How to Teach Persuasive Writing in K-2
January 10, 2021
If you are wondering how to teach persuasive writing in kindergarten, first grade, or second grade, then this blog post is for you! I have three easy tips I am going to share with you that will help you and your students.
Before I dive in, I want to clarify two little things. First, when I teach students how to write persuasive pieces, I have already taught them how to write an opinion and provide some reasons. I like to teach students what an opinion is, how to share it, and provide reasons for it using a unit like this one: opinion writing unit, before asking them to persuade someone! Second, when teaching persuasive writing to my youngest students, I like to do this through letters. I find that when we can identify a real audience and write them a letter, students can think of better ways to persuade them. Okay, let’s dive into the three tips.
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To read the three tips, just keep scrolling!
Tip 1: Use Mentor Texts
These books are specifically for persuasive writing and one of my absolute favorites is Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings. In this book, a little dog named Arfy writes letters to different people to try and get them to adopt him. I particularly like this book because based on his audience, he uses different reasons to persuade. This is something we talk about in one of the later tips as well!
Another text I love to use to showcase persuasive letters is I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff. This is a popular one! In this book, a little boy named Alex writes letters to his mom trying to persuade her to let him have a pet iguana. The entire book is written back and forth with letters between Alex and his mother and each letter provides reasons why he should or shouldn’t be allowed to own a pet iguana. This one is also fun because in the end, (spoiler alert) Alex ends up getting the iguana he wanted! This shows students the power of persuasion and lets the dream of something they really want and come up with ways to get it.
The last mentor text I want to share is a different one. This is one I use at the end of our unit. It is called, Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf and it is written by an 11-year old girl named Oliva Bouler. When I teach persuasive writing in a K-2 classroom, our letters tend to be pretty self-serving. This isn’t a bad thing at all! In fact, that’s why writing the letters can be so much fun – to try and get what we want. This text, however, lets students see how powerful our words can be and how we can try to persuade people to make the world a better place.
In Olivia’s Birds, the author shares all sorts of interesting facts about different birds with her illustrations and how some human acts are destroying the birds’ habitats. In the end, she writes a persuasive letter to the Audubon Society and ends up single-handedly raising over $150,000 to help her cause! I love this book because it is inspiring and gets students thinking of ways they can change the world with their voices!
Please note: all books shown above are Amazon affiliate links
After we read Olivia’s Birds, we can use her ideas as an extension to write our own class book. Here are some of the ideas we use to brainstorm our own class persuasive letter:
Tip 2: Have your students Identify Persuasion in a Mentor Text
When using mentor texts, not only do I like to have students see persuasive writing in action, but I like to have them identify the persuasion in the texts. We do this using a think-aloud sheet like shown below.
As we read one of the mentor texts, we identify what the character wants, who the audience is, and then some of the reasons the character uses to persuade their audience. When doing this, I model this think-aloud with the class first and I use some student input as we gather reasons to persuade. I like having students walk through this process before we actually write our letters because it gets them used to brainstorming what they want, their audience, and some reasons to persuade. I also like this sheet because we can use it over and over again with different mentor texts!
You can grab this think-aloud sheet FREE here >> Persuasive Writing Activity and try it out in your own classroom!
Tip 3: Connect Reasons to their Audience
Unlike when we write opinions and share our reasons for them, persuasive writing has us making our reasons more personal. If we are trying to persuade someone, we need to think more in-depth about our audience! When doing this, I love to use a think-aloud and the mentor text, Can I Be Your Dog? which was shown above. Using a chart like shown below, we think about the different reasons Arfy uses to persuade his different audiences.
As we re-read the mentor text, we talk about how Arfy uses different reasons to persuade the people in the yellow house than the reasons he uses to persuade the fire station. This gets students not just thinking about what THEY want, but also how THEIR AUDIENCE could be persuaded!
I re-emphasize this as I model planning out my own persuasive letter to my principal! I like to use a fun example. I explain that when I speak to my son, I might use “baby voice” but I wouldn’t use that same baby voice with my boss! We need to speak differently and think of reasons that connect with each of our own audiences in order to effectively persuade them.
Those are the 3 tips I have to help you teach your students write persuasive letters! If you have other mentor texts or ideas that you love using with your kindergarten, first grade, or second-grade students, please drop them in the comments!
If you want to see more videos with ideas for teaching writing in a K-2 classroom, just click my writing workshop playlist below:
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