Second grade has been working on a big research project. Each student selected one of five African Americans to research. Rather than write a traditional informational paper on their person, the 2nd grade teachers and I decided to weave persuasive writing into the project. Students would think about which historical figure should be on a next US postage stamp and would create a persuasive commercial to convince an authentic audience to vote for their historical figure.
We actually began our project with persuasion. Students spent time talking with one another about what it means to persuade. They mentioned things like:
- convince someone to do something
- get someone to get something for you
- make someone change their mind
Anytime I teach persuasive writing, I want kids to leave with an understanding that persuasive writing isn’t just about getting someone to get something for you. It’s one of the most powerful kinds of writing that can bring about change. However, many kids connect with the idea of commercials and convincing their families to buy something for them, so we often start there and expand.
We watched a commercial of one of this year’s hot holiday toys, the Flutterbye Fairy.
We used this commercial to think about a structure for persuasion. Students first noticed what we called a hook at the beginning. “Can you keep a secret?” was a phrase that hooked our attention to want to watch the rest of the commercial. We noticed that the rest of the commercial showed us just how easy it is to use the fairy, so this was like giving the facts about what you are writing about. Finally, we noticed the closing line “the magic is in your hands”. This was a phrase that would stick with us long after we watched the commercial. In fact, I told the students that my own daughter uttered this phrase the first time she flew her own Flutterbye fairy, so I knew it was a phrase that stuck in your head.
To continue our exploration of persuasion, we read Melanie Watt’s Have I Got a Book For You. This book uses just about every persuasive technique that you can think of. We noticed these techniques along the way and folded them in to our noticings from the fairy commercial.
After this initial exploration of persuasion, students worked some in their classrooms. They selected the African American they would research and got a graphic organizer to located some basic facts about their person. We referenced the fairy video and how important facts are when you are persuading.
Students spent time in class and in the library using several tools to research. I did a quick mini-lesson on using PebbleGo, Galileo’s SIRS Discoverer, and Galileo’s Britannica. All of these tools had text to speech features to support learners of all reading levels. During this mini-lesson, I also stressed how research is never really “done”. You just reach a point where you feel like you have enough to tell your story. Adults circulated and conferenced with students on their progress as they researched. I loved that not many said “I’m done”, but when they did, we gently reminded them that research is never really done.
Now students are pulling their facts together, creating hooks, and coming up with a great closing like “the magic is in your hands”. Once they have these scripts written, we will move forward with the next part of this project which will involve recording commercials in Flipgrid and creating a Google form for voting on which commercials are the most persuasive. I’m compiling all of this onto a Smore which will populate with information in the coming days.