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How to Teach Persuasive Writing in K-2
Susan Jones January 10, 2021 2 Comments
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If you are wondering how to teach persuasive writing in kindergarten, first grade, or second grade, then this blog post is for you! I have three easy tips I am going to share with you that will help you and your students.
Before I dive in, I want to clarify two little things. First, when I teach students how to write persuasive pieces, I have already taught them how to write an opinion and provide some reasons. I like to teach students what an opinion is, how to share it, and provide reasons for it using a unit like this one: opinion writing unit , before asking them to persuade someone! Second, when teaching persuasive writing to my youngest students, I like to do this through letters. I find that when we can identify a real audience and write them a letter, students can think of better ways to persuade them. Okay, let’s dive into the three tips.
If you want to watch/listen to this content, feel free to press play on my YouTube video below where I share all the same information! While you are there, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to see all my teaching videos:
To read the three tips, just keep scrolling!
Tip 1: Use Mentor Texts
These books are specifically for persuasive writing and one of my absolute favorites is Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings. In this book, a little dog named Arfy writes letters to different people to try and get them to adopt him. I particularly like this book because based on his audience, he uses different reasons to persuade. This is something we talk about in one of the later tips as well!
Another text I love to use to showcase persuasive letters is I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff. This is a popular one! In this book, a little boy named Alex writes letters to his mom trying to persuade her to let him have a pet iguana. The entire book is written back and forth with letters between Alex and his mother and each letter provides reasons why he should or shouldn’t be allowed to own a pet iguana. This one is also fun because in the end, (spoiler alert) Alex ends up getting the iguana he wanted! This shows students the power of persuasion and lets the dream of something they really want and come up with ways to get it.
The last mentor text I want to share is a different one. This is one I use at the end of our unit. It is called, Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf and it is written by an 11-year old girl named Oliva Bouler. When I teach persuasive writing in a K-2 classroom, our letters tend to be pretty self-serving. This isn’t a bad thing at all! In fact, that’s why writing the letters can be so much fun – to try and get what we want. This text, however, lets students see how powerful our words can be and how we can try to persuade people to make the world a better place.
In Olivia’s Birds , the author shares all sorts of interesting facts about different birds with her illustrations and how some human acts are destroying the birds’ habitats. In the end, she writes a persuasive letter to the Audubon Society and ends up single-handedly raising over $150,000 to help her cause! I love this book because it is inspiring and gets students thinking of ways they can change the world with their voices!
Please note: all books shown above are Amazon affiliate links
After we read Olivia’s Birds, we can use her ideas as an extension to write our own class book. Here are some of the ideas we use to brainstorm our own class persuasive letter:
Tip 2: Have your students Identify Persuasion in a Mentor Text
When using mentor texts, not only do I like to have students see persuasive writing in action, but I like to have them identify the persuasion in the texts. We do this using a think-aloud sheet like shown below.
As we read one of the mentor texts, we identify what the character wants, who the audience is, and then some of the reasons the character uses to persuade their audience. When doing this, I model this think-aloud with the class first and I use some student input as we gather reasons to persuade. I like having students walk through this process before we actually write our letters because it gets them used to brainstorming what they want, their audience, and some reasons to persuade. I also like this sheet because we can use it over and over again with different mentor texts!
You can grab this think-aloud sheet FREE here >> Persuasive Writing Activity and try it out in your own classroom!
Tip 3: Connect Reasons to their Audience
Unlike when we write opinions and share our reasons for them, persuasive writing has us making our reasons more personal. If we are trying to persuade someone, we need to think more in-depth about our audience! When doing this, I love to use a think-aloud and the mentor text, Can I Be Your Dog? which was shown above. Using a chart like shown below, we think about the different reasons Arfy uses to persuade his different audiences.
As we re-read the mentor text, we talk about how Arfy uses different reasons to persuade the people in the yellow house than the reasons he uses to persuade the fire station. This gets students not just thinking about what THEY want, but also how THEIR AUDIENCE could be persuaded!
I re-emphasize this as I model planning out my own persuasive letter to my principal! I like to use a fun example. I explain that when I speak to my son, I might use “baby voice” but I wouldn’t use that same baby voice with my boss! We need to speak differently and think of reasons that connect with each of our own audiences in order to effectively persuade them.
Those are the 3 tips I have to help you teach your students write persuasive letters! If you have other mentor texts or ideas that you love using with your kindergarten, first grade, or second-grade students, please drop them in the comments!
If you want to see more videos with ideas for teaching writing in a K-2 classroom, just click my writing workshop playlist below:
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July 18, 2021 at 2:54 pm
Very useful lessons of writing Thank you
October 1, 2021 at 9:06 pm
I just finished watching your first writing video and found it very educational. I have recently started to homeschool my fourth-grade son. I am noticing he finds it very difficult to think of information to write when he is writing from a prompt or a book. I am thinking about starting at a lower level of writing perhaps maybe first grade or kindergarten in order to build his writing confidence. I am open to any suggestions, please.
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Welcome to Susan Jones Teaching. When it comes to the primary grades, learning *All Things* in the K-2 world has been my passion for many years! I just finished my M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and love sharing all the latest and greatest strategies I learn with you through this blog and my YouTube channel! I hope you'll enjoy learning along with me :)
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33 Mentor Texts for Opinion Writing
Show kids how powerful sharing ideas in writing can be.
In today’s world, we want our teaching to inspire students to be forward thinkers and changemakers. Teaching them how to share their opinions in writing is a key ingredient. Let’s get kids making signs and writing letters, lists, reviews, essays, blog posts, and speeches! Check out some of our favorite opinion-writing mentor texts to bring this important genre to life for kids. We’ve got plenty of picture books for the younger set, and titles to help older kids make the leap to persuasive writing backed by researched facts.
(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)
1. We Disagree by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
A mouse and a squirrel think differently about, well, everything. Can they ever be friends? This is such a cute title for introducing kids to what it means to share an opinion, and it could lead to plenty of writing prompts to open an opinion-writing unit.
