Persuasive Essay Brainstorming Worksheet

Our state standards spell it out pretty clearly. My third graders need to be able to write opinion pieces on topics or texts that state an opinion within a framework of an organizational structure that provides reasons that support the opinion and provides a concluding statement. Oh, and they better use transitional words and phrases throughout. These would be the same 8-year-olds who still can't figure out it's not a good idea to put your boots on before your snow pants.  

With all this in mind, meeting those standards seemed like a huge mountain to climb when I was planning out my persuasive writing unit a few weeks ago. I have students who still haven't mastered capitalization and punctuation, so I knew I would have to break down the mechanics of writing an opinion statement into a step-by-step process for them. This week I am happy to share with you a few tips along with the graphic organizers I created to help get my students writing opinion pieces that showed me that my students, while not quite there yet, were fully capable of making it to the top of that mountain.

Introduce the Language of Opinion Writing

The very first thing we did during a writing mini-lesson was go over the language of opinion writing and how certain words, like fun and pretty are opinion clues because while they may be true for some people, they are not true for everyone. We also discuss how other words, called transitions, are signals to your reader as to where you are in your writing: the beginning, middle or end.

After the initial vocabulary is introduced, I challenged my third graders to look for examples of these types of words in their everyday reading. Over the next couple of days, students used sticky notes to add opinion or transition words they found to an anchor chart posted on a classroom wall. Next, I took the words and put them into a chart that I copied for students to glue into their writer's notebooks. You can see our chart below. If you would like to print your own copy, just click on the image.

 

Introduce Easy-to-Read Opinion Pieces

Most of my third graders have read a wide variety of genres by this point in third grade, but when asked if they had ever read the "opinion genre," they answered with a resounding, "No!"  I pointed out to them that they actually read opinion articles nearly every week in our Scholastic News magazine. At that point, I let them dive into the archives of old articles online and they were quickly able to find opinion pieces in several of the issues we had read this year. Students also used the debate section of the online issues. 

On the board we listed some of the articles students found in Scholastic News that contained opinions:

Many Scholastic news articles are perfect to use because they are short, and for the most part have a structure that is similar to how I want my students to write. The articles often include:

  • Both sides of the argument
  • Clearly stated opinions
  • Reasons for holding that opinion
  • Examples to support the reasons
  • Conclusions that are restated with enthusiasm

In the image below, you can see below how easy it was for my students to find the opinions, supporting reasons and examples in the "Debate It" feature we read together on whether the U.S. Mint should stop making pennies.

 

Model, Model, Model!

Once students read the article about pennies, they were ready to form an opinion. After discussing the pros and cons with partners, the class took sides. With students divided into two groups, they took part in a spirited Visible Thinking debate called Tug of War. After hearing many of their classmates voice their reasoning for keeping or retiring the penny, the students were ready to get started putting their thoughts on paper. 

At this time, I introduced our OREO graphic writing organizer. Using the name of a popular cookie is a mnemonic device that helps my students remember the structural order their paragraphs need to take: Opinion, Reason, Example, Opinion. In our class, we say our writing is double-stuffed, because two reasons and two examples are expected instead of one. 

Because this was our first foray into example writing, we worked through the organizer together.

My students did pretty well with the initial organizer and we used it again to plan out opinion pieces on whether sledding should be banned in city parks.

Once students had planned out two different opinions, they selected one to turn into a full paragraph in their writer's notebooks. The organizers made putting their thoughts into a clear paragraph with supporting reasons and examples very easy for most students. 

 

With each practice we did, my students got stronger and I introduced different organizers to help them and to keep interest high. Giving each student one sandwich cookie to munch on while they worked on these organizers helped keep them excited about the whole process. 

After we worked our way through several of the Scholastic News opinion pieces, my third graders also thought of issues pertinent to their own lives and school experiences they wanted to write about, including:

  • Should birthday treats and bagel sales be banned at school?
  • Should all peanut products be banned?
  • Should we be allowed to download our own apps on the iPads the school gave us?

As we continued to practice, different organizers were introduced. Those are shown below. Simply click on each image to download and print your own copy. 

The organizer below is my favorite to use once the students are more familiar with the structure of opinion paragraphs. It establishes the structure, but also helps students remember to use opinion-based sentence starters along with transition words. 

 

Below is a simple organizer some of my students can also choose to use.

 

Other Resources I Have Used

Scholastic offers many different resources for helping your students become better with their opinion writing, or for younger writers, understanding the difference between fact and opinion. A great one to have in your classroom is: 12 Write-On/Wipe-Off Graphic Organizers That Build Early Writing Skills.

