Persuasive Writing to Make Change (AIG IRP)
Higher-level students will individually identify a problem in the school, and they will think critically to find ways to solve the problem. Then each student will write a persuasive letter to the principal describing the problem, detailing why it is a problem, and offering a solution to solve the problem. Students will have experience with real-life problem-solving through this project. This lesson was developed by NCDPI as part of the Academically and/or Intellectually Gifted Instructional Resources Project. This lesson plan has been vetted at the state level for standards alignment, AIG focus, and content accuracy.
Brief Description of Lesson/Task/Activity: Higher-level students will individually identify a problem in the school, and they will think critically to find ways to solve the problem. Then each student will write a persuasive letter to the principal describing the problem, detailing why it is a problem, and offering a solution to solve the problem. Students will have experience with real-life problem-solving through this project.
Time Frame: 1-2 hours
Type of Differentiation for AIGs:
Adaptations for AIGs:
Explanation of How Resource is Appropriate for AIGs: This task is appropriate for a higher-level student because while the student continues to work with the Essential Standard for his grade level, he will evaluate the school environment to find a problem for students and/or staff members. Then he will need to think critically to generate at least one way to solve the problem. He may need to research the problem by interviewing staff members to know why the problem has not already been solved or why procedures/organization has been implemented as it has. He will then need to defend his argument for the need for change via a persuasive letter to the principal. He will need to use supporting details and justifications for implementing the new plan. He will need to use strong persuasive writing skills to appeal to the principal. The student will engage in real-world problem-solving.
- Book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
- Website for ideas for teaching persuasive writing:
- Map for writing persuasive pieces:
- Peer evaluation tool:
- Tools for using good words:
- Various examples of persuasive writing
Teacher Notes: Websites may no longer work over time, so if these websites go away, just google “persuasive writing”, “persuasive writing examples”, and “teaching persuasive writing” for good examples to show your students. Also, here are some books that may be useful: 100 Writing Lessons: Narrative Descriptive Expository Persuasive: Ready-to-Use Lessons to Help Students Become Strong Writers and Succeed on the Tests by Tara McCarthy; "They Say / I Say": The Moves that Matter in Persuasive Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein; Persuasive Writing (Grades 4-8) by Tara McCarthy
Stage 1: Engage
Read to students the book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. In this book the cows (and later the hens) type letters to Farmer Brown to convince him to give them comforts that they wish to have, but he refuses their wishes. Discuss how the letters could have been more convincing/persuasive. What could they have added to make the letters stronger? (details (what exactly is needed), examples (different examples of how the items would be useful), reasons (why the items are needed), social proof (what would other farmers think of Farmer Brown for not complying with the requests), comparisons (analogies that Farmer Brown could relate to in his own life), address objections (predict what Farmer Brown’s objections to the requests will be and argue the point/defend your need), and appeal to emotions (ask Farmer Brown to put himself in your shoes; how would he feel).
Another idea for engaging students is to show them ads from magazines or tape commercials from television (or find some on the internet) and ask students what the ads use to make people want to buy their products or use their services. Explain to students that commercials and ads are much like a persuasive letter in that they are used to convince people of something (to act in a certain way, to buy a product, etc.). Ads, commercials, and persuasive letters employ the following techniques: appeal to people’s emotions; they make people think they will not be like others if they don’t do what they are asking; they make you think logically that what they are saying is necessary; they compare their idea or product to things in your own life so you’ll make a connection to their idea/product; and they give details that show you exactly why their idea/product is the best one.
Stage 2: Elaborate
The assignment for students is to examine the school procedures, processes, organization, etc. and choose a problem that they believe can be solved by changes in procedures or organization. Students will then use persuasive techniques in their writing to the principal to convince the principal to make the changes in order to enhance the workings of the school. Before actually writing the letter, students will need to know a solution to the current problem, so offer students some creative problem-solving strategies such as the following: (have students visualize the problem as it is and then visualize the problem area working – what changed? Make a sketch of the before and after); (give students play dough, popsicle sticks, tape, and paper and have them build a model of the new “design” that works); (have students brainstorm in a journal the possible solutions); (have students take pictures of problem and then use an overhead transparency overlay to sketch solutions on top of the picture), etc.
To help students with the writing process, the teacher should show students the PowerPoint on this website: Show students the Persuasive Strategies PowerPoint on this website: http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/persuasive-writing-30142.html .
Then she may show samples of persuasive writing. She can lead students in a discussion about what techniques were used and how effective they were and what techniques would have made the writings more powerful.
The teacher can allow students to use the online planner for writing the persuasive letters if she wishes to do so Students may use the following map/planner to write their letters: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/persuasion_map/
Another good site to possibly copy and give to students is this tool for using good words in your writing: http://www.readingrockets.org/content/pdfs/persuasivewordsphrases.pdf
Students should participate in a “Think, Pair, Share” to help each other strengthen the persuasive letters. Students should help each other edit for more and better persuasive techniques, persuasive language and for conventions.
Stage 3: Evaluate
After students have used peer-editing, and students have gone back and corrected their own letters, students should pair up with a new partner and evaluate each other’s writing with the following tool:
Teacher Notes: The teacher should oversee this process to ensure students are thinking critically to give feedback to other students and to make sure all students are respectful in their comments before they are given to the other students.