Because most states require persuasive writing in their curriculum standards, this writing genre pops up frequently during the middle school years. Students need to know how to take a stance on a topic, gather supporting evidence and structure an argument in essay form. With a blend of strong content and logical organization, a student can make a convincing argument on topics assigned in class and on standardized tests.
Planning and Research
Persuasive writing requires taking a side on a controversial topic and convincing readers to join that side. In the essay, middle school students might argue for changing the school lunch menu, for example. After choosing a position, the student gathers supporting evidence including relevant facts, interesting statistics, quotes from experts and personal anecdotes. On a timed writing test, a student may have to rely on given information or prior knowledge for evidence. On a long-term assignment, students can use library and Internet research along with interviewing knowledgeable experts. For example, a student writing to convince the administration to improve school lunches could get statistics from the Food and Drug Administration website, facts from a nutrition book in the library and expert quotes from the school's home economics teacher as evidence.
The first few sentences should grab the readers’ attention with vivid word choices and figurative language that sets a tone. The introductory paragraph clearly introduces the essay's topic and in most middle school essays, it ends with a thesis sentence stating the writer’s position on the topic. For example, the thesis might say “Middle school students should be provided cafeteria lunches that appeal to the tastes of young teenagers and provide a nutritious meal.”
Each paragraph begins with a topic sentence that clearly states one reason why the reader should agree with the student's claim. The rest of the paragraph presents supporting evidence from the research that elaborates on the topic sentence. For the school lunch topic, a paragraph might focus on comparing the calories, fat and sodium content of current school lunches with healthier alternatives using statistical information. The next paragraph could discuss how healthier food can also taste better using quotes from a home economics teacher. Some persuasive writing assignments require middle school students to include a rebuttal paragraph in which the writer anticipates possible counter claims against the thesis and uses evidence to explain why the counter claims are not valid.
The closing is the last chance the student has to make a memorable statement about the topic that will convince the reader to think or act differently, focusing on a call to action in a sentence or two that states the change the student has argued for in the essay. For example, a persuasive essay about cafeteria food could end with "The principal and school board should require the middle school cafeteria to revise its menu to reflect healthy choices that will also be popular with students who eat there every day."
- The Writing Fix: Writing Genres: Model Persuasive Lessons
- Writing to Persuade: Mini-lessons to Help Students Plan, Draft and Revise, Grades 3-8; Karen Caine
- Read Write Think: Developing Persuasive Strategies
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