Persuasive Letter Writing

My students are working on persuasive letters right now in writing workshop.  In the past, I always focused the unit on letters to the editor and letters to our school principal regarding issues in our school.  This year, after reading Stacey’s posts and Writing to Persuade: Minilessons to Help Students Plan, Draft, and Revise, Grades 3-8, I decided to have my students write to various companies of their choice.  I shared Ruth’s post about Stacey’s awesome student and told my students that we would be writing to companies that they felt could help our school.  

WOW!  My students are doing an amazing job so far.  They are engaged, enthusiastic, and begging to write everyday.  Their letters are awesome so far.  They are asking for donations of books for our school and classroom library, improvements to our school bathroom, and so much more.  I promise to share some of their letters once they are completed, but I am just in awe so far.   Writing to Persuade: Minilessons to Help Students Plan, Draft, and Revise, Grades 3-8 has been a great addition to my arsenal of professional resources and I am using a lot of mini-lessons and ideas to shape the unit.  I highly recommend reading it!

Point-of-View Twilight Lesson

This year I have a lot Twilight fans in my class.  Always one to try and rope the kids into a lesson by using something they are interested in, today I gave a mini-lesson on point-of-view using Twilight and Midnight Sun.

For the past few days my class has been immersed in an exploration of persuasive texts.  We have read a variety of persuasive texts and learned about propaganda techniques, learning to debate and hold conversations about the texts we read, and annotating nonfiction texts.  While trying to figure out the best way to present point-of-view and bias to them, I remembered an idea I had a few months ago.  Seeing as the Twilight movie was released just last week, this seemed like the perfect occasion to try out a new mini-lesson.  Below you will find an abbreviated version of the lesson.  

Teaching Point:  Writers apply their knowledge and understanding of point of view by writing a story from the perspective of the main characters.

Materials: Copies of the cafeteria scene from Ch. 1 of Twilight and copies of the same scene from Midnight Sun., writing notebooks, assignment sheet

Connection:  Over the last few days, we have been exploring various types of persuasive writing.  We have read about a lot of controversial topics and we have defended out positions using evidence from the text.  However, something we haven’t talked about is point-of view.  

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your brother or sister?  I bet your mom or dad broke it up and then asked what happened.  You probably blamed your sister and she probably blamed you.  And your mom ended up hearing two completely different stories about the same event!  Today I want to teach about point-of-view and how it influences an author’s writing, just like it influences the explanation you give your mom.

Teaching:   When you read a text, you always need to remember that the author is writing from their point-of-view,  or with their own bias. This should always be in the back of your mind while you read any text.  Even fiction is told from the point-of-view of the character telling the story!  

I am going to share with you one of my favorite examples of point-of-view.  I’m sure most of you have heard about Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, the main characters of “Twilight”.  What you may not know is that Stephenie Meyer is working on a new book, called “Midnight Sun”, which will tell the same story as “Twilight”, but from Edward’s perspective.  Together, we are going to read one scene from Bella’s perspective, as she spends her first lunch in the cafeteria at her new school.  Then we will read the same scene from Edward’s point-of-view.

(Read scenes with class)

Did you notice how the story was completely different, even though both characters were in the same place and experiencing the same situation?  That is the difference that perspective can give!

Link:  So readers and writers, today and everyday, you should remember that every story and text is written from a specific point-of-view.  That perspective can be biased and you need to remember this!  

To practice, tonight I want to you imagine that you are one of the characters in “Little Red Riding Hood”.  You will choose three of the characters (Little Red Riding Hood, woodcutter, Grandma, the wolf) and write one scene from each of their perspectives.  Put yourself in their shoes and write in their voice, from their viewpoint.  How would the wolf see the scene when Little Red Riding Hood first knocks on Grandma’s door?  How would Little Red Riding Hood see it?  Have fun, and tomorrow we will share!

-This lesson was inspired by Twisting Arms: Teaching Students How to Write to Persuade 


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