“Persuasive writing is extremely important in the development of students writing skills (Danielle Weaver, Entry 7, 2012). “
While learning about persuasive writing, and reading through my peers blogs, I found Danielle’s statement extremely important. I not only found this significant as an educator, but also as a writer. Persuasion is a life skill. It is used by everyone at one point or another. Although Tompkins notes that many researchers believe that children’s persuasive writing skills develop more slowly than their abilities to produce other genre pieces, I would have to disagree with such researchers. Children can write persuasively, and even use their persuasive skills at a very young age to get what they want.
As writers, the use of persuasion is a powerful tool, if used appropriately. When developing a persuasive piece, students must be aware of who their audience is, and the purpose of their writing. That is, who are they trying to target, and how can their writing meet that targeted audience (Tompkins, p.252). They must tailor their writing to fit their desired audience. Doing so requires that students keep in mind that their piece needs to be purposeful, clear, and organized in such a way that grabs the reader (p.252). Students must write
Meta-cognitively. Once students begin to construct persuasive writing, and become familiar with how to do so appropriately, they then learn to think critically, differentiate between the use of persuasion and propaganda (which unlike persuasion, suggests something shady or underhanded), examine arguments, and use both oral and written language to petition their ideas (p.252 and 253).
In order to support students development in writing persuasively, students must first be taught the three ways to persuade and audience. The first plea is based on reason that is the writer must construct logical generalizations, drawing a cause-and-effect conclusion (p.252). For example, for my genre project, I plan on using medical research to persuade my audience to stop drinking dairy milk, switching to alternative milk sources instead. I hope that by providing medical research, my audience will agree with my augment. Another way to persuade an audience is through an appeal to character (p.252). Students need to understand that their audience will be more apt to agree with the argument, if the writer used facts and claims by those who are trust worthy (doctors, sports stars, and scientists). For example, for my persuasive piece, I would need to use research and claims from those who understand and study the heath, nutrition, and the dairy industry. The final way to persuade is through an emotional appeal. For students, it is critical to help them understand that as a society; we support and ignore arguments regarding what is ethical and socially responsible to ourselves and others (p.253). Therefore, the augment needs to be personal or meaningful to the writer. If I were to write about something that did not apply to me or was something I did not think find important, it would most likely result in a poor argument, not persuading many. This is also why when using persuasive writing in the classroom, we try to allow students choice in their topics, or connect the writing to student’s lives (ethical, school related, real-world, ect) (p.253).
To help students improve their persuasive writing skills/to introduce students to persuasive writing, it is imperative to do so through direct instruction. As teachers, we could apply the use of direct instruction to a series of mini-lessons in which students study persuasive techniques, applying what they learned to the construction of persuasive letters and essays. Mini-lessons are a great tool to use, because it uses scaffolding to teach students how to develop a persuasive piece. Tompkins (2012) discloses that educators can teach persuasion through three mini-lessons (p.261). The first lesson being how to organize an argument, the second being how to develop a graphic organizer, and the third being how to refute counterarguments. The use of a graphic organizer is an excellent way to help students organize their piece. A great prewriting strategy is to use the graphic organizer to help students explain their argument, as well as present and discuss their argument with peers (p. 255). Through the use of such instruction and lessons, students will develop into better writers. It will teach them to increase their awareness for the power of persuasion, and why it is used everyday (p.261).
As I begin to write my own persuasion piece, I have come to learn not only why persuasion is an important aspect to writing, but also how to use is appropriately. As in any piece, I must be aware of my purpose, as well as whom my targeted audience is. I must also keep in mind the three ways of persuading an audience. To help me construct a well throughout argument, I plan on using a graphic organizer to support my thinking process. I think that doing so will greatly improve my writing. However, I must remember to include counter arguments to support why my reasons are more concrete. Overall, I am excited to begin writing my persuasive piece, as well as helping my future students become better persuasive writers.