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The Power of Persuasive Writing

Introduction | Content Areas | Standards |Resources |Entry Skills | Implementation | Evaluation and Assessment



The Power of Persuasive Writing is a three week communication skills and interdisciplinary middle school Internet project. This project has been designed for a sixth grade English class, but it can be adapted and used as a project in any upper elementary, middle school, or high school class. The flexibility of this project should allow teachers to focus on certain issues. This can shorten or lengthen the scope and sequence of the lesson(s).

It's not your imagination...it's the real thing! A fun and motivating process to teach writing and emphasize reading to your students. This project invites you and your students to sift through persuasive documents, scan advertisements, and browse newspaper articles and editorials. You are offered an opportunity to understand how persuasion techniques in media is a part of your daily life. Together, teacher and students, will work together to arm themselves with critical reading skills and a talent for identifying persuasion tactics so that we might strengthen our thinking skills and avoid pitfalls of letting others manipulate our thinking.



Upon completion, this WebQuest should enable students to:

  • Analyze and conduct research for particular persuasive techniques.
  • Use critical reading skills to deconstruct advertisements and articles and discriminate between the stated and inferred and to differentiate between fact, and opinion.
  • Articulate how persuasion in media can affect and manipulate people's thinking.
  • Relate what has been learned by creating a final project reflecting an effective advertisement.
  • Develop an awareness of advertisements and persuasive writing that is a part of our daily lives.


Content Areas and Grades

  This unit is designed as an interdisciplinary project for upper elementary, middle school, and high school classes. It could be a three to five week unit that focuses on isolated skills (such as identification of certain propaganda techniques) involved before turning into an extended, online, collaborative project that culminates in an original, creative online web page posting that reflects students' ideas of effective persuasion. This project could take three months to complete. It depends upon the depth of subject(s) that a teacher wants to cover.


Curriculum Standards

  This project doesn't just teach a block of content; it teaches important "thinking" skills. In addition to describing learning outcomes within traditional subject areas, this project promotes inference-making, critical thinking, creative production, creative problem-solving, observation and categorization, comparison, teamwork, compromise, and it teaches independent thinking. Sixth to eighth grade reading and writing standards can be drawn from the Tennessee Curriculum Framework.

The goal of this WebQuest was to provide a project by which students would develop the structural and creative skills necessary to produce written language that can be read and interpreted by various audiences.

Writing is a life-long interactive process that is used to communicate with a variety of audiences and for a variety of purposes, adapting language conventions appropriately according to context. Writing is an act of discovery, a means of personal growth, and a tool for clarifying knowledge. To accomplish writing tasks more effectively, students need exposure to a variety of strategies, such as those included in the stages of the writing process in order to approach writing systematically.


Resources Needed

  What is needed to implement this lesson? You will need to read this entire project very carefully and gather all the resources for your classroom. Become comfortable and familiar with the teaching materials before you initiate this project.

Elements for success:

  1. Student centered teaching environment
  2. Adequate time spent teaching students about persuasive techniques and web page construction
  3. Additional materials for students to support the project
  4. Student choice and accountability
  5. Access to the library media center
  6. Adequate collaborative planning time with the school librarian
  7. Time for students to complete tasks
  8. Computer access for students and teachers
  9. Student, teacher, parent, administration, and librarian communication


Entry Level Skills and Knowledge

  What research and multimedia design skills do you and your students bring to this project? A basic understanding of Internet research, and reasonable facility with multimedia tools are needed.

With this project you can teach students to:

  1. Search the Internet for needed information
  2. Compare and contrast ideas
  3. Read carefully for detail
  4. Produce an evaluative learning product in multimedia or online as a web page
  5. Articulate how persuasive writing and critical reading will be beneficial, meaningful, and useful throughout life
  6. Build a web page for the purpose of persuading others

Other Prerequisite Learning:
paragraph writing experience, identifying simple elements of literature, experience with fact and opinion, knowledge of web page creation,
knowledge of e-mail and WWW, some basic research knowledge


Implementation Overview

  This quest challenges students to investigate techniques of persuasive writing and critical reading skills.  It allows for strengthening technology skills, exercising creativity, practicing research skills, and visiting newspaper editorials to discriminate between fact from opinion. Students will examine advertisements, deconstruct them, and interpret techniques used to persuade; students will then explore ways that persuasive writing manipulates the consumer. Finally students will demonstrate new knowledge and insight by creating an example of persuasive writing.

