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Daily Arguments

pencil2When teaching students to write persuasively (which Common Core now calls Argument), it’s important for them to realize that they encounter the art of persuasion every day. After all, persuasion is nothing more than influencing someone else. In ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote abut how to persuade others. Three hundred years later, in Rome, Cicero wrote several books about persuasion. Today, daily persuasion can take many forms. Studies show that we receive up to 3000 persuasive messages each day.

Persuasion in any form can be both negative and positive. Television commercials tout foods that are not healthy and target children with ads for toys they supposedly can’t live without. Drug dealers and gang members persuade others to follow their lifestyle. Salesmen push expensive cars on people who can’t easily afford them. On the flip side, persuasion can also be used to encourage recycling or stopping smoking. On TV, a recent series of commercials from Pass It On encourages positive values.

Advertising is an obvious form of persuasion that we encounter every day. The television, radio, Internet, newspaper, magazine, email, direct mail, and billboards all try to convince us we need something. So many choices! Human beings are natural joiners. We want to do what others are doing, to have what they have, so we are very receptive to being persuaded. Advertising agencies, marketing firms, and public relations companies are all full-time persuaders.

While we are being persuaded daily, we also do our own persuading. Parents persuade children to wear certain clothes, eat certain foods, or be nice to a visiting grandparent. Teachers persuade students to learn. Children persuade parents to buy them a new toy, to increase their allowance, or to get a pet. Applicants for a job try to persuade the company that they are the best candidate, and bosses persuade workers to do their jobs well. Friends persuade each other to see a certain movie, read a certain book, follow a certain band. Personally, I try to persuade my husband to take me out to dinner every Friday night.

With persuasion such an important part of our lives, it is important to learn to do it effectively! Can I persuade you to comment on this post? How have you encountered persuasion in YOUR life today?

Kid Logic

anpencil3I first published this a year ago, but it is once again true. I added some of the kid logic from the recent V-Chip persuasive.

It’s that time of year again–we’re teaching persuasive writing to our fifth and sixth graders. The students at our school are skilled writers. They get a lot of instruction and a lot of practice. They also have a lot of confidence in their ability. All of this contributes to their eagerness to learn something new. Persuasive writing, however, is difficult to master.

First, let’s look at persuasion in their lives. At this age (most of them are ten or eleven) they are used to asking for what they want and resorting to begging or demanding if they are told no. The fine art of persuasion eludes them.

Given their skill with words, these students are quickly able to master the basics of  a persuasive essay. They can present their reason for writing, state their thesis, and even acknowledge the reader’s concerns. They can write supporting paragraphs and craft a conclusion with a call to action. Why is this so difficult to teach, then? It comes down to kid logic.

We spend a lot of time teaching writers how to write for their audience. A great argument to persuade the school board, for example, is it will save a lot of money. If persuading parents, try it will enhance my self esteem and make me successful. When convincing a friend, the best argument is it will be fun. But no matter how many examples you give, when faced with brainstorming persuasive reasons kids always come up with kid logic.

Actual student examples of kid logic:

* If my parents use a V-chip to control what I watch on TV, I will turn into a bad person because I will want to steal the code.

* If the school has an honor roll, I will do worse in school because I can never make it.

* If the school closes its library, I won’t be able to read.

* If my parents don’t give me an allowance, I’ll be too embarrassed to go places with my friends.

* The city library should be open after school and on weekends because that’s when I can go.

* The V-chip will prevent my parents from watching their shows, too.

* The V-chip will prevent me from learning to make decisions. If someone asks me a question, I won’t know how to answer.

They’re kids. They don’t really understand what motivates the teachers, parents, principals, or government that they are trying to persuade. They don’t understand the complex layers of politics or financial weavings that complicate current issues. The result is kid logic.

So how does a teacher score kid logic? In my school district we use a rubric to score student writing. We look for solid reasons to support the thesis. But how can we expect kids to come up with adult logic? In recent years at my school we have begun to score the writing based not so much on the reason itself, but on how well it’s presented. So even if the reason is weak to the adult mind, it can be scored well if it is well supported with evidence and examples. This way, the writing is solid. The framework is in place for when the logic matures. In the meantime, their essays make for an entertaining read.

What do you think? If you’re a student, do you like persuasive writing? If you’re an adult, do you write persuasively?

