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How To Teach Persuasive Writing (With Examples!)

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Modified on September 28, 2023

Writing is an important skill for a multitude of reasons. Not only is writing essential for academic success, but it’s also a basic requirement for most jobs. However, studies have shown that more than two thirds of 8th and 12th graders are below grade level in writing.

One reason students may be struggling in writing is because teachers don't feel comfortable teaching the subject of writing. In fact, only 55% enjoy teaching writing. For teachers who lack confidence teaching writing or who didn't receive training in writing, it can be hard to know what works in the teaching of writing and what doesn't.

What Is Persuasive Writing?

Persuasive writing is writing that attempts to convince the reader of the writer's position. Persuasive writing is important because it helps students to analyze different positions and counterarguments, research their own position, and critically think through flaws in their argument. Practicing persuasive writing can help students to develop critical thinking skills, understand diverse perspectives, and present information in a way that's compelling and concise. It also forces students to reflect on their own experiences and access a variety of emotions.

Persuasive writing is different from argumentative writing because it doesn't just focus on facts, it appeals to the reader's emotions. As such, persuasive writing is conversational and relational.

Key Aspects of Persuasive Writing 

There are three key aspects of any persuasive writing:

  • Ethos is the authority of the author. The author should establish their authority over the topic as early as possible. Sometimes this is the student themselves, but sometimes this involves research from others who hold some type of authority within the topic. For example, if a student is writing a persuasive essay relating to education, then quoting an educator would enhance the ethos of the essay. 
  • Logos is the logical way the argument is presented. This includes research, facts, and a powerful conclusion that leads the reader to take action.
  • Pathos is the necessary appeal to emotion present in all persuasive writing. Through personal stories and an understanding of the character of the reader, writers can tug at the heartstrings of readers to convince them of their point.

What are the 5 elements of persuasion?
There are five standard elements of persuasion to consider when teaching and writing persuasive pieces. 

  1. Source – First is the person or organization presenting the argument. This is important because the source should be both credible and reliable. Often, the source presenting the argument will include other sources within their work to add to the credibility of the message.
  2. Message – The message is the argument itself where the ethos, pathos, and logos appear in a well-crafted presentation.
  3. Medium – The “how” of persuasion is the medium. Persuasive pieces often come in the form of visuals like commercials, written words as in essays, and speeches such as courts or debates.
  4. Public – This is the audience or receivers of the message. When it comes to writing, especially in persuasive writing, it is crucial to know your audience. Different means of persuasion are more effective with different audiences.
  5. Effect – The final element is the effect, or result, of the persuasion. Most persuasive pieces have some type of call to action in the end, whether explicitly stated or implied. A candy bar commercial may have the desired effect of you picking up that candy bar next time you are in the checkout line. A closing argument in a court case may have the desired effect of a jury deciding a certain verdict.

Why Is Persuasive Writing Important?

Persuasive writing is important because it equips students in their critical thinking skills and research abilities. This form of writing requires learners to consider the viewpoints of others while also engaging in self reflection. A combination of all these things not only produces academic achievement, but creates a more well-rounded member of society overall. 

Additionally, persuasive writing is everywhere in our society—from advertisements to politics to media coverage of key issues. By learning to recognize it, students will learn to form their own opinions without being unduly swayed by persuasion. Students will also be able to recognize where, when, and how they are being influenced to think or feel a certain way. 

How To Teach Persuasive Writing

Teaching writing in general is both highly important and often challenging. There are different ideas and strategies for what works in the teaching of writing, and the same things are true for persuasive writing. 

One of the best ways to teach persuasive writing is to engage students' passion. Depending on the grade level, you can have students brainstorm as a class or individually. Letting students choose topics that are interesting and relevant is the best place to start, but there are more tips and methods for teaching persuasive writing as well. 

  • Prepare for persuasive writing lessons by reading persuasive writing. Letting students analyze advertisements on TV or in magazines can be good starting points to let students interact with examples of persuasion before writing their own. 
  • Have students brainstorm an issue that gets them excited, like choosing the next sport in gym, the next class field trip, or the next book to read as a class. 
  • You may let students have a small in-class debate over a topic as a way to model academic thinking. Let students engage in dialogue with each other over a topic or two before they move on to their own topic. 
  • Once students have selected their topic, each student should choose a position. This will be their thesis statement, or the position around which the entire persuasive argument is based.
  • Have students list out their emotional reasons for why they believe in their position. This is the pathos of their argument. 
  • Next, students should list at least three facts that further their position. These are the logos of their argument. 
  • Additionally, you could have students find a quote from a reliable source that supports their position. This adds to the ethos of their argument. 
  • Finally, students should conclude their writing by restating their position.

Examples of Persuasive Writing 

  • Historical Founding Documents – Some of the most famous documents from our country’s founding are actually examples of persuasive writing. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” are just a few that many students will study in an English or history classroom.
  • Civil Rights Documents – Major movements, like the Civil Rights Movement, are filled with examples of persuasive writing. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great persuasive writer who sparked action and change with his words. Many students will study pieces like his essay “Letter from Birmingham Jail” or his speech “I Have A Dream” as great examples of persuasive writing. 
  • Famous Speeches  – One way you can vary your examples of persuasive writing is to actually watch some persuasive speeches. Most, if not all, of these speeches were likely first written down before they were presented. You can find great, age-appropriate examples from sources like TED Talks, closing arguments of court cases, presidential debates, graduation speeches, and so on. 

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