February 7, 2012

Persuasive Writing Boot Camp

It's been awhile since I did a post about Writing Workshop!  My kiddos and I spent the month of January knee-deep in persuasive writing.  I am incredibly pleased with their improvement over the course of the month, and happy to report that they have turned out some fabulous final products!  

To start off the unit and hook them in, I gathered the class on the carpet, adopted a very serious tone, and said,
5th graders, I have some very sad news to share with you.  Mr. Principal has been thinking about canceling lunch recess.  He thinks you guys need more learning time in your school day and that we don't have time to go outside for lunch recess.  However, he is still considering the decision.  I was thinking that maybe we could write him a letter to convince him how important lunch recess is.  What do you think?

Needless to say, the kiddos were outraged.  To give you a little back story, our principal no longer allows us to take our class out for 5-10 minute "classroom recess" in addition to the lunch recess, so this was both especially terrible and especially believable news.  We started out with brainstorming the different reasons that lunch recess was important.  After the kids brainstormed with partners and shared with the class, I discussed the importance of appealing to one's audience in writing.  If our audience was Mr. Principal, then we would need to choose reasons that Mr. Principal would think were valid.  (i.e. not "it's fun" and "we like kickball.")  The kids settled on three strong reasons, and we began to fill out a graphic organizer together on chart paper.
One of my big goals for this unit has been to get the kiddos to use second order support as well as strong, detailed examples to support their main points.  So, during this shared activity I really pushed them to elaborate on their reasons.  Why does lunch recess help us learn?  Why is social time at recess important?  Why will Mr. Principal think that's important??  After spending a day or two planning our shared letter, I modeled using the graphic organizer to write a letter.  I used to do this on chart paper, but this year have been hooking up my laptop to the LCD projector and typing.  So much faster and easier.

Anyways, after we finished the letter, I shared with the kiddos that lunch recess was not really going to be cancelled.  We talked about the purpose behind persuasive writing (connecting it back to our Author's Purpose lessons), and began to brainstorm different things we would all like to have that we could write our own letters asking for.  The kids came up with topics like their own bedroom, a cell phone, a pet, lockers, hot lunches at school, and a later start time to the school day.  Then, we used this graphic organizer from Read Write Think to start planning.

Over the next few days, the kids worked on their graphic organizers and rough drafts.  I taught mini-lessons on topics including second order support, persuasive transitions, strong conclusions, and varied sentences.  Here are some of the anchor charts we made and used.

To help with varied sentences, I also had students go through their writing and underline the first word in each sentence.  Then, we worked on restructuring sentences to change up the starting words.  

After the kiddos finished their letters, I gave them a choice of 4 or so other topics to write an essay about.  We talked about how essays are different from letters, and worked on writing strong introductions, reviewing the "hooks" we learned earlier this year.  Again, the kids wrote about similar things, including hot lunches, fast food for school lunch, school uniforms, kids having the right to vote, and lockers at school.  The essays are turning out great too!  All in all, a successful writing unit.


  1. There are some great ideas here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. i absolutely love this! and such a great (motivating) topic for the writing activity as well :) persuasive writing was one of my favorite things as a student!

  3. Definitely a good idea to get them into the writing task! but... do you really not have morning and afternoon recesses? Hopefully you get at least an hour for lunch. Here we get 15 mins in the morning and afternoon, AND there's an hour at lunchtime (for both eating and playing). And yes, your kids can totally use "they have three recesses a day in Canada" as an argument - kids here get a full hour and a half (at least) of recess a day - and it's mandatory, not just if the teachers feel like it.

  4. We are just starting our final drafts of our persuasive unit. Should Walla Walla have an acquatic center? The kids had to choose two letters out of the paper of people who did NOT want a swimming pool and try to convince them. I'm feeling a little worried about a few of them, but.....

  5. Love the stretch a sentence. Great blog!

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