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Persuasive Essays

Persuasive Essay Unit

 Introduction

I designed this unit to prepare eighth grade students at Star Valley Middle School for a first semester summative assessment on persuasive essays. Students have already learned some things about the techniques writers use to form their essays in the informational reading unit.  For example, they analyzed how authors make and support claims in “The Girl in The Window” and “At a Certain Age.”  Last of all, they analyzed biased literature and learned about the importance of being objective in our “Comparing Texts” assignments. 

Overview

We will begin our unit using the Holt Elements of Language Textbook to identify and examine critical concepts regarding the essential elements of persuasive essays. Next, students will analyze two persuasive pieces of literature.  Then, they will follow the writing process to compose an original essay for possible publication in The Patriots Pen Essay Competition.  Last, students will test their persuasive essay skills by composing one for a timed summative assessment.

 
Unit Goals

1.  Students will be able to write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence including the following:

•the introduction of a claim, acknowledging and distinguishing the claim from alternate or opposing claims, and the logical organization of reasons and evidence that support the claim

•support for a claim with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text

•the use of words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence

•the establishment and maintenance of a formal style

•the provision of a concluding statement or section that follows and supports the argument presented

•the production of clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

2.  With some guidance and support from peers and adults, students will be able to develop and strengthen their writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

3.  Students will be able to use technology to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently.


Closing Notes

As one of your most important goals will be to pass the summative assessment assigned to this unit, you will need to develop both a deep understanding of the critical concepts presented and basic persuasive writing skills.  Through this process you will become more prepared for high school, as this is similar to concepts, skills, and assessments you will need to earn credit there.  Most important, the ability to compose argumentative essays that are sufficiently supported with credible evidence is an essential work place writing skill that all students should master.

To help you on this journey towards independence, I will give you full access to my expertise and individual assistance on all assignments.  (I am available for extra mentoring after school most days by appointment.)  Also, I will allow you to redo assignments if you are willing to give your work the effort necessary to justify the extra time required from me to reevaluate your scores.

 
Day One

Assignment:

Read and discuss the unit introduction, overview, unit goals, and closing notes with a partner.  (This assignment will not be evaluated or scored.)

Goal One:

Students will be able to identify persuasive techniques used in an advertisement.

Assignment:

1. With a partner, read the first paragraph at the top of page 203 in The Elements of Language textbook.  

2.  Record the definition for persuasion in your notes under the heading of “key terms.”

3. Complete “Your Turn1” at the bottom of page 203. Respond to each of the three bulleted items in red as separate short response prompts.

 
Scale:  Short Response

Each bulleted item in this preview will be graded according to the short response scale.


Goal Two:

Students will be able to identify and analyze logical and emotional appeals. 

 

Assignments:

1.  With a partner, read, “Reading a Persuasive Essay at the top of page 204 in The Elements of Literature Textbook.  Then, after switching, read “Preparing to Read” at the bottom of page 204 to learn about logical and emotional appeals.

2.  Again taking turns, read “Should Public School Students Wear Uniforms?” beginning on page 205.

3.  Respond to questions 1-5 on pages 205-206 and “First Thoughts 1-2 on page 207. Use the short response format (4 points per response).

 

Scale:  Short Response

Only assignment three will be graded, but eventually you will complete work dealing with the other assignments.  Assignment three will be scored according to the short response scale.


Day Two

Goal One:

Students will be able to identify the parts of logical appeals (opinion statements, reasons, and evidence).

Assignments:

1.  With your partner read pages 207-208, “Logical Appeals.”

2.  Independently, complete “Your Turn 2” at the top of page 209.   

Scoring Guide:

Only assignment two will be graded according to the following description.

-4 points for correctly identifying the opinion in the first paragraph of “Should Public School Students Wear Uniforms?”

-4 points for correctly identifying the writers’ reasons in paragraphs 4 and 6.


  -4 points for correctly identifying evidence the writer presents to support the opinion in paragraphs 4 and 6.

Goal Two:

Students will be able to identify emotional appeals in order to deepen their understanding of them.

Assignment:

1.  Read and discuss “Emotional Appeals” on page 209 in The Elements of Language Textbook with a partner.

2.  Complete “Your Turn 3” at the bottom of page 209.  Treat each question as separate short response questions.

Scale:  Short Response

I will only score assignment two. 

Goal Three:

Students will be able to identify the argument, two reasons, and three pieces of evidence in The Declaration of Independence.  

Assignments:

1.  With a partner, read and discuss The Declaration of Independence.

2.  Independently, identify Thomas Jefferson’s logical appeals in this document including the opinion statement, one reason, and three pieces of evidence.  Complete one short response for each of the three items.

Scoring Guide:

-10 points for correctly identifying the opinion or argument in The Declaration of Independence.

-10 points for correctly identifying one of the writer’s reasons.

