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Teaching Persuasion
Last Post 20 Mar 2013 07:44 AM by Holly Walker. 5 Replies.
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Laura ArrazoloUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:113
20 Jan 2012 09:53 AM
    For anyone teaching persuasion this season, as I know a number of districts are, I wanted to mention a few sure-fire LTF lessons for 9th and 10th grad units on studying persuasive speeches and writing persuasively. My go-to intro lesson is "Finding Appeals in Contemporary Speeches" from Module 9, with 3 classroom-ready lessons, 1 on Emotional Appeals, 1 on Logical Appeals, and 1 on Ethical Appeals (remember, this is about character and credibility, not just about ethics, as it's often mistakenly taught). The Bush and Angelou speeches are on (look for Bush's under 9-11 and go by the date, 9-20-11. It's audio only). The Angelou speech has video and can be found at The Gore speech is the one that's not listed, but you can find it easily at Here's a straight link:
    The clip of the Gore speech LTF recommends is about 6 minutes into the speech, starting with "So today, we dumped another 70 million tons...." and ending with "out of sight and out of mind."

    The other lesson I've had several teachers tell me their kids have really enjoyed, and that gets kids thinking not only about appeals, but about organizational strategies, is the "Nerds letters" lesson from Module 10 called "Structure in Persuasion." This is a great piece to use as a transition into student writing - pointing out to kids that just as these writers did, they need to think about how they're opening, transitioning, using a variety of persuasive techniques, and concluding a persuasive piece.

    From there, I love the "Safe Trak Teen Driver Tracking System" prompt in the lesson, "Writing the Persuasive Essay" (Module 11). It's a great set-up for a close reading, discussion, brainstorming session of pro's and con's (you'll have to show them how to flip evidence from the ad into con arguments), writing a thesis, and organizing essays. If you want to give students other contemporary controversial issues to write about, you might look at . It gives a list of topics and a set of 4 articles, some for and some against, topics like corporal punishment, banning junk food in schools, beauty pageants, and stem cell research. Not every article link is still active, and some topics are outdated, but it's still a great place to start if you want kids to do research-based persuasive essays. Another site we've mentioned on the Forum is It's now got several sections of sample persuasive essays by real teens (just look under All Opinions for choices like Love and Relationships, Drugs and Alcohol, and Current Events). Students could find an essay to disagree with or even to analyze for rhetorical strategies a la the Nerds letters.

    My other favorite LTF resource for persuasive materials is the Assessment section. I think we often forget how many resources are in there! In Grade-Level Assessments, we've got those great sample speeches under Rhetorical Analysis, and - better yet for variety - under Rhetorical Analysis (2007 and 2009), there are sample speeches, essay prompts, rubrics for analytical papers, and Rangefinder essays (one essay for each score from 1 to 6) with teacher comments. 9th grade, for example, has a Frederick Douglass excerpt and a Lyndon Johnson speech. If I were having my kids write a persuasive essay, we'd do one together on one of those pieces for practice, then look at rangefinders and revise; then for the final assessment I'd use the other speech and prompt. It doesn't get much better than that!

    I'm sure many of you are aware of these resources, but for folks who haven't gotten through all the trainings yet and are frantically digging, I hope this list is useful.

    Andrew HollingerUser is Offline Basic Member Basic Member Posts:294
    20 Jan 2012 10:28 AM
    Very cool.

    One thing I've done in the past as an intro to the persuasion and the appeals: I group the students into pairs, and I give each pair one homework pass. Then I give them five minutes to figure out which one of the two gets the pass (usually, at the end of the lesson I supply the other half of students with a pass, but I don't let on until the intro is way over). After only one person from each group has taken ownership of the pass, we discuss the methods the person used to "earn" the pass. Was it emotional, logical, ethical? What worked the best, etc. For most groups, it kind of hammers in how important persuasion can be.

    University of Texas-Pan American
    Department of English

    co-founder/co-editor of crosspol: a discursive journal for high school and college writing teachers
    twitter: @crosspol_ed
    Debra SquiresUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:1004
    20 Jan 2012 01:35 PM
    With 9th graders, I love to use Atticus's closing arguments to the jury. Another favorite of mine is the parallelism lesson using George Bush's address to a joint session of Congress right after the 9/11 attacks.
    Deb Squires
    NMSI English Online Forum Facilitator
    Laura ArrazoloUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:113
    27 Jan 2012 01:13 PM
    I just wanted to add a clarification, based on some flawed information I came across lately, that persuasion can always be used for honest and even noble purposes or it can be used in manipulative ways. (Of course, whether we see it as noble or manipulative often depends on our own opinions.) We need to make sure kids understand both.

    I want my students to recognize that logical, emotional, and ethical appeals can all be used fairly and honestly, or misused or twisted. (See positive examples in the LTF lesson, Finding Appeals in Contemporary Speeches.) I don't want to err on one side or the other - teaching that all appeals (including those of the local blood bank or MLK) are fallacious, or that all forms of persuasion (including those used by the Onion, the local drug dealer, or Heinrich Himmler) are true or good.

    And I want my students to know how to use logical, emotional, and ethical appeals effectively in their own writing, trying to appeal to their audience's hearts and minds in positive ways.

    How can I do that? By making sure to provide both "positive" and "negative" examples of persuasion (with plenty of political balance), and by constantly emphasizing the contexts of Audience and Purpose. I hope that makes sense.
    Yolonda StillwellUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:14
    04 Feb 2012 09:28 AM
    I just found out I have a student taking the 10th grade STAAR. Does anyone have good examples?
    The Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy
    If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.
    Barack Obama
    Holly WalkerUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:4
    20 Mar 2013 07:44 AM

    As an introduction to persuasive writing for my seventh graders, it was amazing to watch and eventually hear their logic! Many thanks.

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