 

Click on the images below to download and print. There are many more sheets like these in Scholastic Teachables.

 
A couple weeks into our persuasive writing unit and I have already seen a lot of progress from our very first efforts. We may not have mastered this writing yet, but we are definitely on our way and that mountain doesn't seem quite so high anymore. I hope you find a few of these tips and my graphic organizers helpful! I'd love to hear your tips for elementary writing in the comment section below.

 

 

I'd love to connect with you on Twitter and Pinterest!

 

 

Teacher Store Resources

I love using the graphic organizers in my Grade 3 Writing Lessons to Meet the Common Core. Other teachers in my building use the resources for their grade level as well. They make them for grades 1-6. 

 

 

Student Objectives

Session 1: The Game of Persuasion

Session 2: Analysis of an Argument

Session 3: Persuasive Writing

Session 4: Presenting the Persuasive Writing

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Work in cooperative groups to brainstorm ideas and organize them into a cohesive argument to be presented to the class

  • Gain knowledge of the different strategies that are used in effective persuasive writing

  • Use a graphic organizer to help them begin organizing their ideas into written form

  • Apply what they have learned to write a persuasive piece that expresses their stance and reasoning in a clear, logical sequence

  • Develop oral presentation skills by presenting their persuasive writing pieces to the class

  • Analyze the work of others to see if it contains effective persuasive techniques

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Session 1: The Game of Persuasion

1.Post the chart you created where students can see it (see Preparation, Step 3). Distribute sticky notes, and ask students to write their names on the notes. Call students up to the chart to place their notes in the column that expresses their opinion.

2.After everyone has had a chance to put their name on the chart, look at the results and discuss how people have different views about various topics and are entitled to their opinions. Give students a chance to share the reasons behind their choices.

3.Once students have shared, explain that sometimes when you believe in something, you want others to believe in it also and you might try to get them to change their minds. Ask students the following question: “Does anyone know the word for trying to convince someone to change his or her mind about something?” Elicit from students the word persuade.

4.Explain to students that they are going to play a game that will help them understand how persuasive arguments work.

5.Follow these rules of the game:

  • Have students get into their groups.

  • Explain that sometimes when you play games the winner gets a reward and that at the end of this game the winning team will get the reward you have chosen (see Preparation, Step 1).

  • Have each team choose a recorder, or designate a recorder for each team yourself. The recorder's job is to write down the team's arguments.

  • Tell students that they must work together as a team for 15 to 20 minutes to come up with the best reason why the class should award their group the prize. Their reasons can be serious or playful.

  • Use a signal to let them know when to begin and when time is up.

  • Have students present their arguments. Students can either present as a group or choose one person to be their speaker.

  • Have the judge decide on a winning group or ask students to vote for a group other than themselves that had a convincing argument.

Note: While students are working, there should be little interference from you. This is a time for students to discover what they already know about persuasive arguments. Use the Observations and Notes handout as you listen in to groups and make notes about their arguments. This will help you see what students know and also provide examples to point out during Session 2 (see Step 4).


Home/School Connection: Distribute Persuasion Is All Around You. Students are to find an example of a persuasive piece from the newspaper, television, radio, magazine, or billboards around town and be ready to report back to class during Session 2. Provide a selection of magazines or newspapers with advertisements for students who may not have materials at home. For English-language learners (ELLs), it may be helpful to show examples of advertisements and articles in newspapers and magazines.

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Session 2: Analysis of an Argument

1.Begin by asking students to share their homework. You can have them share as a class, in their groups from the previous session, or in partners.

2.After students have shared, explain that they are going to get a chance to examine the arguments that they made during Session 1 to find out what strategies they already know how to use.

3.Pass out the Persuasive Strategy Definitions to each student. Tell students that you are going to explain each definition through a PowerPoint presentation.

4.Read through each slide in the Persuasive Strategy PowerPoint Presentation. Discuss the meaning and how students used those strategies in their arguments during Session 1. Use your observations and notes to help students make connections between their arguments and the persuasive strategies. It is likely your students used many of the strategies, and did not know it. For example, imagine the reward for the winning team was 10 extra minutes of recess. Here is one possible argument:

“Our classmate Sarah finally got her cast taken off. She hasn’t been able to play outside for two months. For 60 days she’s had to go sit in the nurse’s office while we all played outside. Don’t you think it would be the greatest feeling for Sarah to have 10 extra minutes of recess the first week of getting her cast off?”

