Persuasive Writing, Speaking, &
Web Page Prepared by Kathleen Prody and Jean O'Connor
Helena High School
Rationale: Montana Pilots the ACT Writing Assessment
Under the advisement
of the Montana Board of Regents, the Commissioner of Higher Education and
the Superintendent of Public Instruction convened a K-16 Joint Composition
Standards Committee to determine if students' basic proficiencies in English
will permit their success in postsecondary education. School year
2000 - 2001 was the first of a three year field test of the writing test
chosen, the ACT Writing Assessment. The
ACT Writing Assessment utilizes persuasive writing, and impacts all
The activities and information on
this site are designed for high school and middle school students.
Adaptations may be made for elementary students. Where appropriate,
grade level designation is made.
Click here for Sample
Prompts for the ACT Writing Assessment.
Since the field test, the ACT Writing Assessment in Montana has become the Montana University System Writing Assessment or MUSWA. Annually, thousands of juniors are tested; their persuasive writings are evaluated on a holistic rubric. The state's Writing Proficiency Policy, which can be found at the MUSWA's website as well as on the Helena School District's website, permits all who receive at least a 3.5 on a scale of 1-6 to attend a major branch of the Montana University System without further proof of writing ability. See the Writing Proficiency Policy for more information and specifics.
Also, see Webwriters, a resource offering practice for students who wish to prepare for the MUSWA.
Persuasion and the Montana State Standards
By learning to write, speak, and act persuasively,
students are fulfilling elements of the Montana State Standards.
Those addressed are described in the Montana
Standards for Writing, as well as the Montana
Standards for Speaking and Listening. In addition students are
acquiring important thinking skills, such as inference making, critical
thinking, creative production, problem solving, observation, categorization,
comparison, and independent thinking.
Table of Contents
What is Persuasion? Presenting the "Argument"
The goal of argument is to win acceptance of one's ideas.
Modern argumentation theory has roots in Greek and Roman
We judge evidence, investigate carefully, state ideas accurately,
and listen critically.
All good Persuasion includes the following elements:
Statement, Argumentative Proposition, or Thesis Statement
State your opinion clearly, in a sentence or two, within
the first paragraph.
Define the scope of your argument. (The scope is the
situation specific to your argument.) Then make an assertion that's
open to debate. Example: The school lunch period should be lengthened
to allow ample time for clubs to meet.
The assertion includes an element of uncertainty, to be proven
to the reader/listener.
of Right and Wrong propositions given at this site.
the Three Argumentative Appeals, Aristotle's methods of convincing:
Reason (logos), Ethics (ethos) or Emotion (pathos)
- support your general claims with concrete, specific data.
Reason which begins with specifics and moves toward a generalization
is inductive. Example: Several clubs have
reported difficulty completing their business during lunch period.
This proves that lunch periods should be longer.
Reason which starts with a general observation and moves
to specifics is deductive. Example: When people
hurry, inefficiency and poor communication are the results. Under
current conditions clubs must hurry at lunch time meetings. Therefore,
lunch period should be lengthened to allow for better club meetings.
Use two or three different strong reasons to support your
Support your reasons with evidence.
Click here for a detailed explanation of types of evidence and pitfalls
in logic, with complementary activities and links, especially helpful for
Facts - can be proven.
Expert opinions or quotations
Definitions - statement of meaning of word or phrase
Statistics - offer scientific support
Examples - powerful illustrations
Anecdote - incident, often based on writer's personal
Emotional appeals - to provide support for reasons,
carefully chosen loaded words, carrying positive or negative connotations,
sway readers' emotions
Present opposition - and give reasons and evidence
to prove the opposition wrong
Conclude with call to action - urge the reader to
- convince your readers that you are fair, honest, and well informed.
They will then trust your values and intentions.
Avoid over-use of negatively charged loaded words.
- a carefully reasoned argument will be strengthened by an emotional appeal.
