Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Common Core Persuasive Writing: Pre-Writing and Building Background

Since Massachusetts transitioned to the Common Core standards, I've had to rethink my writing block. The Common Core really emphasizes persuasive writing and this is an area that had been lacking in my previous instruction.

At a staff meeting last year, I had a big "ah-HA!" moment. We were asked to brainstorm a list of real-world sources of persuasive writing. As our list got longer....and longer....and longer.....we realized that persuasive writing is EVERYWHERE. In order for our students to be successful in higher education and beyond, it is so important to equip them with the skills to share their opinions clearly and convincingly.

I'd like to share some great resources to help teach persuasive writing. My absolute favorite resource is Karen Caine's book, Writing to Persuade: Minilessons to Help Students Plan, Draft, and Revise, Grades 3-8. If you do nothing else as a result of this post, get your hands on a copy of this book. It is AWESOME. Our writing lead was able to order one for each teacher in the school. If you can't get a copy of your own, check it out from the library. Caine does a great job of mapping out realistic, engaging, and easy-to-implement minilessons to help you plan your unit from pre-writing to publishing. 

Click to grab these prompts for FREE!
Now, let's get down to brass tacks. Pre-writing! I've found that students need a lot of opportunity to practice persuasive thinking before diving in to a full writing unit. To help build background knowledge and develop persuasive thinking skills, I created 24 prompts to get students thinking, talking, and writing. You can find them for free at my TpT store!

There are a million ways to use these. I like to put one prompt up on the document camera at the beginning of writing each day. I give students a few minutes to silently think and jot down notes. Then, students find a partner and get back-to-back. When I say "turn and talk", students discuss the prompt with their partner. At the next "back to back" call, students find a new partner and discuss the prompt again. After several rounds, I ask students to return to their seats and record how their viewpoint was reinforced or how it changed after talking to their peers. 

I also make sure to give students tons of exposure to persuasive writing in different forms. I bring in newspapers, show videos of political speeches, and read mentor texts. One of my FAVORITE sources of persuasive writing? Facebook. I print out my friends' persuasive Facebook statuses--e.g. a friend that posts a picture of a dog asking people to consider adopting him from a local shelter, a graduate student asking people to take a survey for her, etc. Persuasive writing really is EVERYWHERE!

Here are a few ideas for some good persuasive read-alouds:
I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Click, Clock, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Earrings! by Judith Viorst
Can I Keep Him? by Steven Kellogg
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Hey Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose
My Brother Dan's Delicious by Steven L. Lane
Should We Have Pets? by Sylvia Lollis
Should There Be Zoos? by Tony Stead

What are some of YOUR favorite strategies and resources for teaching persuasive writing?? 

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Happy Teaching!


  1. What a fabulous post, Blair! We began working on persuasive writing on the first day of school. The students are really beginning to understand what it involves. Thank you for the freebie and suggested book list. I am on my way to Amazon to order a copy of "Writing to Persuade". I look forward to reading your next post.

    1. Thanks for your nice comment!! I think you'll really enjoy the resource book--it's probably my favorite of any I own in any subject!! :)

  2. Persuasive writing is definitely a skill that takes the entire year to refine. I use the mentor text "Should There Be Zoos?" also. I'm adding a few of your recommendations to my list too. Thanks!

    Wild About Fifth Grade

    1. "Should There Be Zoos?" is my favorite! It's hard to find that type of writing that is at my students' reading level, so it's perfect!

  3. I really enjoyed your post, Blair. I really appreciate the book suggestions for read alouds. I also plan on checking out Writing to Persuade. It sounds like a great resource. Thanks for the freebie as well! :)

  4. Great post! Very thoughtful and informative. I loved having the book list. Some are my favs, and others I have not heard of. I will be checking those out soon!

  5. We are totally on the same wavelength for writing! The Long Composition took over our writing curriculum for years, and now suddenly persuasive writing is the new hot topic. And we all got the same book you recommended. I agree, it IS fantastic :D I was lucky enough to preview it on our district ELA committee last year before everyone got it this year. I'm going to have to check out the read alouds you recommended. It would be great if we could get a set for each school in our district. Thanks for the tips!

    1. It's awesome to have another MA blogger here! I'm definitely interested to see how the MCAS writing prompts change over the next few years!! We've been doing a lot of speculating about test changes in general....I guess I just have to be patient and wait and see. :)

  6. Thanks for the shout out for Writing to Persuade!! (Would be happy to guest blog sometime) Thanks again!

    1. Karen, we would LOVE for you to guest blog-there's a form up at the top! So glad you found your way over here - it was such a treat to see your comment! :) Your book has been such a huge help in planning my writing instruction!

  7. Thanks for this great freebie :) In our Persuasive Unit we also use I Wanna New Room as an Anchor Text :)

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