The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE AND GRADUATE TEACHERS

The Situation

You want your students to experiment persuasive language.

The Solution

In my first year of teaching, I looked obsessively for new ways to engage my students. Ways that would spark their curiosity and create a buzz in the classroom.

One of these ways was to have students create a silly checklist or ‘how to’. They were asked to explain in five steps how to clean your teeth or drive a car. I watched as students began to recalled what they did when they cleaned their teeth or what mum and dad did when they drove. They forgot the hand break and the seatbelt. They talked out the problems and figured out how to explain the silly instructions.

When we teach persuasive writing, it shouldn’t be wrapped around concrete examples like advertising or essays. Persuasion is all around us.

“Please, can we go an see this movie? You chose last time.”

“Can I have the last chocolate? I always miss out!”

We are constantly in situations where we are fighting for what we want. Naturally, all humans want things they way and we develop tactics to achieve these results. We want others to think the way we think. We want others to do as we say. Of course, most people are polite enough to compromise; however, their is an interesting tool here that you could use in the classroom.

Have students persuade each other on random, silly little topics. For example, persuade your shoulder partner to:

  • never brush their teeth again.
  • Give their phone away.
  • Not brush their hair for a week.
  • making dinner for their family is a bad idea.
  • never get their driver’s license.

You will notice that each of these examples are things that students are likely to never do. You want topics of contention, something that will spark some controversy. Prompt students and get them to present their arguments clearly using persuasive techniques. You might like to refer to their acronym PERSUADER (personal pronouns, emotive language, rhetorical questions, stats and facts, use of authority, descriptive language, exaggeration, repetitions). Have students presented to the class too. Can they convince others that they should never drive a car? It might generate fantastic conversation around greenhouse gases and waste of resources?

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