Buy it: We Disagree on Amazon
2. I Love Insects by Lizzy Rockwell
This early reader should definitely be in your primary classroom collection of opinion-writing mentor texts to help introduce the genre. Do you love insects? Two kids give competing reasons for why and why not. Read it aloud and head straight into shared writing of a list of pros and cons.
Buy it: I Love Insects on Amazon
3. Usha and the Big Digger by Amitha Jagannath Knight
To introduce kids to opinion writing, you need opinion-writing mentor texts to teach them what “opinions” are—and Usha, Aarti, and Gloria have them in this book! They each see something different when they look at the stars. This book could lead to a great introduction activity in which students try to convince each other that they see the Big Dipper, a “Big Digger,” a “Big Kite …” or something else. (Hint: It’s all in your perspective!)
Buy it: Usha and the Big Digger on Amazon
4. Don’t Feed the Bear by Kathleen Doherty
When a park ranger puts up a “Don’t Feed the Bear” reminder, he has no idea about the persuasive sign-writing battle he’ll set in motion. (Strategic language includes “Please feed the ranger rotten eggs and slimy spinach.”) Share this hilarious title to introduce students to using signs to influence others’ thinking.
Buy it: Don’t Feed the Bear on Amazon
5. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Let a favorite character guide young students in the art of persuasion. The bus driver does not want Pigeon in the driver’s seat, but the well-known bird builds an emotional and unrelenting case.
Buy it: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! on Amazon
6. Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali
We adore sharing this book with young students to open inclusive conversations about favorite holidays and traditions. Each student in Musa’s class shares about their favorite day of the year, from Eid Al-Fitr to Pi Day. Use this book to prompt kids to write their own opinion pieces about their favorite days, and to model how reasoning, information, and anecdotes can support one’s opinion.
Buy it: Our Favorite Day of the Year on Amazon
7. Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris
This true story from Kamala Harris’ childhood details how she and her sister wrote letters to their landlord until he agreed to let them build a playground in their apartment complex courtyard. Get kids excited about how their opinion writing could create real change!
Buy it: Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea on Amazon
8. If I Were President by Trygve Skaug
A young boy talks at length about what he’d do differently if he ran the country. Maybe cars could run on legs instead of gasoline, and “playing” should be a subject taught in school. Share this with kids who need more ideas for opinion-writing topics!
Buy it: If I Were President on Amazon
9. The Little Book of Little Activists by Penguin Young Readers
Introduce young students to the idea of activism and its connection to opinion writing. This inspiring photo essay includes examples of kids’ opinions about real-life causes and many written signs.
Buy it: The Little Book of Activists on Amazon
10. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan
This protagonist is a toddler on a mission—a mission to kick her dad out of her parents’ bed so she can sleep with her mom. Use this little girl’s precocious modeling to show students how to polish their own opinion writing by adding visual supports.
Buy it: The Big Bed on Amazon
11. The Perfect Pet by Margie Palatini
Elizabeth crafts a plan to convince her parents to let her have a pet, with unexpected—but pleasing—results. This is our favorite opinion-writing mentor text for introducing kids to win-win solutions and encouraging them to suggest them in their own opinion writing.
Buy it: The Perfect Pet on Amazon
12. & 13. Can I Be Your Dog? and I Found a Kitty! by Troy Cummings
First, read a collection of persuasive letters from a lonely dog seeking an owner that’s a twist on kids’ pet requests. Each letter is tailored to a specific audience, with Arfy promising to lick things clean, protect, and deliver endless affection.
In the sequel, Arfy uses his persuasive skills to help someone else, a lovable stray kitten. Notice with students how he once again shapes his reasoning for each recipient—and how he doesn’t give up until he’s successful!
Buy it: Can I Be Your Dog? on Amazon
Buy it: I Found a Kitty! on Amazon
14. True You: A Gender Journey by Gwen Agna and Shelley Rotner
This delightful and important title stars real kids with a full range of gender identities. Each child introduces themselves in a speech bubble that shares their opinion about gender identity. Use this title to model talking to the reader using strong, direct language.
Buy it: True You: A Gender Journey on Amazon
15. Stella Writes an Opinion by Janiel Wagstaff
Sometimes you want perfectly straightforward opinion-writing mentor texts that match right up with your teaching goals. Stella thinks second graders should be able to have a morning snack time. She sets out to write about her opinion, state her reasons, and ends with a compelling summation.
Buy it: Stella Writes an Opinion on Amazon
16. I Wanna New Room by Karen Kaufman Orloff
After his successful angling for a pet in I Wanna Iguana , Alex tries using note-writing to broach his next request: a room of his own, away from his pesky younger brother. The parent-child communication includes plenty of examples of making and responding to counterarguments.
Buy it: I Wanna New Room on Amazon
17. Be Glad Your Dad … Is Not an Octopus! by Matthew Logelin and Sara Jensen
This author’s opinion is that you should appreciate your dad for who he is. He makes his case with plenty of arguments grounded in facts—facts that show that if your dad were an animal, he could be even more gross, embarrassing, or annoying!
Buy it: Be Glad Your Dad … Is Not an Octopus! on Amazon
18. Earrings! by Judith Viorst
A young girl desperately wants her ears pierced, but her parents respond to her begging with a firm no. Ask students to evaluate the merits of her various arguments. Which are strong? Which are just whiny?
Buy it: Earrings! on Amazon
19. Pick a Picture, Write an Opinion! by Kristen McCurry
If you’re looking for opinion-writing mentor texts that lay it all out there explicitly, you’ll appreciate this resource. Engaging, diverse photos and topics, a kid-friendly tone, and explicit advice make this a helpful primer to accompany more conventional mentor texts.
Buy it: Pick a Picture, Write an Opinion! on Amazon
20. I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) by Davide Cali
This narrator has plenty of reasons to dislike his self-centered cats, which he outlines in specific detail. Use this title as an example of a multi-pronged argument. (Plus, show that sometimes, opinion writing actually leads us to change our own minds. By the end, the owner realizes he actually loves his pets, quirks and all.)
