Kids love to argue. By capitalizing on that eagerness to fight for something they believe in, I can entice them to write persuasively.
While writing about what they know, I teach them to structure their writing cohesively, sequentially and logically. They talk to one another to discover holes in their logic and gaps in their evidence. They study strong samples of the genre by reading mentor texts: newspaper articles, letters to the editor, my writing, and class writing.
That’s the key though; let new-to-the-genre writers learn by writing about what they know first. Then, move them to writing about texts and issues we raise in class for which they may have little or no background knowledge. By giving them assignments ahead of time, they know what facts to gather in their daybooks as they read and study. Then, they're ready.
When teaching my opinion-writing units, you’ll see students debating, participating in Socratic Seminars, working in conference circles, bouncing ideas off of their friends, researching information to fill the gaps, studying introductions and conclusions of mentor texts, analyzing effective body paragraphs, constructing personal understandings of when and where to embed quotations and statistical evidence, self-assessing their papers and setting goals.
When struggling with writing logically, I draw inspiration from NCTE's Guidelines for the 21st Century: "Writers often talk in order to rehearse the language and content that will go into what they write, and conversation often provides the impetus or occasion for writing."
- For detailed directions: Download the lessons in PDF format on the right sidebar.
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