Use description or narrate an example, often from your own
Your point of view is demonstrated in an emotional appeal,
and is important to the reader.
Careful word choice presents your position accurately.
See Mark Antony's speech from Julius Caesar as an
example of emotional appeal.
or Organization (for more information, at this link, find "Form:
Tradition and Innovation") - a basic structural pattern that can be altered
as needed (See "Argumentative/Persuasive
Writing Strategies" for more explanation of organization.)
Introduction (Exordium) - establish your argument,
and clarify the importance of the issue.
Statement of the Case (Narratio) - tell story
behind the argument, offering background information
Proposition Statement (Propositio) - carefully
state central proposition, as a thesis statement would be given
Refutation (Refutatio) - refute opposition
arguments, exposing faulty reasoning
Confirmation (Confirmatio) - develop your case,
using examples, facts, statistics (logos)
Digression (Digressio) - appealing anecdote
or description, offering ethos or pathos
Conclusion (Peroration) - finish with strong
conviction; review main points, or suggest call to action
The traditional order - introduction, statement of
case, refutation, confirmation, conclusion, may
be altered to suit your needs. (At this link, choose "Adapting
the Argumentative Pattern", under "Form: Tradition and Innovation" for
an explanation of alternative orders.)
Paradigm, an online writing assistant.
Grammar for Writing. Sadlier-Oxford: NY,
and Links for Persuasive Writing and Speaking
As everyone knows, writing and
speaking are generally two sides of the same coin. Any writing may
be read or delivered orally; a speech is often written first, or at least
outlined. Therefore, writing and speaking in the persuasive mode
are definitely complementary methods of delivering a persuasive argument.
The following list is a starting point
for your own assignments in persuasive writing or speaking.
(Taken from "Forms of Writing for Assignments" by Northwest
Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland, Oregon)
Blurbs: TV lists/book covers
Consumer guide or report
Contest entries (25 words)
|Directions: how-to, survival manuals
Letters: advice, application
Letters, persuasive: to public officials,
to the editor, recommendations
Messages to/from the past/future
News Stories - paper/radio/TV
Prophecies and predictions
The acronym RAFTS stands for Role, Audience,
Format, Topic, and Strong Verb. This method for inventing assignments
lends itself well to persuasive writing and speaking. (For
a handout describing the R.A.F.T.S. assignment in detail click here.)
R = Role:
What is my role as the writer? Who am I
A = Audience:
To whom am I writing? Should I write formally? Informally?
F = Format:
Which format should I use while writing?
T = Topic:
What is the topic? Is it sufficiently focused?
S = Strong Verb:
What am I trying to do in this piece of writing?
(Source: Adler, Richard. Writing Together.
Kendall-Hunt: Iowa, 1989.)
RAFTS assignments lend themselves readily
to persuasive writing or speaking. Consider the following examples.
World History RAFTS Examples:
1. You are
the great African emperor, Mansa Musa, in the year 1324. Convince
a king from far away in Northern Africa of your wealth, preparing a written
2. You are
an advisor to Nicholas Romanov, the last of the Russian Czars. In
a speech, persuade Nicholas to change his methods of government so he will
retain his power.
3. You are
a Mayan ruler. Convince your descendants of your power by writing
down details of your kingdom and accomplishments, to be carved on a stelae.
American History RAFTS Examples:
1. You are
a plantation owner in South Carolina in the 1600s. Convince other
landowners that free labor could be more successful than slave labor, writing
a newspaper editorial.
2. You are
a colonist (a Tory) who believes in English rule and King George.
Present your argument to your fellow colonists, writing a poster to be
placed in the town hall in Boston, 1774.
English RAFTS Examples:
1. You are
Antigone in Sophocles' play. Convince King Creon of your innocence,
writing a letter from your imprisonment in the rock cave to which he has
2. You are
Kino in The Pearl. Persuade the townspeople that you are being
discriminated against because you own the fabulous pearl, in a speech.