Buy it: I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) on Amazon
21. I Can Be Anything! Don’t Tell Me I Can’t by Diane Dillon
Zoe makes big plans for her future, from being an archaeologist to a veterinarian. She quiets self-doubt with confident arguments. Aside from sharing this title’s lovely, affirming message, use it to teach kids to anticipate tough questions and head them off convincingly in their opinion writing.
Buy it: I Can Be Anything! Don’t Tell Me I Can’t on Amazon
22. Rise Up and Write It by Nandini Ahuja
Farah Patel works to convince her local government to improve a vacant lot to benefit her community. Great realistic examples of using letters and signs to inspire change!
Buy it: Rise Up and Write It on Amazon
23. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
These disgruntled but endearing crayons have opinions, and they aren’t shy about making them known in this read-aloud favorite. Check out this free downloadable educator guide from the publisher for persuasive letter-writing curriculum connections.
Buy it: The Day the Crayons Quit on Amazon
24. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating
The best opinion writing springs from genuine conviction. Eugenie Clark believed sharks were fascinating and that women could be accomplished scientists who study them. Use this title to help students generate their own passion-fueled topics about which to write.
Buy it: Shark Lady on Amazon
25. What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers
Share this title for its inspiring message about the power of one citizen to evoke positive change through spoken words, writing, and action. Also consider it as an example of how words and art interact in opinion writing; the illustrations and text work together here to advance the book’s message.
Buy it: What Can a Citizen Do? on Amazon?
26. Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest by Sarah Hampson
Dr. Archibald Coo believes that pigeons don’t deserve their reputation as avian pests. He outlines a plan to change the minds of his city neighbors. Part of his approach is to send a persuasive letter to the mayor, suggesting creative, mutually beneficial agreements—a great example for student writers aiming to change the minds of authority figures.
Buy it: Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest on Amazon
27. The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
The animals in this classic read-aloud give a range of reasons their home shouldn’t be chopped down. Use them as examples of how to vary sentence structures and formats when listing arguments and how to use specific details to strengthen reasoning.
Buy it: The Great Kapok Tree on Amazon
28. Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson
This fictional account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, told from the point of view of a young participant, is a classroom must-read. It exemplifies how children’s actions can make a difference in an adult world and how powerful language strengthens a written message.
Buy it: Let the Children March on Amazon
29. No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley
This powerful title introduces inspiring and diverse young activists’ causes using original poems by notable authors. Show kids that impactful opinion writing can take many forms.
Buy it: No Voice Too Small on Amazon
30. The Week Junior magazine “Big Debate” feature
The Week Junior is one of our absolute favorite magazines for the classroom , and its “Big Debate” section is a main reason for that. Each issue examines both sides of an interesting topic, from whether we should eat Maine lobster, to if space exploration is worth the huge cost, to whether or not kids’ screen time should be restricted. Have kids study examples to get tips for their own opinion writing, and maybe even create their own “Big Debate.”
Buy it: The Week Junior
31. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman
This is a fantastic resource for upper elementary and middle school classrooms moving from opinion writing to research-based persuasive writing. This mind-boggling look at the impact of trash on our oceans gives kids so many models for sharing one’s opinions, experiences, and knowledge to spark change. Embedded QR codes take readers straight to awesome examples of persuasive speeches and other cool resources that support the author’s message.
Buy it: Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean on Amazon
32. We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell
A classroom prepares to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with research projects that convey a clear message: Native Nations are still here! Besides being critical content for kids, this is a great example of how to use researched facts to support one’s opinion.
Buy it: We Are Still Here! on Amazon
33. Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You! by Marley Dias
Every middle school student should meet Marley Dias through this powerful account of her #1000blackgirlbooks campaign. It boasts plenty of practical advice for young activists. Pull text excerpts for mini-lessons about tailoring opinion writing to your audience. Marley writes straight to her peers.
Buy it: Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You! on Amazon
Excited to share these opinion-writing mentor texts? Also check out our favorite mentor texts for procedural and narrative writing.
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Persuasive Writing Examples and Prompts for Kids
Is your student stepping into the world of persuasive writing?
As a parent, it’s fun to watch your child learn the art of forming and supporting an argument.
(Plus, it’s a significant step toward critical thinking.)
If they need extra help, here are a few persuasive writing examples for kids along with 20 writing prompts to make it fun!
Why Persuasive Writing Is Important for Elementary Writers
Teaching persuasive writing is important because it’s a fundamental step in helping your child think critically.
By arguing a topic, your student will need to examine both sides, which is an essential component of critical thinking. Persuasive writing also inspires formation of opinion and sharing that opinion effectively.
Students as young as elementary-school age can learn to write persuasively. In fact, we’ll share some quick examples of persuasive essays for kids below.
First, let’s discuss the structure of a “mini” persuasive essay.
(If you have an older student, read our step-by-step guide to writing a persuasive essay .)
A Simplified Structure for Persuasive Writing
Of course, expectations and writing guidelines become more involved for older students, but elementary-aged students should keep it simple.
The basic features of persuasive writing can be broken down into 5 steps:
- Topic sentence
- Opening argument 1
- Concluding statement
A topic sentence introduces the argument and clearly expresses the writer’s viewpoint. For a younger child, this is simply a straightforward statement that clearly expresses “this is my opinion.”
The next three steps list “pros” that support their topic statement. Each argument should be distinctly stated.
Again, for an elementary-aged student, arguments can be brief and can simply be a list of reasons.
The concluding statement wraps up by summarizing the arguments and restating the opinion.
If this method of persuasive writing sounds complicated at first, rest assured, it’s not.
Let’s look at how you can easily reinforce this structure for your students, along with some examples.
Homeschool Mom Tip: Use a “Persuasive Text Structure” Poster
One effective method of teaching and reinforcing the persuasive writing model is by using a “persuasive structure” chart or poster.
A visual representation of the steps involved in persuasive writing is important for a few reasons:
- Some students learn best visually. It helps them understand and remember the method when they see it laid out in front of them.
- Graphic illustrations of the different components allow students to take in one piece at a time and avoid overwhelm.
- Hanging the poster where your children do their schoolwork makes it easy for them to reference the structure while they’re writing.
