The Art of Persuasion
Who's for a shorter school week? Students write mock letters to the President, arguing their case.
- Grades: 1–2
- Unit Plan:
Students will write a persuasive letter to the President of the United States, convincing him to shorten the school week.
- Understand the purpose of persuasive writing.
- Understand how persuasion is use to achieve a desired outcome.
- Become familiar with vocabulary words that are useful for persuasive writing.
- Follow the steps of the writing process.
- I use the following book in this lesson, but you may substitute another title that encourages persuasive writing: Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague
- Chart paper or chalkboard
- A variety of colored markers
- Powerful Words printable (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Prepare a sheet of chart paper entitled Persuasive Words.
- Enlarged copy of a selected letter from Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School
- Determine groups for Day 2, four students per group.
- Copy the Powerful Words printable, one per group.
Step 1: Begin the lesson by asking students if they have ever persuaded their Mom or Dad to permit them to do something that they normally are not allowed to do, such as staying up past their bedtime or eating dessert without eating their dinner. Ask: Were you successful in persuading your parents to let you do what you wanted? Why do you think you were successful? When we try to get someone to see our point of view or give us permission we are trying to persuade them. Write the term and its definition on chart paper.
Step 2: Tell students that they will be listening to a story about a dog who wishes to persuade his owner to let him come home from Obedience School. Encourage them to listen carefully to Ike’s letters and the words he uses to try and get his way. Read Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. Periodically pause while reading to discuss details about the story. Ask: Why do you think Ike wants to leave the Canine Academy? How does Ike try to convince Mrs. LaRue to let him come home? Do you think Ike’s methods of persuasion are working? Why or why not?
Step 3: Tell students that George Washington was the first president of the United States and he was a signer of the Constitution — the document of laws and principles that guarantee certain rights to U.S. citizens. Inform students that they will be writing a persuasive letter to the current president of the United States, convincing him to shorten the school week from five to four days. Ask for a volunteer to name him. In order to do so, they need to understand how to write a persuasive letter. Display an enlarged copy of a selected letter from the story and review it with the students. While completing this activity, ask the following: What reason does Ike provide for wanting to come home? Does he use any language that might be considered “persuasive?” Make sure to highlight specific terms or phrases from the letter to help students easily identify persuasive writing.
Step 1: Begin by telling students that today they will draft their letter to the President. Encourage them to recall Ike’s letter and the terms he used to persuade Mrs. LaRue. Inform them that they will first create a list of persuasive words which they might use in their letter when trying to persuade the President to shorten the school week. Display the Persuasive Words chart and share with the students that they will be posting words that they would like to use in the letter.
Step 2: Divide students into groups of four. Distribute the Powerful Words printable to each group. Review the words with the students, demonstrating them in context.
Step 3: Instruct each group to choose 2–4 words they will use in their letter to the President, circle them on the printable, and write them on the Persuasive Words chart using a different colored marker for each group. There should be at least 10 persuasive words on the chart.
Step 4: Upon completion, review the list with the class, encouraging them to use any of the words listed, or more from the printable, in their letter.
Step 5: Remind students that a good persuasive letter includes supporting details. Briefly discuss some compelling reasons why the school week should be shortened. Record on chalkboard or chart paper. Encourage students to decide on their reasons, their persuasive words, and begin drafting their letter. Circulate the classroom to provide assistance when needed.
Step 1: Allow time for students to complete their persuasive letter draft.
Step 2: Instruct students to exchange their draft with a partner to read and provide feedback.
Step 3: Students then revise their letter and publish it. You may want them to rewrite it on a special stationary or type it using a word processing program.
Step 4: Allow time for voluntary sharing of the letters.
Supporting All Learners
Allow students who may have difficulty with extensive writing to record their ideas on a tape recorder. Then, help them construct their persuasive letter.
1. Teach a mini-lesson about properly addressing an envelope. Stuff it with the student’s published letter to the President and mail to:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
2. Write to a current or past president with an essay entitled “Why I Would Be a Good President.”
Have students complete the editing process of their persuasive letter for homework.
- Complete a Persuasive Letter.
- Did the students understand the concept of persuasion?
- Were students able to construct a well developed persuasive letter?
Written Outcome: Evaluate the persuasive letters. Note how each student supported their argument and used persuasive vocabulary.