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Persuasive Writing: Take a Stand

Download FileThe ability to state ideas clearly and back them up with proof is increasingly important, regardless of one’s profession, age or background.  New technologies such as blogs, podcasts, instant messaging, virtual social networks and email make opinionated self-expression easier and more encouraged than ever before. At the same time, learning to distinguish reputable sources of information from inaccurate sources is challenging, yet important when making credible arguments.  Learning how to recognize credible sources and use those to form opinions and support them is a skill used by everyone from sports stars and homemakers to business leaders and politicians.

Learning Activity:

1.  Write the following prompt on the board or overhead:
  • Think of examples from your daily life when the ability to clearly state an opinion and support it with the credible facts, reasons, and examples was important to you.
2.  As students enter the classroom, direct them to respond to the prompt by recording several specific examples.  When students have finished writing, facilitate a short discussion about the prompt.  Ask students to:
  • Share the examples they recorded
  • Explain why it is important to be able to clearly state their opinions
  • Explain why it is necessary to support opinions with credible facts, reasons, and example
  • Explain how one’s inability to state and support an opinion can be detrimental to him/her
3.  Reiterate to students that no matter what path they choose in life, the ability to form an opinion, state it clearly, and support it with credible reasons, facts, and examples is essential.  Whether people are making decisions about who to support in a political race, parenting their children, or supporting a specific cause, the ability to form opinions and explain to others the reasons for those opinions is critical.

4.  Select an editorial to use with the Guide to Persuasive Writing Activity Sheet.  Many are available at NewsHour Extra’s “Editorial Page” at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/speakout/editorial/index.html and are written by students.  You could also select an editorial from you local newspaper or another resource to read, copy and distribute. 

5.  Distribute a copy of the Guide to Persuasive Writing Activity Sheet provided with the lesson. Read the editorial you selected aloud to students and complete Part 1 of the activity as a class.  Discuss the Part 1 activity to ensure correct answers and information for all students.

6.  Discuss the importance of finding and citing reliable resources when doing research.  Remind students that with the evolution of the internet, some sources are less than accurate.  Points to address include:
  • Determining who is sponsoring/presenting the content you are using as a resource.  Many reputable organizations will include their name in their URL.  In addition, the 3 letter domain code will provide clues about the origin of the content (i.e. edu = educational institution, gov = government, org = organization, com = commercial, net = personal, etc.)  The group providing the information can also slant its content to promote the agenda most likely to serve the group. 
  • Find out about the author(s) by reviewing the “about” section of the site, looking for specific contact information, and looking for author credentials on the site
  • Always evaluate the purpose of the site and try to understand the goals and mission of the people responsible for producing the site.  If it is a commercial site, chances are they are trying to sell their product.  It if it an organization site, they are probably promoting their specific point of view.
Performance Task:
  1. Direct students to Part 2 of the Guide to Persuasive Writing Activity Sheet.  Direct students to access the NOW Archive at http://www.pbs.org/now/thisweek/archive.html and select a program and subtitle that resonates with their own perspectives or points of interest. Some good examples include:
  1. Students should not read the full report, just the teaser information that appears on each story’s home page.  Using this as a basis for forming their opinion, direct each student to write a short (1 page) essay about his/her point of view on the topic.
  1. Working in pairs, students should share their papers and opinions with one another.
  • After reading/sharing is completed, direct students back to the NOW archive and have them watch the program they used as the basis for their papers.
  • Provide students with 20 minutes to rewrite their essays, emphasizing illustrations, expert testimony, and statistics over unsupported personal points of view. They can view the transcript of each program and use any information, quotations, or statistics therein as evidence.
  • Students should then share their final papers aloud with the class.  As follow-up to see how learning more about the topic changed the essay, ask each student’s partner to discuss the difference between the author’s first paper and his/her second. 
  • Assign students to write editorial on a current subject of their own choosing with the intention of getting their editorial printed in a local newspaper.  Remind students of the importance of stating their opinion clearly and using reasons, facts, and examples from reputable sources to support their opinion.  Contact the newspaper’s editor in advance for guidelines on submitting editorials.  Share these guidelines with students before they begin the writing process.  A complete listing for finding local newspapers can be found at http://www.shgresources.com/resources/newspapers/.
Additional Resources:

The following links can be provided to students as they complete the research portion of the assignment.

PBS

www.pbs.org

CNN

www.cnn.com

MSNBC

www.msnbc.msn.com

National Public Radio

www.npr.org

ABC News

www.abcnews.go.com





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