- Knowing the poster is nearby in case they get stuck helps make writing a calmer process.
One other tip I recommend is breaking up essay-style writing with creative writing assignments. ( Try these one-sentence writing prompts! ).
Kid-Friendly Persuasive Writing Examples
Along with tools like a poster, providing simple examples of persuasive writing is another helpful way to teach this new concept.
Here are a few examples of elementary-level persuasive paragraph examples that will give both you and your student an idea of what to expect.
Example 1: A Persuasive Argument About Cats
Cats are the best pets. They can be left alone all day without getting mad. Cats don’t bark, so they are not noisy like dogs. You don’t have to let cats go outside to use the bathroom. As you can see, cats are less work and easier to take care of than dogs.
Example 2: A Persuasive Argument About Meal Choices
French fries should be served with every meal. First, French fries are delicious. Second, French fries are made of potatoes, which are vegetables, and they can air-fried without oil. Also, French fries don’t cost a lot of money. Because they are tasty, cheap, and can be cooked in a healthy way, French fries a perfect side dish to every meal.
Example 3: A Persuasive Argument Against Littering
You should never litter because it is wrong. Littering pollutes the Earth. Littering is throwing trash around outside, which looks ugly. Littering can also make you sick if it has germs on it. Littering is wrong because it makes the world a dirty, unsanitary place to live.
20 Persuasive Writing Prompts for Kids
When you provide a step-by-step structure and supply examples of what is expected, you set your student up for writing success.
The final step in teaching persuasive writing to kids effectively is to present them with an antidote to the dreaded blank page.
To assist you with that, we’ve come up with 20 persuasive writing topics for your students to make it easier for them to get them started on their persuasive essays.
If they can’t come up with their own topics, one of these prompts should spark their interest.
These ideas for persuasive essays cover a wide variety of topics, so there should be something for everyone.
Plus, since persuasive writing is closely related to debate, you can also use these prompts as persuasive debate topics for kids :
- I deserve to be paid for my chores.
- Hamsters are the best type of pet.
- Everyone should eat a salad daily.
- Board games help you learn.
- Kids need free time to relax and play.
- You should always obey speed limits.
- Every family should have a dog.
- Dinner should always end with dessert.
- Homeschool students should get “snow days” as well.
- Kids should choose where the family spends summer vacation.
- I am old enough for a later bedtime.
- All students should learn a second language.
- School should only be 4 days per week.
- Soda is bad for you.
- I am responsible enough to learn how to cook.
- My cat should be allowed to sleep on my bed.
- Kids should be allowed to vote in their local elections at age 16.
- I am old enough to babysit and be paid.
- You should always wear a seatbelt in the car.
- Pizza is a healthy food.
I hope these persuasive texts and prompts for kids are helpful to you!
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to provide a few persuasive paragraph examples for your students to gain inspiration (and eliminate overwhelm).
If your student is entering 6th grade or above , we have a complete course that teaches students to write skillfully, think critically, and speak clearly as they explore the history of ideas! As a bonus in these dark days, Philosophy Adventure also teaches students to discern truth from error:
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Free Printable Persuasive Essay Structure Worksheets for Kindergarten
Persuasive Essay Structure: Discover a collection of free printable worksheets for Reading & Writing teachers, tailored for Kindergarten students to develop their persuasive essay writing skills.
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Explore printable Persuasive Essay Structure worksheets for Kindergarten
Persuasive Essay Structure worksheets for Kindergarten are an essential tool for teachers who aim to develop their students' reading and writing skills at an early age. These worksheets focus on teaching young learners the fundamentals of writing organization and structure, which are crucial for crafting compelling arguments and presenting ideas clearly. By incorporating these worksheets into their lesson plans, teachers can provide their students with a strong foundation in persuasive writing, setting them up for success as they progress through their academic journey. Furthermore, these worksheets are designed to be engaging and age-appropriate, ensuring that Kindergarten students remain interested and motivated to learn.
Quizizz offers a wide range of educational resources, including Persuasive Essay Structure worksheets for Kindergarten, to help teachers create interactive and engaging learning experiences for their students. In addition to these worksheets, Quizizz also provides various tools and features that allow teachers to customize their lessons and track student progress. By utilizing Quizizz's platform, teachers can access a vast library of resources that cater to different learning styles and needs, ensuring that their students receive a well-rounded education in reading, writing, and writing organization and structure. With Quizizz, teachers can confidently prepare their Kindergarten students for success in their academic careers and beyond.
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Use these worksheets to supplement your persuasive writing unit. Includes a variety of worksheets and writing prompts for students.
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Teaching Argumentation and Persuasion: 6 Engaging Activities Beyond the Argumentative Essay
There are many engaging activities to use when teaching argumentation and persuasion beyond the classic essay. While the argumentative essay can certainly be effective, try something new with one of these 6 engaging activities. Your students will be excited and eager to apply argumentation and persuasion in the classroom and beyond.
When it comes to teaching argumentation and persuasion, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. I’m eager, excited, and full of energy. Yet, over the years, I’ve found that my students don’t always meet me with the same enthusiasm. Instead, they roll their figurative eyes at the thought of writing yet another essay.
I had to do something to save my favorite holiday– I mean unit– of the year.
I’ve spent more hours than I’d like to admit, wracking my brain for activities that would make teaching argumentation and persuasion, dare I say, fun! But the time and effort paid off. When I started implementing activities beyond the argumentative essays, my students were engaged and active participants. It was a win-win.
Lucky for you, I’ve done the work (and put in the time) so you don’t have to. Instead, simply keep reading to uncover some of my secret weapons for teaching argumentation and persuasion. The following activities can be used instead of or in conjunction with the classic argumentative essay. It’s totally up to you and what will best suit your students’ needs. Regardless, you don’t have to spend the hours brainstorming from square one. You can thank me later. In the meantime, read on, my teacher friends!
Laying the Foundation for Teaching Argumentation and Persuasion
Before jumping into one of the activities below, you need to set your students up for success. Therefore, be sure to teach the essential concepts for effective argumentation and persuasion. Afterall, both argumentation and persuasion are cornerstone communication skills in the 21st century.
