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Why do you care?

My students are in the heart of a study on persuasion.  They selected their own topics for their editorials.  What I’ve noticed this week is they are depending more on collecting facts and statistics to support their stance, rather than their own logical reasoning.  So minilessons have been centered around this issue.  We’ve discussed using evidence to support their reason(s); writing a strong stance; and selecting a few premium facts to support the stance. 

Today the lesson was simply this:

Persuasive writers care about their stance SO MUCH they can’t help but share what they believe with others.

I talked with them about the importance of believing in a stance.  We refered back to our initial chart which was created by adding things we noticed about persuasion after studying a mentor text.  Early in the unit, they recognized the importance of being passionate about your subject.  They completed a quick write about why they care about their topic.  (This unleashed oodles of emotional appeal.)

As teachers who feel pressured to cover a lot of stuff, sometimes we forget these simple lessons which are the most pressing, the most worthy.  If writers don’t care about their topic, then the writing is going to be flat.

At the end of workshop, we had a whip share.  Everyone shared “I have to write about (their stance), because . . . ”  I stood in awe by their answers.  Here I thought they were just killing time.  In fact, they are passionate about their topics.  They’ve been hurt and don’t want others to go through what they’ve been through.  They feel compassion for those who don’t have a voice.  They hate the injustice in the world and want it to stop.  It made me realize they needed someone to say:  “It’s okay to care about your stance.  In fact, you need to care about it SO MUCH, that you can’t stand for it not being heard by others.”

What simple truths have you been teaching your students about writing?

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

4 thoughts on “Why do you care? Leave a comment

  1. We just completed a persuasive writing unit as well. This is my second go at teaching persuasive writing as a unit in both language arts as well as writing workshop (a true immersion one might say) and this year I was much more successful at getting to the heart of the matter first – the stance. In all the writing tools I created (and am trying to upload onto my blog (http://tmsteach.blogspot.com/), I made sure that the stance was the first item for reference. My sixth graders really needed this reminder, and it served well to both look for appropriate information as well as to build their argument. For my more advanced writers, we took a stab at the counter argument as well. We’ll take a break from this for a bit to focus on memoir and the literary essay, and then return for another cycle of persuasive writing.

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  2. Hi Ruth and Stacey,

    What a great blog! As a parallel to your post on writing, I couldn’t help but relate to the way many of my former soccer teammates were trained to play the game… They were taught in a very rigid way: the forward stands here and covers this territory, the defensive player’s job is to kick the ball hard, etc. Unfortunately, the result is an uninspiring and uncreative soccer team. Contrast this to the free-form style of play that can be learned only by imagination and, to some degree, a lack of structure. In my opinion, the results speak for themselves!

    I also love your motto – this year I’ve decided to write once per week about something I know absolutely nothing about. The catch? I have to learn only using free, web-based educational resources (iTunesU, Cornell’s e-Clips, TED.com, etc.). The ultimate goal is to learn enough about these platforms that I can write with more authority about how these unbelievable educational resources can be leveraged (for kids, adults… anyone who wants to learn).

    My site is http://www.the52weekproject.com, and you can reach me at the52weekproject@gmail.com. I’m fairly new at this and have been looking for a few good, complementary sites to link up with.

    Keep up the great work!

    Steve

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  3. I am working on some persuasive writing with my students as well. Your post has made me realize that I may have to go back to the drawing board. You are so right, students need to care so much for their topic that they can’t help but write about it. I need to return to the beginning and ask this simple question. I am sure the students will submit better writing if they feel passionate. I need to broaden their ability to choose, and rethink the mentor text I originally chose to share. Thank you for inspiring me and hopefully, my students as well.

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  4. At our school, teachers have been focused on writing for a couple of years now. We have given structure to narratives, persuasive, response to literature, and expository writing. So much structure, in fact, that we are effectively killing voice, not to mention a passion for writing. This year I vowed to (re)kindle a love of writing in my students. I shared my own enthusiasm, and my own novels in progress. I was completely unprepared for the torrent of emotion I unleashed. Together, my 31 students and I completed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November and published a 654 page anthology of our novels! I am continuously overwhelmed by what students (mine are fifth grade) are capable of when we inspire them.

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