Persuasive Writing, Speaking, & Activities

Web Page Prepared by Kathleen Prody and Jean O'Connor
Helena High School
Helena, MT
August, 2001

Rationale:  Montana Pilots the ACT Writing Assessment for Juniors

    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 students.
    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"

All good Persuasion includes the following elements:

Position Statement, Argumentative Proposition, or Thesis Statement

Utilize the Three Argumentative Appeals,  Aristotle's methods of convincing:  Reason (logos), Ethics (ethos) or Emotion (pathos)

  Form 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.)
  • Sources:

    Paradigm, an online writing assistant.
        <http://www.powa.org/>
    Grammar for Writing.  Sadlier-Oxford: NY, 2000.
     

    Lessons 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.
     
     
    Advertisements
    Applications
    Blurbs: TV lists/book covers
    Brochures
    Bumper stickers
    Commentaries
    Consumer guide or report
    Contest entries (25 words)
    Debate outlines/notes
    Declarations
    Dialogues
    Directions: how-to, survival manuals
    Editorials
    Graffiti
    Interviews (imaginary)
    Journal entries
    Letters: advice, application
    Letters, persuasive: to public officials, to the editor, recommendations
    Messages to/from the past/future
    Monologue
    News Stories - paper/radio/TV
    Orations
    Prophecies and predictions
    Proposals
    Public notices
    Requests
    Screenplays
    Sermons
    Skits
    Telephone dialogues
    Undercover reports
    (Taken from "Forms of Writing for Assignments" by Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland, Oregon)
     

    R.A.F.T.S.  

        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.)

    Briefly:

        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 scroll.
            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 condemned you.
            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 RAFTS writings.
     

    Prompts for sophomore English modeled after the features of the Montana ACT writing prompts

    Links for Persuasive Writing and Speaking

    Lessons 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.
     
    Advertisements
    Brochures
    Comic strips
    Collage
    Graffiti
    Murals
    Newscasts
    Paintings
    Personalized license plates
    Placards
    Posters
    Public notices
    Screenplays
    Scrolls
    Skits
    Story boards for animation
    Wanted posters
    Web pages

    Links for Persuasive Activities

    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
    kprody@helena.k12.mt.us
    joconnor@helena.k12.mt.us
    Helena High School, Helena, MT