuasive writing. After listening to their presentation and reading Shawna’s blog entry, perhaps it will not be as easy as I think. Shawn wrote in her blog: “They agree that persuasion is used everyday regardless of age or where one lives. Even young children use verbal persuasion to prove to their parents they should be able to stay up later” (blog entry 7). This statement tied into my earlier thinking that this will be an effective writing genre to teach as my students love to argue and persuade. But after the presentation and reading the blog, I started to agree with how Shawna felt about teaching adolescents the genre.
“I learned that I was correct when thinking that persuasive writing is a challenging form of communication, and not a natural form of writing or speaking. Students and adults alike must understand the problem, form an opinion based on that understanding, and most importantly understand the opposing argument” (Shawn, blog entry 7).
Why all students love to argue and debate, that does not mean that will automatically be good writers. Students need to still be taught the necessary skills of good writing that leads up to writing a strong persuasion paper. It is easy to argue their side of an argument, but if they do not see the other side’s argument, are they understanding how to actually persuade?
Today at work I decided to start scaffolding the concept of seeing the opposing side’s viewpoint. While my three students were getting ready for their debate, I started talking to them about how they need to listen and learn about their opponent’s view point. In order to truly ‘win an argument,’ you need to have evidence that supports every part of your opinion. In order to do so, you need to understand the others side so you can have evidence disproving them. For today’s debate, I used the graphic organizer from p. 254 of Tompkin’s (2012) text. I had students fill out their points for the debate using the organizer so when they start using it for persuasive writing, they will already be familiar with the organizer.
While I introduce the persuasive genre to the students next week, I am trying to decide what is the best way to approach the genre. My students are hesitant writers so my initial approach will either make or break the unit. I plan on hooking my students with the concept that persuasive writing is similar to debates, except it is a more formal written text. Instead of starting to teach persuasive essays right away, I am going to start off with something smaller, such as writing letters. The letters would pertain to a topic that is important to the students, making it a more fun and personal assignment for them.
Through Wednesday’s night class, I realized I could use children’s books to initially hook the students into the unit. Since I borrowed Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin from the library, I will read that to the students. While Tompkins (2012) suggest using texts such as these for introducing the topic to kindergarten and first graders, I can easily see how it would be effective in introducing the concept to older students. The book is a simplified version of persuasive writing, allowing students to not be overwhelmed. Through this text I can have my students brainstorm and identify the most important pieces of the story. From there they can start brainstorming their own persuasive topics.