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Persuasive Writing — Three Strategies for Generating Ideas

By Julie Ballew on November 5, 2012
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

The 3rd graders in my building are beginning a unit on persuasive writing. Much as they do at the beginning of any new unit of writing, they have read several persuasive texts like Earrings! by Judith Viorst, I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff, and Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague. They have discussed the differences between persuading and begging, and now they are spending time generating ideas for persuasive entries in their notebooks. I have really been impressed with the brainstorming they are doing and the topics that are coming up in the classes as a result of their work. In this post, I’ll share three ways that I’ve seen 3rd graders at my school generate ideas for persuasive writing.

Persuasive Heart Map

In the first few weeks of school, many students create heart maps in their notebooks. The idea for those heart maps come from Georgia Heard’s book, Awakening the Heart, and they serve as springboards for personal narrative writing. A persuasive heart map is different, though. A persuasive heart map is a place for students to list issues that they hold close to their heart. You might need to prompt students to help them think of issues that matter to them. Ask them to consider the following question:

  • What is happening in the world that you wish you could change?

Persuasive Heart Map          Persuasive HeartPersuasive Heart          Persuasive Heart

They definitely hold a lot of issues close to their hearts!

Powerful Word Jars

As the teachers read persuasive texts to their classes, they call attention to the kinds of words that turn obnoxious begging into powerful persuasion. They discuss the meanings of these words and point out why they are powerful in hopes that the students will try to use them in their own persuasive writing. Students in several classes created “Powerful Word Jars” in their notebooks to help them remember the words that published writers use to persuade their readers. This is such a great resource for the students — it is essentially a miniature word wall, with words that are specific to the current unit of writing. (Yes, I’m already thinking about other units that might need their own word jar!)

Powerful Word Jar               Powerful Word Jar

Supporting My Ideas: Things I Want and Why I Want Them

In addition to studying powerful persuasive words, teachers are pushing the students to think through supports for their ideas in order to be more persuasive. These students made a two-column chart to plan their supports. The left side of the chart has a list of things the student wants. The right side is a place to list the reasons they want it. Thinking through these reasons before writing in paragraph form is another way to keep a persuasive letter from turning into written begging.

Persuasive List          Persuasive List

Persuasive List          Persuasive List

These 3rd graders are having great conversations around personal and global issues that matter to them. I’m surprised at how much conviction they have, and I’m blown away by the topics that they are choosing to discuss. In one classroom, I even overheard two students entering into a debate about tax laws! I’m so excited to see the writing that comes out of this powerful work. What are your students writing about this month?

Comments (2)

Thanks Julie for some great ideas! I will be using the powerful word jar immediately.

I'm glad it's helpful, Nancy. These classes have "fancy" word jars from their poetry studies, and I thought it was so smart to have one specifically for persuasive writing!

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