Community Service

        book_and_feather    Hooray for Community Service!

by Taman

            The voices of cheerful kids ring in your ears. As you look around, you see smiling kids chattering while piling toys and books into trucks for the needy. Even though some students and adults may think that community service is a waste of time, I strongly believe that doing it is very helpful and critical to a student’s learning of good morals and ethics. Performing good works is beneficial because it teaches kids to care for the community, prepares students for the future, and makes children more responsible.

Some folks may think that doing community service won’t educate children anything useful; however, it can actually encourage students to care for their society. When kids do community service like picking up trash or planting trees, you are cleaning the environment. In the end, the environment will be more fresh and improved. Everyone will be happier! People will no longer have to breathe in yucky, polluted air. If adults and children inhale the disgusting air surrounding them, their bodies will be affected negatively. Nobody wants that to happen! Also, animals will now be more peaceful and cheerful since their habitats will be more sanitary. Animals will also have a smaller chance of dying or getting sick.

People may assume that good work will not actually do anything wonderful for children’s futures, but in reality, it can actually make their future easier and brighter! When kids begin to do community service, it will go onto their application for admission to college. Consequently, there will be a big chance that they can get into one of the best colleges just because of that. Once they get into their particular college, they can start trying to achieve their goals to become a doctor, dentist, professional basketball player, and much more. After that, they will become very successful and can make a lot of money to support their family and themselves. Their parents will be instantly full of joy just to see what their child has accomplished after many years of hard work. But making students’ futures brighter even more excellent isn’t the only reason why community services are fantastic.

Peer pressure from students’ classmates may play a role in this as well. Others may scoff the idea of doing community services because they think that it will not improve their “reputation” nor make their parents happier. In fact, they believe that community service may cause their parents to even expect more out of them and therefore causing them to do more work, but when students do good work, parents start to realize how independent their child is. Everyone will look up to them as responsible, hardworking kids. No one will ever think of them as lazy couch potatoes who watch T.V all day. After that, adults will trust their children to do bigger tasks. Some of the tasks are to babysit their little brother or sister, owning a pet, having a phone, and much more.

Students should do community service because it educates students to take care of their own community and make kids ready for their future. It also creates an opportunity for children to have more responsibility. I encourage parents and teachers to create more opportunities to perform community service as part of school.

Narratives vs. Persuasive, Part 2

 

By definition, all writing taps into the creative side of the brain. My nearly-seventh grade students believe that narrative writing, however, is much more right-brain that persuasive.  As Nitya says, “Some students may feel that persuasive allows for you to express your opinion; however, most students agree that narrative writing lets your imagination run wild!”

 

Expressing feelings, through inner dialogue or actions, has been something we worked hard on this year. Anthony says, “Narratives are a better way to express feelings and communicate at the same time. People can easily tell about events that already happened, or make up fantasies that others can enjoy.” Albert goes on to say, “Unlike persuasives, which are limited to only one side and keep you constrained to a single style of writing, narratives can be used for a wide variety of expressives; pushing opinions, emotions, and other things that make something real.” Rheya praises the two types of narratives that we wrote this year when she says, “Personal and fictional narratives are both equally fun and have their own style. You can make your own stories and get lost in their wonders when you write fictional narrative and you can remember old memories in personal narrative.” The last word on expressiveness in writing has to go to Sahith. He says, “Fictional narratives allow writers to express their creativity and emotions through a fictional form of writing that shows others how you are feeling. Persuasive does not give you that kind of luxury. This kind of writing makes writers forced to write about the topic given, attempting to persuade the reader of a topic they have no clue about.”