So, not only do you want to do these topics justice for the sake of your classroom. But, they’re also some of the most transferable skills your students will use in the real world.
Note: if you’re just looking for the activities, no problem! Keep scrolling– I promise they’re there.
Understanding the Difference Between Argumentation and Persuasion
While these two topics are often taught together, it’s important for students to know that they aren’t exactly synonyms. Instead, you could argue (see what I did there) these two concepts act as compliments to one another. In many cases, persuasion can strengthen an argument, and vice versa. But again, they’re not exactly the same when it comes to speaking or writing. (However, I find it useful to remind students of one of the most important aspects they do share: there has to be at least two sides.) You can clarify the major differences between the two by looking at the main goal for each type of writing or speech:
- The goal of argumentative writing is to get the audience to acknowledge your stance on a topic. Moreover, a strong argument shows the reader your viewpoint is valid and deserves consideration. Therefore, argumentative writing is heavily rooted in logic and facts and addressed counterclaims.
- Goal of persuasive writing is to get the audience to agree with you and your stance on a particular topic or viewpoint. While logic most certainly strengthens persuasion, there is also a heavy emphasis on emotional elements as well.
The truth is, the two are often used hand in hand in the real world with everything from marketing and public service campaigns to politics and law. And, in most cases, persuasive writing is more personal and passionate for students. Therefore, I strive to teach the two together to increase student engagement and real word application. Talk about a dream duo for students and teachers alike!
Rhetoric and Rhetorical Appeals
I absolutely love comparing persuasion and argumentation to art. Why? Because it’s a true craft. Do I explain it that way to my students? Abso-freakin-lutely. Why? Because they need to understand that presenting a sound and persuasive argument is a skill. That these writing and speaking skills take time and effort to develop.
Enter: Rhetoric. I always begin this unit by defining argumentation, persuasion, and rhetoric, explaining how the latter literally means the art of persuasion. Then, I introduce the three main rhetorical appeals (shout out Aristotle). Rather than simply giving the students the definitions of ethos, pathos, and logos, I begin by asking questions to help reveal the definitions. Here are some of the questions I use– and that you can most certainly steal for your own classroom:
- To introduce ethos , I ask, “Who would you trust to give advice about toothpaste? Why?”
- To introduce logos , I might ask, “If you wanted to learn how to build a successful business, what is the benefit of a successful entrepreneur giving you step-by-step guidance?”
- To introduce pathos , I ask, “Think about a time where you got emotional during a commercial, song, or movie. What was it that made you so emotional?”
The Power of Words
Once students have an understanding of these essential definitions, it’s time to move on to a more abstract, yet highly significant, concept: the power of words. This is where I introduce the importance (and power) of diction. This is the perfect time to explain how words impact reader/audience experience.
One of the simplest examples to make a case for this claim is asking students to analyze the difference between the terms house and home. I’ve never had a class not come to the conclusion that a house is a structure and place of living, where a home is a place filled with love.
To round out the discussion on why and how words have an impact on the audience, introduce connotation and denotation. Spending a handful of minutes explaining the emotional meaning behind words (connotation) can be a game changer. It reminds students that there is, in fact, emotional power in the words we use. To drive the point home, you can ask them to compare times when they were upset vs. angry vs. furious.
A Fun and Engaging Warm-Up Activity for Teaching Argumentation and Persuasion
What tween or teen doesn’t like arguing with adults? (Trust me. They’re far and few between.) In other words, students will eat this activity up. Rather than focusing on deep and heavy topics that require a great deal of research and unpacking, this activity is a lighthearted warm-up. The goal is to get students to start thinking about what goes into a sound and persuasive argument.
- Arguing with “Adults”
Working independently or in small groups, students will pick a “silly” or lighthearted topic. Encourage them to think of things they’d like to convince their parents, teachers, or other adults. Since these topics are light hearted and often come from a place of passion, students will have no problem coming up with reasons why their curfew should be extended by an hour or two or why homework should be abolished. They’re excited to argue why their parents should buy them a car or why a puppy is a must-have addition to their family.
Next, allow students five minutes to choose a topic and brainstorm their argument. Then, give them 10-20 minutes to write their argument. (The timing of this activity is flexible, so you can adjust it based on the structure of your class.) After they write out their argument, it’s time to share– and let the discussion unfold. As each student (or group) shares their argument, have fun playing devil’s advocate. Challenge them to push their arguments and reasoning further.
While you might want to guide the students through the discussion, let them really come to terms with the idea of what makes a sound and persuasive argument. And if you really want to play up the fun? Challenge the other students to play that role! Have your students in the audience play the role of the adults to whom the argument is targeted. This will challenge students to find holes in the arguments, brainstorming ways to make an argument even stronger. Additionally, it challenges them to think about the importance of audience perspective , looking beyond their own interests, blind spots, and biases. The end result? Develop a list of student generated “check-points” for an argument that is both powerful and persuasive.
Engaging Activities for Teaching Argumentation and Persuasion
Watching TV. Driving down the highway. Scrolling through social media. The art of argumentation and persuasion are everywhere . So, why not bring some of those real-life examples to your classroom? Because the truth is, persuasion and argumentation comes in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, it might be time to look beyond the traditional argumentative essay. And with these activities, you can.
An oldie but a goodie. In fact, discussing teaching argumentation and persuasion wouldn’t feel right without some sort of debate. So, to begin this student-centered activity, select (or have students choose) a topic to argue. This can be a murder or crime– and you can even have fun with historical topics like the Salem witch trials if it’s around Halloween or you’re reading The Crucible . Alternatively, you can root your debate in an ethical dilemma or an essential question. Generally speaking, you can look toward real life events or literature for inspiration. You can even head to your state bar association website for mock trial resources and cases– like these from the state of NH . As long as there is evidence to be found and a case to make, you should be good to go.