Students will demonstrate their grasp of the concepts by defending and articulating their ideas in a learning product. You will need to:

  • Devise a learning standard.
    What do you expect your students to know and be able to do at the end of the project? Create an
    assessment rubric for students based on your expectations or use this suggested one.
  • Decide on the learning product.
    It could be a web page, a multimedia presentation, a video, or a portfolio of examples of persuasive writing and advertisements. Whatever format the product may take, students will present and defend their ideas.
    (Our students did web page ads. Please take a moment to visit them.)


Suggestions for Implementation

  You can spend a week, a month, or a year on this project. Use this project to inspire your students to learn more about independent thinking and how persuasive writing affects them. This unit could be designed to accompany a thematic unit on American literature, poetry and/or U.S. history. We suggest that you begin by showing an example to your students. Visit several of the suggested lesson plans and ideas in order to adapt this WebQuest to a particular subject area or grade other than sixth grade Language Arts. (Don't forget to click the back button to return to this WebQuest.)  To introduce the lesson, I begin here:
Propaganda Techniques
(middle School)

Some suggested specific lesson plans:

Powers of Persuasion--Poster Art of World War II
Persuasion and Communication (12th grade)
A Unit on Persuasion and Communication (11th grade)
Persuasion and the Arts
An Advertising ThinkQuest
A lesson plan for magazine advertising

  Phase One of Implementation
Building Background Knowledge and Skills
  1. Anticipatory Set - Develop basic knowledge of persuasive writing and critical thinking skills. This could involve interviews, readings, class discussions, and guest speakers. A teacher might bring in a Woman's Day magazine and begin tearing out all of of the advertisements in the magazine. When finished, compare the number of ads to what reading material is left in the book.
  2. Teach students how to use the resources. You might try out one of the roles and show the students a sample of persuasive techniques.
  3. Above, specific lesson plans, teaching ideas, and unit resources have been provided that can be used by the teacher.
  4. Time spent reading through this Teaching Page and the Student Page will be time well spent.
  5. Review with the students and make sure that they have the prerequite skills needed for this unit. If you need to teach web page construction or using the Internet for research, you must do that first.

  Phase Two of Implementation
Researching Online and Gathering Primary Resources
  1. Introduce students to the Student Page.
  2. As a class, define the scope and sequence of the desired outcomes for this project. For example, do you want to gather material from a specific medium?
  3. Decide how much time students will have to research and gather materials as well as their skill level using technology.
  4. Form student teams of four. Teams can select a role from the list found on the student page (photographer, lawyer, poet, politician, comedian, and/or newspaper reporter). Each team will be assigned tasks. Each individual will work as part of the team to bring the project to completion. Remind students, that while they have specific team assignments, all team members are ultimately responsible for their roles and should fulfil their responsibility toward completing the tasks.
  5. Read the task, process, and team assignments with your students. Choose lessons that will provide a focus for your project. Students can use these questions to guide their research and determine how to think about the design of their authentic product or web page using their research.
  6. Write an action plan (complete with a timeline) with students for their projects or encourage teams to develop their own. This aspect of the project will require your students to apply their team planning skills to ensure completion of a quality product by the set deadline.
  7. While you might only have time to visit the suggested collections and links for each role, encourage your students develop their own links in these collections and to expand their links to other Internet sources.
  8. Begin independent team exploration. Students can keep a daily research log on paper or computer and collect primary source evidence to build their final project on disk. Allow several days for exploration and research.

  Phase Three of Implementation
Creating the Learning Product
  1. Students can produce any number of products to demonstrate their interpretation of the unit and as a representation of what they have learned. This will be used as a final exhibit - a web page posted at your school site, a multimedia stack, a video documentary, oral presentation, or even photos and/or posters that displayed in your classroom turns your classroom into a museum comprised of print documents, multimedia, and realia.
  2. Directions for simple web page building and necessary tools are available in many locations on the Internet. Try visiting Web66 or the PacBell Knowledge Network for ideas.
  3. Refining and putting together a final learning product that will permit students to defend their ideas about the persuasive writing and its effect on people is the outcome of this project. Allow plenty of time for this vital phase. Have students keep a log or journal of what transpires during this phase of the project. This can provide useful insight in the evaluation process.
  4. Require that proper citation and bibliographical material be used with all collected print material, photos, sound, video, etc.

  Evaluation and Assessment
  What will students learn as a result of this unit of study? We have provided the following assessment questions for the Student Teams:
What is persuasive writing?
How will new opportunities of the 21st century challenge the advertising?
What makes your project an effective persuasive example?

You and your students will also use and discuss the assessment rubric for your class project.

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