Power of Persuasion

Teaching students about persuasion can be a fun experience that involves writing, PowerPoint presentations, and vocabulary building.

By Debra Karr


Persuasion Lesson Plans

The whole idea of persuasion isn't foreign to students. They can relate to trying to persuade parents when they want something, like that new pair of shoes, or the car for the night. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But if students know the best techniques for getting their parents to give in, then they'll be on the right track to making the reader of their persuasive writing agree with them too. The only difference is that they'll be persuading through written and visual communications.

To start off any kind of discussion that deals with persuasion, I like to create a T-chart that shows two sides, and ask students how they would go about convincing someone to go along with their side of the particular controversial topic given. As students give accounts and stories that support their opinions, the teacher can paraphrase and write down key words that would help strengthen that side of the argument in an essay. This models the process of persuasive writing. Have students start out their persuasive essay with a statement that reinforces their argument. For example, if the topic is "Are school uniforms necessary or unnecessary?", a student who sides with "unnecessary" might start their essay with something like "School uniforms are unnecessary because they don't allow students the opportunity to express their own unique individuality. If people in a free society aren't required to wear uniforms, then why should students?" The next series of paragraphs in the essay should focus on examples that will support this opening statement. Have students practice writing the opening statement, and then have them list details that support their argument as practice.

The lessons below give teachers suggestions that can be used to make teaching persuasive writing engaging. By using current events, and issues that affect each student in the class individually, students will be able to see the persuasive techniques that are used in order to make communication convincing.

Persuasion Lesson Plans:

Persuasion Lesson

This lesson shows students the power of language. As the class reads a speech by Jonathan Edwards, they examine the language he used to persuade. They are asked to find examples of structure and literary devices from his speech and are to decide if they are effective. Students create their own persuasive speeches, and end this series of activities by putting together a group PowerPoint presentation that persuades visually. Because this lesson has the visual component to it, I think students may be able to broaden their vocabulary by being able to describe the visual presentations from the PowerPoint, and eventually construct a compare/contrast essay that supports which form of persuasion they believe is more powerful.

Advertising and Parody

With the help of activity sheets, and web sites that provide photos and advertisements, this lesson gives students the opportunity to review tobacco advertising, and then based on their awareness, create their own parodies of the ads. Advertising appeals are discussed and a class rubric is given so that students become aware of the standards they must adhere to. I like that this lesson gives teachers handouts and a sort of step by step guide that is definitely helpful for doing lessons like this. Having students create a PowerPoint as the culminating task might also be beneficial so that students keep up to date on PowerPoint, which is a great visual medium for projects like this.

The Art of Propaganda

This lesson helps students develop a keen eye for propaganda. Students choose from a list of politically relevant articles and locate certain bias within each article. They are also asked to respond to two quotes: "Public opinion wins wars." - President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, and "Truth is the first casualty of war." This is a great lesson for illustrating how propaganda has affected events of the past and present. Going over vocabulary in the beginning of the lesson will diffuse any potential confusion.

 A School Initiative

What a great lesson for exposing students to business writing and persuasive writing. Students choose a school initiative to support and propose.  After creating a proposal that supports their initiative, they write a persuasive cover letter to further strengthen their initiative. Providing a sample template of a proposal would be extremely helpful, and going through each section of the proposal on some kind of overhead would enable students to see how each section of the proposal works in conjunction to form a final persuasive document.

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Debra Karr