 

“Narrative lets your imagination go free!” says Aline, and Fernando agrees, “Narrative is the best form of writing because it unleashes your imagination.” Imagination is a big factor in their approval of narrative writing. Samantha claims, “Narrative just goes with the flow. It can bend your mind. It can do amazing things with your personality if it’s good enough!” Anaisha compares the two types of writing by saying, “If you are doing narrative you can make up whatever you want! From characters, to setting, to plot, anything you can imagine can be a narrative. But in persuasive, it’s all the real life, which is boring.” According to Kassandra, “In narrative, you can look at the world as something more than just a piece of paper. You can look at it as a world that you created.” Chris adds, “You can stretch the story from being really realistic to a story that is about aliens invading the world.” Michelle sums it up by stating, “Narrative is so complex, and you can do almost anything you want. You can let your imagination soar, and there are huge varieties of ideas. “

 

My students also like the creativity of narrative writing. “Most people feel this way,” Catherine explains, “because it expands student’s creativity, it helps students use their imagination, and it helps students with their use of descriptive words.” Raymond says, “Creativeness can allow you to express your feelings. You can be free in writing and jot down whatever pops in your mind. While persuasive, you have to focus on the prompt limiting your ideas in your brain.” Caitlin agrees, saying, “Narrative is more creative and enjoyable,” and Tyler adds, “It brings out your creative juices.” This time the final statement is Sean’s. He says, “It’s like you’re in your own creative world of fantasy when you write a narrative.”

 

Clearly I have my work cut out for me. Next year, my challenge is to create students who love writing expository essays as much as they enjoy narratives! Do you think I can do it?

 

 

Narrative vs. Persuasive

Recently I asked my class of sixth graders (well, it’s May—they are almost seventh graders) whether they preferred writing narrative or persuasive pieces. It was a fair question since each type of writing offers different structure and thought processes. This year’s class is awesome at writing persuasive essays; however, they almost unanimously chose narrative as their favorite type of writing. They elaborated so thoroughly on their reasons (a wonderful persuasive skill) that it will take me two posts to share it all with you. So here, from the minds of 31 almost seventh graders, are the reasons why narratives are better writing assignments than persuasive essays.

First, the narrative format gives the writer more freedom. Quentin compares the two by saying, “The only real format for narrative is that there has to be paragraphs. Persuasive is a certain format that you must always follow. Students might not have fun with having to follow the same paragraph format every time when writing. “ Valerie says, “Narrative writing only has a beginning, middle, and end. Persuasive needs a topic sentence with reasons and why the reasons help the topic sentence.” Jordan also prefers the less structured narrative. He says, “Narrative stories are very easy to plan out. Instead of wasting time thinking of reasons for a main idea in a persuasive, you can be very creative about things and make up interesting problems in a narrative.” Caitlin says, “In persuasive you have to come up with multiple reasons to support an opinion that you don’t even feel strong about. “ Wasting time? An opinion you don’t care about? Clearly Jordan and Caitlin prefer narrative.  Amrita is the most passionate when she writes, “The freer format of narrative gives fewer opportunities for errors as well as providing more ways to add detail to a story. Crafting a story unleashes the power of the imagination, opening up new possibilities.”

Another reason students prefer narrative is that they believe it is easier. Andre says, “Narrative is easier than persuasive because persuasive has more steps than narrative. It also makes us feel tired.” Other students acknowledge that they had to learn how to write narrative, and maybe the learning itself wasn’t easy. According to Jordan, “Once you know how to do the little things in narrative, they will be very easy to write because all you have to do is write what you are picturing in your head about the story.“ Quentin goes on to say, “The fact that you have to think about the other side makes persuasive harder and take longer.“ I know students have been writing narrative far longer than they’ve been working on persuasive essays, so it might just be that they need to practice writing persuasive before it gets easier. At this time, though, Cristina sums it up by saying, “Narrative is a lot easier to write, and more people would rather write narrative than persuasive.”

Today’s last reason in support of narrative writing is that it is fun. I am proud that my students so firmly believe that! Julia says, “Narrative books are fun to write and come from the soul. With persuasive writing, the reader or writer gets bored! The readers want to put the persuasive writing down as soon as possible. There is no action, romance, or thrilling moments in persuasive writing, making it boring to read or write. However, narrative writing has all of these things, making it fun and exciting.” Marina says, “Narrative is much more interesting to read, more fun to write, and makes the writer feel proud after it is written. When you read a persuasive, you can get bored. Every persuasive has the same format, the same structure…narratives may be based off of some main principles, but each one is different and unique. Also, a narrative is more fun to write. You can put yourself in a situation and watch what happens. In a persuasive, there is no excitement, no interesting problems to watch characters solve. It is simply a message in your head stretched to a multi-paragraph essay.” I may be biased, but I totally agree. Maybe that is why my students enjoy writing narratives so much!