Before really diving into the mock trial, spend time reviewing the basics of the justice system and trials. Then, once you choose your topic, divide students into teams of prosecution and defense. Once the teams are determined, students can dive into researching and crafting their arguments. However, be sure to emphasize the need for evidence based claims while also discussing the power of persuasion in the courtroom. (There are plenty of video clips you can show and analyze to see these two elements in action.) Each group, both the prosecution and defense, are responsible for crafting an opening statement, a claim, a rebuttal, and a closing statement. For smaller classes, you can serve as the judge and jury. For larger classes, you can run several trials, letting the other groups act as the jury if they’re not presenting. Either way, students will be far more eager to win the jury over with their evidence than they are to write a paper.
There’s no better way for students to show off their new persuasive skills and knowledge of ethos, logos, and pathos than to craft their own arguments. And a mock trial allows them to do so in a way other than the classic essay. But with a verdict on the line, there’s a lot at stake. Therefore, this activity amps up eager participation.
Mock Trial Teacher Tip. Mock trials make debating more exciting– especially if you really play up the trial theme. (Have an old graduation gown? Use it as the judge’s robe! A wig? Yes please! A gavel? A must.) So, grab your gavel and give this engaging activity a try!
- Students Do Shark Tank
This activity brings the worlds of business, marketing, and advertisements into the conversation. Talk about real world connection! Most older students will be familiar with this show. However, it’s always fun to show a clip for an episode or two just in case. Plus. Who doesn’t love watching videos in class? (Teachers and students alike.) Shark Tank is all about the pitch. So, have fun replicating this idea in your classroom! And instead of presenting to the likes of Mark Cuban, students will present to you . If you’re able, try getting a few other guest sharks on the “show”.
Before diving into the project, in addition to watching a few clips of the show, take some time to analyze the world of advertising. Encourage students to find connections between argumentative and persuasive writing and real-life commercials, social media campaigns, and print advertisements. Then, put students in small groups and together they will create their own product. Alternatively, you can have them pick an existing product they’re passionate about. Then, the fun begins.
Using their new knowledge of persuasive language techniques and argumentation, students must convince the sharks to invest in their product! For a fun twist that gets everyone involved, let the audience in on the investments. Print out a set amount of “money” for each student. After all the presentations, allow them to “invest” in their favorite products. As for the presentations themselves, I like to require a visual advertisement– like a poster– and a written component– like an elevator pitch. Students can then display their visuals as they give their speech. Later, students can view all of the visuals as they decide where to “invest” their money.
Shark Tank Teacher Tip. Looking to beef up the argumentative writing side of things? You can have students submit a short research-based argumentative paper that supports the need for their product. Regardless of the specifics, students will be eager to dive into this activity with such real world application.
- Speech Remix
From Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” history has its fair share of powerful speeches. And they’re great examples of argumentation and persuasion as well. So, begin this activity by analyzing a mentor text as a class. Then, turn it over to the students to showcase their knowledge on their own.
Have students choose a historical speech (you can refer to this bank of speeches here ) to analyze. They can turn in annotations or a short response analyzing the rhetoric of their chosen speech. Here’s the twist. After analyzing the speech, they then use it as a mentor text, implementing its sentence structure, tone and rhetorical techniques as they write their own speech. This is where student choice really kicks up a notch. Allow students to choose a topic, cause, or issue they feel passionate about. However, I always recommend having a list of potential topics on hand for students who need a little more guidance.
Additionally, it might be useful to encourage a backwards design approach. Have students select their topic first, and then find a speech that is a good match. For example, a social justice issue might pair well with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. However, be sure students choosing unique and more modern topics are not dissuaded if they can’t find the perfect match. Regardless, in the end, this activity pays homage to great speeches of the past while allowing students to take ownership as they apply the argumentative and persuasive techniques to modern day.
Speech Remix Teacher Tip. Why limit yourself to the four walls of your classroom? This activity is a perfect opportunity for cross-curricular collaboration. Consider reaching out to the history teachers and focus your class study on a speech that lines up with the social studies curriculum. This will allow students to have a more in depth background knowledge, giving them more context for the speaker’s rhetorical approach. Similarly, a speech of this caliber might be less intimidating if they understand the context, allowing them to really focus on the rhetorical approach.
In the age of social media, companies make a pretty penny using influencer campaigns. And it’s really quite fitting. Afterall, argumentation and persuasion is all about influence . So, to kick off this activity, spend some time looking at social media ads and influencer accounts. Be sure to analyze everything from photos to captions to hashtags.
After looking at real word examples, it’s time for students to take on the role of an “influencer” – they can be themselves or create an influencer persona. The next step is for them to choose which product of service they are “fit” to promote and, ideally, sell. Students should pick something they have experience with or knowledge about, from video games to make-up. Then, have students write a letter to the “company” (aka you) to convince them that they are capable of being an influencer. This is where they really need to tap into ethos. They should clearly explain why they are a reputable source and should be trusted to sell “your” product. If they’ve convinced you, then they can sign a “contract” (aka the assignment requirements) that outlines the agreement.
Here’s where the fun and creativity happens. While you can determine the specific requirements, students should create a portfolio of campaign materials to promote their chosen product. This is where you can determine how in depth or brief you want the assignment to be. The portfolio can include artifacts like a series of social media posts, youtube videos or scripts, an email funnel, or even blog posts– or a portfolio combining various types of artifacts.
#Influencer Teacher Tip. If you’re looking to amp up the requirements and turn this into a unit-long assignment or a full blown summative assessment, you totally can. Consider adjusting the assignment to be a multigenre project of sorts. Present students with a list and overview of various genres they can include as part of their project. Then, let them select the ones they wish to include in their multigenre portfolio.
- PSA – The Passion Project
The name alone screams engagement, right? Even better, this activity is engaging. Instead of assigning a list of overused (and sometimes outdated) argumentative prompts, let students take the reins by choosing a topic that matters to them . So, after teaching your students about rhetorical appeals, the appropriate use of persuasion, and the basics of argumentative writing, let students showcase their newfound skills with the PSA Passion Project. In this project, rather than simply writing an essay for the sake of getting grades, students are diving into an issue of their choice in hopes of raising awareness.
