Empowering Writers

June 2010 Lesson of the Month

Persuade someone to make one summer dream plan come true! For sure, persuasive writing is a sophisticated genre – but – just ask parents – even the youngest students can present their arguments in a compelling (although not always the most convincing) way! This lesson will suggest age-appropriate ways to write a persuasive letter!

Here’s what to do:

1) Ask students to make a list of fun or interesting activities they’d like to engage in this summer. Explain that they’ll be writing a persuasive letter to their parents in an attempt to convince them to make their dream a reality. Suggest that their “wish-list” be composed of realistic suggestions – many families are tight budgets, so you might make some suggestions – visits to state parks for hiking or picnicking, a trip to the local beach or lake, a camp-out in the backyard or porch, a family bike ride, or a night-owl board game marathon. There are plenty of realistic possibilities that don’t involve a big Disney-world budget!

2) Ask them if they’ve ever tried to convince their parents to do something for them. Have they ever argued for something and had their parents refuse? Discuss what makes a convincing argument. Through your conversation, try to elicit some responses along these lines (taking into account the maturity of your students):

Persuasive Writing – purpose – to convince someone to think as you do, or to do

something you’d like them to do.

Convincing arguments:

a) point out the benefits (what’s in it for the person you’re trying to convince)

b) anticipate your reader’s arguments – the reasons they might disagree

with you or turn you down

c) come up with a “Yes, but” rebuttal or response to each of their

reasons to turn you down

d) include plenty of details, show, rather than tell

3) Have students discuss and brainstorm specific points (a – d) relative to their argument. You might have them fold a paper in quarters and jot down their ideas for each of the four suggestions for convincing arguments.

4) Review the format for a friendly letter – greeting, body, closing, date.

5) Share the sample annotated exemplar letter best suited to the grade you teach and talk through the salient characteristics. (We’ve included two versions, one for grades 2 – 3, another for grades 4 and up) If you prefer, give each student a copy for reference. Click here for annotated letter

6) Depending on the age of your students, you might suggest a strong lead – write a descriptive segment that shows the setting of their destination in an appealing way.

7) Provide some sentence starters for each of the “Convincing Argument” points:

a) benefits for the reader:

Since I know you enjoy __________

Wouldn’t it be nice if __________

Together we could __________

Because family time is important, we __________

b/c) Yes, but:

While I understand that __________, it’s also true that __________.

Even though __________, you’ll see that __________.

I know you think __________, but I’ll bet you’d discover __________.

d) Show, rather than tell:

Picture this: __________

Couldn’t you just imagine the sight/smell/sound of __________?

Wouldn’t you love to see __________?

8) End the letter with a “call to action” – be clear about what they want the reader to do.

9) If you like, as an extra objective, have students address envelopes and have the school mail them out!