Teaching fourth-graders to write requires time, practice and patience. Students must write every day in order to hone their skills. Introduce specific genres of writing one at a time and allow enough time for mastery before moving on. A lesson on persuasive writing should include authentic examples, modeling, specific directions and ample independent writing time. Break down the writing process for students by assigning small tasks each day so they can experience success.
Expose students to concrete examples of persuasive writing before they begin to compose. Give examples from a broad range of media, including newspapers, magazines and the Internet. Analyze the elements of persuasive writing common to all of the examples. Discuss the specific words the author used to persuade the audience. You might choose to focus on one particular type of writing, such as persuasive ads or letters, or you could show a broad range of persuasive pieces.
Choose a specific objective for the mini-lesson, which should last about 15 minutes. Example objectives might include students identifying the elements of a persuasive piece, including the introduction, three main points and a conclusion, or students completing a persuasive writing map with an original idea.
To continue with the persuasive map, show a blank map on the board or an overhead projector. Tell students you need help planning a persuasive ad about the county fair. Begin filling in the map, thinking aloud so students hear the thought process. For example, you might say, "I'm going to put my main idea up at the top. Sometimes that's called a thesis statement. My statement is, 'The county fair is an enriching experience for the whole family'." Continue completing the map by thinking aloud and asking for student input.
Guided practice will help students gain confidence and prepare to do individual persuasion maps. Begin with an empty persuasion map and ask students for ideas. Complete the map by prodding students. Use questions like, "Is my thesis statement clear? Do I have three good arguments? Do they support the main idea?" After completing the map, ask students if they have any questions and if they feel ready to complete their own persuasion map. If student understanding is high, continue by giving the individual writing assignment. If not, prepare another map as a class.
Allow students time to complete individual persuasion maps. Students may choose the topic. Discuss potential topics, such as ads persuading students to eat in the school cafeteria, play foursquare at recess or come to the school talent show. Circulate among students as they write, providing individual help as needed. Continue the writing process on another day by taking the project to the next step, which would be writing the rough draft. Follow the same format by giving examples, leading guided practice, and then allowing students to write independently.
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