Begin by having students select a social or environmental issue that is important to them. These can range from animal testing in the beauty industry to the impact of social media on mental health. In other words, there’s a wide variety of topics out there, so your students are bound to find something that matters to them. Then, they must plan, develop, and create a public service announcement campaign around the issue. This is where you can really drive home the idea of call to action with persuasion. The challenge with the PSA assignment is crafting an argument that is applicable and persuasive for a mass audience. Afterall, when it comes to wide-spread change, there is power in numbers. (This activity can serve as its own unit or work in conjunction with the study of classic essays like “On The Duty of Civil Disobedience” by Thoreau or “A Letter From Birmingham County Jail” by MLK Jr..
This activity has plenty of room for creativity and student choice. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up a writing component. Instead, require students to complete a minimum of two items: a written piece and a visual or media element. The writing pieces can range from a more traditional argumentative essay to back up their media component. Alternatively, they can write a speech, persuasive letter, or educational blog post. Then, for the media components, they can create a poster, a video, a social media post, or an infographic– just to name a few. Now, if you’re really looking to diversify the elements of this project, consider turning the PSA Passion Project into a full blown multigenre project!
PSA Passion Project Teacher Tip. Despite your best efforts, some students will claim they can’t find a topic they’re passionate about. (Teenagers.) That’s why I always come prepared with a list of topics students can choose from. Even students eager to choose their own topic might like to see a list for inspiration. Save yourself some time by giving them ideas from this list of engaging argumentative writing prompts!
A Final Note on the Art of Teaching Argumentation and Persuasion
Remember, I’m not saying traditional essays are bad. But I think it’s worth looking beyond the traditions and asking ourselves, how can we make this better ? Better for the students. More reflective of and applicable to the world we live in. If there’s some fun to be had along the way, so be it! (In fact, I encourage it!)
So, as you go one to try any one (or all!) of these activities in your classroom, feel free to make adjustments as needed. And If you’re still looking for a more traditional essay to be your summative assessment, that’s A-OK too! In fact, the activities above can be shortened and adjusted to serve as a mini-lesson or formative assignments before writing a more traditional argumentative essay.
The bottom line is this…
Ever since I changed my approach to teaching argumentation and persuasion, it’s become something my students and I enjoy together . Imagine that!
1 thought on “Teaching Argumentation and Persuasion: 6 Engaging Activities Beyond the Argumentative Essay”
awesome advice and ideas. My semester just got a lot better!!!
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About this Interactive
The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate. Students begin by determining their goal or thesis. They then identify three reasons to support their argument, and three facts or examples to validate each reason. The map graphic in the upper right-hand corner allows students to move around the map, instead of having to work in a linear fashion. The finished map can be saved, e-mailed, or printed.
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The Essay Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to organize and outline their ideas for an informational, definitional, or descriptive essay.
This Strategy Guide describes the processes involved in composing and producing audio files that are published online as podcasts.
This strategy guide explains the writing process and offers practical methods for applying it in your classroom to help students become proficient writers.
Through a classroom game and resource handouts, students learn about the techniques used in persuasive oral arguments and apply them to independent persuasive writing activities.
Students analyze rhetorical strategies in online editorials, building knowledge of strategies and awareness of local and national issues. This lesson teaches students connections between subject, writer, and audience and how rhetorical strategies are used in everyday writing.
Students examine books, selected from the American Library Association Challenged/Banned Books list, and write persuasive pieces expressing their views about what should be done with the books at their school.
Students will research a local issue, and then write letters to two different audiences, asking readers to take a related action or adopt a specific position on the issue.
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Thank you so much. This has truly helped me in my exams and throughout the beneficial journey of my school year.
How will I be able to check my work, when I print it out to work on them? Where are the answers?
I guess it depends on what you are working on. On what are you working?
Ummm the pdf version is not working…is the link still valid?
This is an amazing website with fabulous ideas and printable ready to go lessons!!! Thank you so much! I wish I could meet you!!!
Thank you very much for this amazing resource and great ideas. They are extremely comprehensive and well designed. Thank you very much for your kind consideration and not adding a Price-tag to your valuable resources. Highly appreciated.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and your work with us. As teachers, we are always in need of fresh material. I teach college level creative writing classes, and your worksheets help my students. Sometimes I change the essay topics to fit their particular age group or interest, but having these examples laid out for us and made available for use in our classrooms is wonderful.
Lifesaver! Thank you for the great ideas and guidance. I am a new teacher, and finding this site has made a true turn around in my instruction. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Thank you for these great step by step resources
Despite all the negative comments above, you should keep up for the ones (like me) who are absolutely grateful for these material.
Thanks for sharing! Best.
I give this website 3stares only for the info but in general 1star
I give your comment 0 stars because your position lacks support or evidence of any kind. Complete some of these worksheets and begin your argument again.
that’s stupid from where do u get the worksheets
I wrote them.
I did not see any activities that required the student to write an entire essay.
Thank you for this information! They helped me in my exam so much!
These are fantastic resources! Thank you so much for sharing them. I only wish I had found them earlier in the school year!
There’s always next year…
Thank you so much for all you do for teachers. I love an use practically everything on your Website!
That’s awesome. Thanks for visiting my website.
I really like this website
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- Persuasive Essay- Why We Need Preschool
The essay isn’t quite finished yet, I plan to write a little bit more about why the Head Start program is ineffective even for those who do qualify and I want to end the essay with my detailed proposal of what needs to be seen in preschool is this country- it needs to be available, free, and optional, and preschools must have qualified teachers, adequate materials, and government controlled curriculums. Emphasis needs to be placed on government regulation so that preschools in underprivileged districts still get the same benefits as wealthier districts. Please offer any honest feedback! Thanks.
