The Game of Persuasion
Teach students to "argue" productively! In this lesson, they learn how to develop and present persuasive arguments to the class.
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
Students will engage in a persuasive argument about a meaningful topic.
- Work in small groups to brainstorm persuasive ideas and organize them into a cohesive argument they will present to the class.
- Learn vocabulary terms associated with persuasion.
- Chart paper or chalkboard
- Overhead projector
- Five 3x5 index cards for each student
- Class set of dictionaries (enough for students to use with a partner)
- Stapler or tape for adhering index cards to a Word Wall or bulletin board
- Powerful Words Printable (PDF) from Genre Writing Lessons Focused Step-by-Step Lessons, Graphic Organizers, and Rubrics That Guide Students Through Each Stage of the Writing Process
Set Up and Prepare
- Prepare a transparency for the Powerful Words printable.
- Copy class set of the Powerful Words.
- Type up the following arguments to assign to each group:
- Dropout Dora — Your friend Dora has lost interest in school and her grades are suffering. As a result, she'll be repeating 9th grade. Dora has decided to quit and work more hours as a waitress to support herself. She says she'll eventually get her diploma on her own. Compose a logical argument convincing Dora to stay in school, with reasons why it is to her benefit.
- Your parent is considering a job in Seattle, Washington. If your parent takes the job, it would mean that your family would relocate during Thanksgiving break. For you, this would mean adapting to a new town, a new school, and new friends. Your parent has asked for your help in making this decision. Compose a logical argument to either support moving or support staying where you are.
- Century High School is considering eliminating study hall from the school schedule. While this would force you to take another class and earn additional credits, it would eliminate time to study. Either persuade the school board to eliminate Study Hall or keep it on the schedule.
- High school athletes must maintain a passing grade in each class to be eligible to participate in sports. Some teachers and coaches believe that requiring a minimum 60% grade in each class isn't a high enough standard. Therefore, it's been suggested that athletes should have a minimum of 70% in each class at the end of each week to be eligible to play. Compose an argument to either support raising the grade requirement or to keep it at the current requirement.
- Many schools in California have changed their school calendar so that they are now year-round schools. They still have time off in the summer, but they don't have the traditional 3-month break. Some Illinois schools are considering following in California's footsteps. Compose an argument either in support of the year-round school calendar or in support of continuing the traditional school calendar.
- Divide your class into teams of 4-5, depending on your class size. Designate a recorder and speaker for each team or have the students choose these roles. Assign an argument to each group.
- Decide on a signal to let the groups know when their work time and presentation time is finished.
- Arrange classroom seating to accommodate group work and discussion. Have chart paper and markers available for each group.
- Create a Word Wall or bulletin board with the 39 words from the Powerful Words printable. Students will later post definitions written on 3x5 index cards next to the words.
Step 1: Begin the lesson with this statement: "Raise your hand if you usually win an argument, any argument — with your siblings, parents, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, and so on." Ask those who raised their hands: "Why do you think you win? What do you do or what techniques do you use to win your arguments?" Generate a brief discussion. Include ideas like everyone doesn't think the same way and has different viewpoints of various topics. Give an example by stating your favorite season of the year or favorite flavor of ice cream and asking students to share theirs. Then ask: "What is the word for trying to convince someone to change his or her mind about something?" Elicit from students the word persuade. Write the word and the definition on chart paper or chalkboard.
Step 2: Explain to students that they're going to engage in an argument today in small groups. Each group will be given an argument and their job is to discuss and generate ideas for persuasion. Review the activity with the students:
- Each group will have a recorder and a speaker. The recorder will write down the team's arguments and the speaker will present those arguments in order to persuade the audience to believe in the same way.
- They must work together as a team to produce the best ideas for their scenario.
- They will have 20 minutes to work together. The speaker will have 3 minutes to present.
- A signal will indicate when the group time is up and when the presenter's time is up.
Step 3: Assign groups, recorders, and speakers. Allow 20 minutes to work. Upon completion, invite speakers to present their argument to the class. Afterwards, process the arguments by asking students what they learned while listening to each argument and whether or not they sided with the speaker's perspective. Why or why not?
Step 4: Begin by reviewing the activity from the previous day and the concept of persuasion. Ask students to share some examples of when people tried to persuade them or times when they tried to persuade someone else. You may also want to point out the following:
- Commercials and advertisements try to persuade you to buy things.
- People running for an official position try to persuade you to vote for them by convincing you that they are the best person to meet your needs.
- Your teacher tries to persuade you into doing your best in school by promising you that better things in life come to those who are educated.
Point out that some of the speakers from the argument activity used particular words that persuaded us to think a certain way. Have students recall some words or phrases that the speakers used. Tell students that they will learn some terms or "powerful words" that can be used for persuasion.
Step 5: Distribute the Powerful Words printable to each student. Using the Powerful Words transparency, review the vocabulary list with the students. Explain that these are "powerful words" that good speakers or writers would use to persuade other people to do something that they want them to do. Explain to students that they will be writing their own persuasive business letter in class, and that they will be required to use at least five "powerful words" in their letter. Ask students to draw a star next the five words they would like to use. They can add to or delete from this list later, if needed.
Step 6: Show your students the Word Wall with the 39 "powerful words" displayed. Distribute five index cards to each student. Ask them to write this information on each card clearly: their name, one of their words, its definition, and their own sample sentence using the word. Distribute dictionaries to each student or pair of students. Ask for volunteers to look up the definitions and write sentences for words that students have not chosen. Walk around the room, monitoring the students, and check to see which words have not been chosen. Assign those words to the volunteers. When all students have finished, review each word with the class by asking one student who chose that word to read their definition and sample sentence aloud. Have them staple their cards to the Word Wall.
Step 7: Throughout the unit, choose one of the words from the Word Wall and ask for a volunteer to come and read the definition and sample sentence out loud. This will help reinforce students' comprehension of the "powerful words."
Supporting All Learners
Students who do not work well in groups can present either a verbal or written argument.
- Repeat Day 1 and have the students come up with the opposite viewpoint from what they presented the first time. Swap the recorder and speaker roles. Encourage students to use "powerful words" in their arguments.
- Instead of using all 5 scenarios on Day 1, choose two or three and have one group support the argument while another group supports the opposite viewpoint. Introduce the idea of a debate. Have the class vote on which speaker was the most convincing.
- Students can work on the Online Activity Making Connections with Transitional Words, Mini Lesson 1 to continue their study of persuasive writing.
- For homework, ask students to brainstorm a topic that is meaningful to them and write a persuasive paragraph supporting their argument.
- Participate in a small group activity
- 5 "powerful word" definitions and sample sentences
- Were the students engaged in the small group activity?
- Did the arguments presented to the small groups generate enough enthusiasm from the students?
Written Outcome: Check the sample sentence on each student's index card for understanding of the word.