-10 points for correctly identifying three pieces of evidence the writer presents to support his opinion.


Day Three

Goal One:

Students will be able to identify the critical parts of an essay and the appropriate order of those parts.

Assignment:

Take a few minutes to examine the provided outline.  Next, review the provided example.  Then, clarify any misconceptions by asking questions.

This assignment will not be evaluated or scored.  However, a substantial percentage of your grade will be determined by how well you can organize your persuasive essay.

Goal Two:

Students will be able to create a coherent and organized persuasive argument supported by logical reasoning and relevant evidence.

 
Assignment:

Using the theme provided by the Patriots’ Pen VFW Essay Competition, complete an outline for your essay.

Theme:  What is Patriotism?

Scale:

Criteria                                                                                      Rating

Introduction

1.  Brain storms an “Attention Getter” (begins with
an anecdote, famous quote, or astonishing fact)                        4  3 2  1  0

2. State Thesis/Big Idea (An opinion that answers the
prompt, acknowledges the audience and provides a
preview of three reasons).                                                           4  3 2  1  0

Body

3.  The outline of the first body paragraph includes a
transition, a statement of the first reason, three individual
pieces of evidence, and a concluding remark.                              4  3 2  1  0

4.  The outline of the second body paragraph includes a
transition, a statement of the second reason, three individual
pieces of evidence, and a concluding remark.                              4  3 2  1  0

5.  The outline of the third body paragraph includes a
transition, a rebuttal where the writer acknowledges a
counter argument, a refutation of the rebuttal which
becomes the third reason, three individual
pieces of evidence, and a concluding remark.                              4  3 2  1  0

Conclusion

6.  Restates the thesis in a different way.                                     4  3 2  1  0

7.  Provides a call to action.                                                          4  3 2  1  0

Day Four

Goal One:

Students will be able to create a coherent and organized persuasive argument supported by logical reasoning and relevant evidence while maintaining a formal style.
  (You will need to double-space your rough draft in order to complete another assignment!)




Assignment:

Using the outline you previously completed, compose a rough draft.  While composing, take time to make improvements and/or corrections.

Scale:

4 = 20 points (Rough draft includes all parts of a completed outline as assigned, including all elements of the introduction, body, and conclusion.)

3 = 15 points (Rough draft includes two of the three parts of a completed outline as assigned.)

2 = 10 points (Rough draft includes one of the three parts of a completed outline as assigned.)

1 = 5 points (Rough draft includes only insignificant elements of the completed outline as assigned.)

0 = 0 points (Rough draft is not completed)


Day Five

Goal One:

Students will be able to evaluate the quality of a peer’s use of persuasive techniques according to the learning scale for this assignment.

Assignment:

Using the persuasive essay feedback form, partner with a peer to review your respective essays.

Scale:

4 = 20 points (All ratings are completed and written descriptions of areas of strength and weakness are evident.)

3 = 15 points (All ratings are completed but written descriptions of strengths and weakness are missing or substantially incomplete.)

2 = 10 points (Ratings are only between fifty and one-hundred percent complete.)

1 = 5 points (Ratings are less than fifty percent complete.)

0 = 0 points (No peer review has been completed)

Goal Two:

Using their peer feedback form, students will be able to correct idealogical, organizational and stylistic errors in their writing.

Assignment:

Using the persuasive essay feedback form, consider your peer’s advice and make the necessary corrections to strengthen your writing and improve your final assignment score.  Then, demonstrate more revisions and edits by bracketing areas in need of correction in different colors for all major domains of writing according to the persuasive writing scale. (You will need to provide a key for me to see and verify your revisions.  Then, make all corrections on the lines above your original composition.)

Scale:

4 = 20 points (Student provides a correction key, brackets in color corrections that should be made according to criteria on the persuasive essay writing scale, and provides substantial evidence of revising and editing in each major domain of the writing scale.)

3 = 15 points (Student provides a correction key, brackets in color corrections made according to criteria on the persuasive essay writing scale, but provides only limited evidence of revision and editing in each major domain of the writing scale.)

2 = 10 points (Student provides a correction key and brackets in color corrections that should be made according to criteria on the persuasive essay writing scale.)

1 = 5 points (Student provides a correction key)

0 = 0 points (No evidence of this assignment is provided.)

 

Day Six

Goal One:

Students will be able to use technology to produce and publish writing.

Assignment:

Using a laptop from the mobile computer lab, compose a final draft of your essay.

Scale:

I will award you eighty points for providing a completed persuasive essay final copy.  (See the provided persuasive essay writing scale for complete details.) 


Day Seven

Complete the summative assessment (the unit final) for the persuasive writing unit.  As this is similar in format to Star Valley High School's common assessment format for language arts persuasive writing tests, it is important that you become very familiar with this style of testing during your eighth grade year.