(Citations aren’t in yet but I have endnotes marking their place just for my own use. You can ignore them, but if you would like to know where I got any of my information I can post a completed copy next week)
My first day of preschool was one of the most exiting days of my life. My aunt signed me in as I ran to the classroom already filled with kids getting to know each other. “What’s your name?” a volunteer parent asked me gently, marker in hand waiting to fill out my nametag. Hmm… my aunt was already gone and preschool was my chance to be anyone I wanted to be. “Katie!” I lied enthusiastically. I never actually expected the lie to work, but it did. My first day of preschool my nametag read “Katie” right up until the end of the day when my very confused aunt came to pick up “Lizzy.” With new friends, a new atmosphere, new knowledge, (and a new name) preschool really was the world of new possibilities that I had dreamt it to be. Unfortunately, far too many American children never get to have this kind of experience. Private preschool is expensive and in most places in America, only the poorest families qualify for state-funded education before Kindergarten. This country needs publically available and free preschool education to give every child the opportunities that he or she deserves. We need to ensure that the possibilities of the world remain open to every student and this process begins with nationalized, public early childhood education.
Children learn more in their first five years of life than in any other five-year period [i] . Melzoff describes children as “just like little sponged during the first 2000 days of life.” [ii] During this stage, brain growth occurs rapidly. At age five, the human brain is the densest that it will ever be [iii] . In early childhood development, a special emphasis is placed on education at ages 3-5, which is why preschool specifically is so important. As children “engage in avid an rapid learning,” [iv] progress is made in cognitive and motor development. Access to education can foster positive improvement in these areas, not only because the children can learn from properly trained teachers but also because of the many social interactions available in the classroom environment. Additionally, by observing children’s progress, many developmental disabilities can be diagnosed in the first few years of life. Early intervention beginning at age three has the incredible ability to reduce the severity of many disabilities, including hearing or sight impairments, speech problems, or generalized learning delays [v] . If children lack access to trained professionals such as teachers, many of these disabilities may go unnoticed until Kindergarten, when intervention is much less likely to have a profound effect. Nationalized preschool would give children the opportunity to take advantage of the critical stages of young brain activity, enhancing development and helping to recognize and improve the severity of various developmental disorders. Without proper access to good education, valuable time and opportunities can be lost, forcing children to start Kindergarten already behind with little chance to catch up.
Social development is another major attribute of preschool. The ability to play and interact with other students offers countless benefits. Communication skills are enhanced in a classroom setting because child-to-child interaction is increased and children must learn to effectively communicate needs to a teacher [vi] . Self-help skills, like eating, washing hands, and putting on shoes, are also acquired more quickly in a group setting. If students gain these important skills in preschool, then the disparities between children is greatly reduced upon entering kindergarten.
Social acceptance is highly variable among students between the ages of three and five, but nationalize preschool and well-educated teachers can promote social equality at this young age. Research suggests that sexist behaviors are developed from birth on, but are greatly increased by our public education system; for example, in preschool, teachers are more likely to keep teaching boys certain skills, like cutting out a shape, consequently enhancing male learning, but teachers are more likely to do the skill for girls, like cutting the shape our for them, thereby preventing female learning [vii] . Teachers, often female themselves, do not recognize the impact of these actions because it occurs from a subconscious tendency to sympathize more with girl students. Similar problems often arise with differences in race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Nationalized, government-controlled preschools would allow for better and more uniform teacher education and training. With proper training, teachers can better understand subconscious tendencies and avoid these behaviors, thus promoting equality and diminishing public education’s role in perpetuating academic deficiencies in women, minorities, and poor students.
The many benefit of a preschool education remain with students throughout their lives, creating a better society overall. In President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he emphasized the need for an early education system by stating the proven outcomes: “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job and form more stable families of their own.” [viii] University of Chicago researcher, James Heckman also suggests that preschool education reduces crime rates and increases income levels [ix] . Tax-payer funded preschool would require an expensive start up, but the proven benefits can ultimately decrease government spending by reducing the number of people in prison or on welfare. It can also reduce the money spent on special education programs, aiding students with learning disabilities early enough to keep them at grade level instead of waiting until these students are already too far behind to catch up. The most current research suggests that every $1 invested in early childhood educations can save up to $7 in the future. [x] If preschool was nationalized and better regulated, these benefits could be further increased by getting more children educated by more highly trained teachers. Society as a whole would advance, benefiting all citizens regardless of whether they have children.
Clearly, preschool has huge benefits in this country, but there is already an extensive public and private preschool system, why aren’t we seeing these returns? Unfortunately, even though preschool is available in some places of the country, many individuals still lack affordable access. Private preschool can be very extremely expensive if it is of good quality. In rural areas, good quality education might not be available even for families that can afford it. Today, only one in five families has a stay-at-home parent [xi] ; these families must spend a significant part of their income on childcare. When money is tight or good preschools are too far away, parents must sacrifice the quality of their children’s education. Untrained baby sitters and poor quality childcare can be detrimental to children. In these situations, children are not properly educated and fail to learn many of the beneficial skill that can be gained from qualified teachers and specialized attention. Well-run preschools have toys and curriculum designed specifically to enhance young cognitive and motor development, to promote literacy and reading, and to handle children with special needs. Denied these tools, the value of learning is diminished and children can no longer gain the potential benefits only possible at the critical ages of three to five.
The United States government does offer public preschool, know as the Head Start program, to poor families, but many of the families that need it still don’t qualify for the necessary help. Currently, Head Start is only available to families that make 130% of the income that defines the national poverty line. Many families that do not fall below this line still cannot afford quality childcare. It is the children just above the cutoff for the Head Start program that suffer the most, because most often they end up without significant education and then must enter school distracts far behind wealthier children and the children that qualified for Head Start.
3 Responses to Persuasive Essay- Why We Need Preschool
I like this topic. It is also interesting to me that I wrote about making college education free. You make a lot of good points and have a really strong sense of logos. I also liked the story at the beginning. One thing you might want to fix is that your second paragraph starts off with just a bunch of facts stringed together. You might want to add some narrative in between. It might also be helpful to quote any psyhological studies that you may be talking about and not just paraphrase.
I completely agree with this. I love the personal example you gave at the beginning, I think that really added to the statement you are making. I also like all of the facts that you use to back up your arguments. Great job so far, this is a great first draft!
I like the story that you included about your own preschool experience. I think it really adds a personal touch to the paper. I think that so far your essay is really well-written and each of your points flow together nicely! I think that you argue your opinion very clearly.
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Laura V. Svendsen
Gustavo Almeida Correia