This group is trying to appeal to the other students’ emotions. This is an example of pathos.

5.As you discuss the examples from the previous session, have students write them in the box next to each definition on the Persuasive Strategy Definitions sheet to help them remember each meaning.


Home/School Connection: Ask students to revisit their persuasive piece from Persuasion Is All Around You. This time they will use Check the Strategies to look for the persuasive strategies that the creator of the piece incorporated. Check for understanding with your ELLs and any special needs students. It may be helpful for them to talk through their persuasive piece with you or a peer before taking it home for homework. Arrange a time for any student who may not have the opportunity to complete assignments outside of school to work with you, a volunteer, or another adult at school on the assignment.

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Session 3: Persuasive Writing

1.Divide the class into groups of two or three students. Have each group member talk about the persuasive strategies they found in their piece.

2.After each group has had time to share with each other, go through each persuasive strategy and ask students to share any examples they found in their persuasive pieces with the whole class.

3.Explain to students that in this session they will be playing the game they played during Session 1 again; only this time they will be working with a partner to write their argument and there will be a different prize awarded to the winning team.

4.Share the Persuasive Writing Assessment with students and read through each category. Explain that you will be using this rubric to help evaluate their essays. Reassure students that if they have questions or if part of the rubric is unclear, you will help them during their conference.

5.Have students get together with the partners you have selected (see Preparation, Step 1).

6.Get students started on their persuasive writing by introducing them to the interactive Persuasion Map. This online graphic organizer is a prewriting exercise that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay.

  • Have partners enter their names and topics on the opening screen.

  • The goal or thesis is the claim or stance that they are taking on the issue.

  • Students should then brainstorm three reasons to support their claim, and facts and examples to support each reason.
Challenge students to use the persuasive strategies discussed during Session 2 in their writing. Remind students to print their maps before exiting as they cannot save their work online.

7.Have students begin writing their persuasive essays, using their printed Persuasion Maps as a guide. To maintain the spirit of the game, allow students to write their essays with their partner. Partners can either write each paragraph together taking turns being the scribe or each can take responsibility for different paragraphs in the essay. If partners decide to work on different parts of the essay, monitor them closely and help them to write transition sentences from one paragraph to the next. It may take students two sessions to complete their writing.

8.Meet with partners as they are working on their essays. During conferences you can:

  • Ask students to show you the persuasive strategies they are using

  • Guide students to use a variety of persuasive strategies

  • Make sure students are using their Persuasion Map as a guide

  • Check their supporting facts and examples for accuracy

  • Help groups write an interesting beginning and ending

  • Encourage partners to read their paragraphs to and provide feedback for each other

  • Edit for grammar and mechanics

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Session 4: Presenting the Persuasive Writing

1.During this session, partners will present their written argument to the class. Before students present, hand out the Check the Strategy sheet. This checklist is the same one they used for homework after Session 2. Direct students to mark off the strategies they hear in each presentation.

2.Use the Observations and Notes sheet to record your observations.

3.After each set of partners presents, ask the audience to share any persuasive strategies they heard in the argument.

4.After all partners have presented, have students vote for the argument other than their own that they felt was most convincing.

5.Tally the votes and award the prize to the winning team. To end this session, ask students to discuss something new they have learned about persuasive arguments and something they want to work on to become better at persuasive arguments.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Endangered Species: Persuasive Writing offers a way to integrate science with persuasive writing. Have students pretend that they are reporters and have to convince people to think the way they do. Have them pick issues related to endangered species, use the Persuasion Map as a prewriting exercise, and write essays trying to convince others of their points of view. In addition, the lesson “Persuasive Essay: Environmental Issues” can be adapted for your students as part of this exercise.

  • Have students write persuasive arguments for a special class event, such as an educational field trip or an in-class educational movie. Reward the class by arranging for the class event suggested in one of the essays.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Compare your Observations and Notes from Session 4 and Session 1 to see if students understand the persuasive strategies, use any new persuasive strategies, seem to be overusing a strategy, or need more practice refining the use of a strategy. Offer them guidance and practice as needed.

  • Collect both homework assignments and the Check the Strategy sheets and assess how well students understand the different elements of persuasive writing and how they are applied.

  • Collect students’ Persuasion Maps and use them and your discussions during conferences to see how well students understand how to use the persuasive strategies and are able to plan their essays. You want to look also at how well they are able to make changes from the map to their finished essays.

  • Use the Persuasive Writing Assessment to evaluate the essays students wrote during Session 3.

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