Tune in tomorrow when my student continue trying to convince you that narrative writing is much better than persuasive! In the meantime, if you have objections, make sure to put them in comments!

In paperback: Ramses: Son of Light by Christian Jacq

Daily Persuasion

When teaching students to write persuasively (which Common Core now calls Argument), it’s important for them to realize that they encounter the art of persuasion every day. After all, persuasion is nothing more than influencing someone else. In ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote abut how to persuade others. Three hundred years later, in Rome, Cicero wrote several books about persuasion. Today, daily persuasion can take many forms. Studies show that we receive up to 3000 persuasive messages each day.

Persuasion in any form can be both negative and positive. Television commercials tout foods that are not healthy and target children with ads for toys they supposedly can’t live without. Drug dealers and gang members persuade others to follow their lifestyle. Salesmen push expensive cars on people who can’t easily afford them. On the flip side, persuasion can also be used to encourage recycling or stopping smoking. On TV, a recent series of commercials from Pass It On encourages positive values.

Advertising is an obvious form of persuasion that we encounter every day. The television, radio, Internet, newspaper, magazine, email, direct mail, and billboards all try to convince us we need something. So many choices! Human beings are natural joiners. We want to do what others are doing, to have what they have, so we are very receptive to being persuaded. Advertising agencies, marketing firms, and public relations companies are all full-time persuaders.

While we are being persuaded daily, we also do our own persuading. Parents persuade children to wear certain clothes, eat certain foods, or be nice to a visiting grandparent. Teachers persuade students to learn. Children persuade parents to buy them a new toy, to increase their allowance, or to get a pet. Applicants for a job try to persuade the company that they are the best candidate, and bosses persuade workers to do their jobs well. Friends persuade each other to see a certain movie, read a certain book, follow a certain band. Personally, I try to persuade my husband to take me out to dinner every Friday night.

With persuasion such an important part of our lives, it is important to learn to do it effectively! Can I persuade you to comment on this post? How have you encountered persuasion in YOUR life today?

Supporting Your Arguments

   Persuasive writing is something I have been teaching with varying success for years. It is also a major component of the new Common Core Standards that are gradually being implemented nationwide. At its very root, students understand persuasion only at a very basic level. It takes skilled instruction to make them effective.

When a child first learns the word no, and five minutes later adds a stamped foot for emphasis, it heralds the independent thinking of a new person. No is soon joined by Mine, but it’s not until I wanna springs forth that the seeds of persuasion are sown.

By the time students are in sixth grade, as mine are, they have learned that demanding what they want is not enough. Oh sure, it works for a few years, but no one gives in to a twelve year old with a pouty face saying, “But I want it.” They need to develop logical reasons to support someone giving them what they want, and here is where they fall short. Sixth graders have limited experience with logic.

Sixth graders know that if they want their parents to buy something for them, it has to be something that will help them in school or help their self esteem.  They know if they want the school board to keep the school libraries open, the money will have to be found somewhere else. They know if they want to convince their teacher to give less homework, they need to show they can master the material without it. (See my post on Knowing Your Audience)

Those are all good ideas, but they all lack strength. They need E’s. From the Step Up to Writing! program that our school uses, the E’s provide the meat of any expository paragraph. Very catchy, that all nine start with the letter E. Even though some seem redundant, these are designed to help writers jog their brain for supporting statements. Here they are, with examples for the above arguments:

Example: The school board might consider cutting or reducing the music program in order to keep the library open.

Everyday occurrence:  Soccer practice is important to my physical and emotional wellbeing, but homework often causes me to miss it.

Events: Our school could have a fundraiser each year to raise money for the library.

Evidence: When I can listen to music and relax, I do better on my schoolwork, so buy me an iPod.

Expert opinion: My teacher says that every student should have their own flash drive to store their written work.

Elaboration: We already do classwork to master the concept.

Experience: Especially in Social Studies, I never do the homework and I do fine on tests.

Effective illustration: In the silence of the library, I am able to think, to read, to complete my work.

Explanation: Everyone else has a plaid backpack, so if you want me to fit in and feel confident, I need one, too.

Of course, each paragraph needs more than one E, but this is a start. Students need to learn to think about their reasons and generate support for them. Only then will they write effective persuasive essays.

On my Kindle: Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo

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