3. You are
Equality 7-2521 in Anthem. Argue to the Council of Scholars
that they should accept the inventions and ways of the old days.
As can be seen, the opportunities to
utilize RAFTS as a vehicle for persuasive writing and speaking are limitless.
Older students can be taught to use the RAFTS format and devise their own
Prompts for sophomore English modeled after the features
of the Montana ACT writing prompts
You are a member of
a multicultural committee assigned to study and to make a recommendation
on the return of a ten thousand acre range of sacred ground to the Native
Americans. The committee's decision will be based on the history of land
ownership and Native American relations, as well as immediate economic
and social impacts. Write a letter to the head of the Bureau of Indian
Affairs supporting the return of the land to the Native Americans or supporting
continued ownership by the federal government. Clearly support and
explain the rationale for your decision.
Lord of the Flies
Write a letter to
William Golding agreeing or disagreeing with his contention that each person
has an inherent flaw that if left unchecked by the laws and morality of
society will evolve and eventually corrupt the individual. Be specific
in your references as you accept or refute Golding's contention.
The city commission
has refused to release funds earmarked for technology updates in the community
library until the library agrees to install Internet screening software
on all internet computers. The commissioners believe that the software
is important to protect the youth of the community from negative sites
and to discourage misuse of community resources by adults. Write a letter
to the city commission supporting or disputing their mandate. Explain
how your choice will best serve the needs of the community.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Your community is
sponsoring a summer program for all area youth ages 4 to 12. The
program will provide athletic activities, field trips, arts and crafts,
and summer fun every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost of the program
will be $100.00 dollars per week per child. The Department of Parks
and Recreation will offer scholarships for minority families based
on need. Write a letter to the editor supporting the scholarship program
or arguing against the scholarship program. Your arguments should
reflect the fairness of the scholarship program to all participants.
Links for Persuasive Writing and Speaking
List of Ten Persuasive Writing Prompts. Written to help students
prepare for Texas's standardized tests, these prompts are similar to Montana's
ACT Writing Assessment Prompts. Information is given to help you
present the prompts to your students.
Prompts. A selection of 53 super prompts from Mrs. Barnard, Eagle
Creek Elementary, Arlington, WA.
Power of Persuasive Writing. A 3 week Web Quest, posted on VolWeb,
a K-12 educational community for the State of Tennessee. The Quest
culminates in Web advertisements. Many links are given for lesson
plans for all levels. (Middle School on up)
Persuasive Essay Writing. Creating the Rubric for persuasive
writings explained. Directs you to sites, and coaches to create a
rubric. From Bellingham Schools, WA.
- Persuasive Writing. An NCTE Read, Write, Think lesson.
Writing. Well organized module designed to give students opportunities
to analyze persuasive writing and develop their own argument for a persuasive
piece; activities included.
- Thirty Resources for Writers. A collection of helpful ideas.
- Persuasion Map - Interactive Graphic Organizer, from NCTE's Read, Write, Think.
and Links for Persuasive Activities
Any persuasive argument can become an
activity when taken into the realm of performance or art. Performances
may include screenplays, skits, debates, newscasts, and so on. Art
extends to paintings, scrolls, posters, and murals. Either of these
options has the benefit of strengthening and enriching the persuasive argument
for the student. Consider the following list as a starting point
for moving persuasion into performance or art.
Personalized license plates
Story boards for animation
Links for Persuasive Activities
Power of Persuasion. In groups, students define persuasive writing
and critical reading. Internet use, exercises, and group discussion
make this a powerful learning tool. Lesson posted by Harris Middle
School, Shelbyville, TN.
The Art of Rhetoric. Explanations with links.
Learning with Multimedia. Activities which guide students to
analyze multimedia projects. They critically assess purpose, audience
impact, and images in media. Adaptable to persuasive media images.
Links to Handouts
This webpage prepared by:
Kathleen Prody, High School English teacher and Forensics Director
and Jean O'Connor, English and Social Studies teacher
Helena High School, Helena, MT