Recently, I began working with my students on persuasive writing. I began this unit by reading them the book "Hey, Little Ant" by Phillip M. Hoose, Hannah Hoose, and Debbie Tilley. This book was a perfect resource for setting the climate for persuasive writing since it was easily understood how to defend one's opinion in order to persuade someone.
The premiss of the book is about a boy who comes across an ant on the sidewalk, and the boy wants to squish the ant. Upon hearing this news, the ant pleads with the boy and provides reasons to support his persuasive argument that the boy should not continue with his plan. The boy and the ant engage in a conversation which provides a few reasons to support either characters' persuasive argument.
While I was reading the book, I added an emotional connection to the story by creating drama in my voice. At times you could hear my students gasp at hearing some of the various reasons why the boy wanted to squish the ant. There were even times when a few students agreed with the boy's reasons. A debate was already happening in my classroom.
After reading the story, I asked the students to keep their opinions to themselves and complete the graphic organizer that I provided which helped them to outline their opinion on the issue and reasons to support their decision. I then gave the example of trying to persuade their parents to take them out to a restaurant for dinner, rather than eating at home. We discussed reasons they could give their parents to help persuade them to change their minds in order for my students to make a personal connection to this assignment. Many agreed that they had attempted to persuade their parents in one way or another, thus making them experts at this activity!
From this point, students were given time to come up with their reasons to squish the ant, or save the ant. Two groups were then formed, and students shared their reasons with their group members. At the end of this group time, each group came up with some of the most powerful persuasive arguments. Now it was debate time!
Students entered two different sides of the classroom, and the debate began by the "squish ant" team giving their first persuasive argument. A rebuttal was then provided by the opposing side. It was great to see various students step up and gain courage to speak in front of their peers. It was also great to see my students come together to defend their opinion with reasons that were logical, heartfelt, and creative.
From this activity, we are going to be writing various other types of persuasive writing on other topics. However, one aspect that will continue throughout all persuasive writing lessons will be the emotional connection. This made the lesson better than I anticipated!