A simple definition of persuasive writing is taking a position and trying to get an audience to agree. In middle school students are constantly asked to do this. Not only do we ask students to do this in speech, but also on paper. We ask them to write a convincing essay that shows they can persuade an audience and support their opinion on paper. In a perfect world middle-school students would love to write. The process from brain to pen to paper would flow like water through a stream. Unfortunately in my world writing is more like a still pond with very little movement. The grunts and groans received when the students are asked to pull out a paper and pen can be disheartening. To combat the dislike of writing that is necessary for life and for the Connecticut State Mastery Test, the students are given a no-fail technique for writing persuasive essays. Although the no-fail technique works, it does not leave much room for student enjoyment, creativity, and it adds to the students' dislike of writing.
A unit on persuasive writing is needed because everyday students are asked to persuade. Whether it is a written response to something they have read, or to tell why they liked or did not like a book or article, they are being asked to convince an audience of their point of view. Even when we ask students the simple question "Why?" we are asking them to convince us. Persuasive writing will also be used by these students in high school, college, and the work force. What students learn in middle school is the foundation for what they will use later in life. What students should understand is that writing persuasively and having someone agree is not just an accomplishment, it is a life skill,
and that once they leave middle school, the standard persuasive writing formula will no longer apply, and they will have to learn a new style of writing. Most teachers and people outside of middle school will not accept "my first reason is;" Now is the time to get students to exercise their writing skills, by coming up with a more creative and personal way for them to present their work.
As mentioned above the no-fail technique is also used to give students a guideline and sure-fire way to pass the state and district tests. These tests are another reason a persuasive writing unit is compulsory in this school district. In New Haven, middle school students are required to write a persuasive essay on their CMT's and are required to complete two writing prompts a year. The students are graded on elaboration, organization, fluency and audience awareness
. As well as persuasive essays, students are required to answer open ended questions, and do a section on editing and revising. The work that is done in this unit will also help the students prepare for the other areas of writing that they are required to be proficient in on the state and district tests. When writing responses to open ended questions the students need to support their answers with information from the text or prior knowledge; and when they are working on creating persuasive pieces, they will also have to support ideas with information they have found and/or prior knowledge.