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teaching persuasive writing middle school

Persuasive Writing

teaching persuasive writing middle school

More writing strategies

Why teach persuasive writing?

As children mature as writers, it's important to give them the opportunity to write using a variety of formats. Persuasive writing helps students formulate specific reasons for their opinions, and provides an opportunity to research facts related to their opinions. As students develop an understanding of how writing can influence or change another's thoughts or actions, they can begin to understand the persuasive nature of the marketing they are exposed to through television, the Internet, and other media.

How to teach persuasive writing

Here's a persuasive letter written by an elementary school student from Crozet, VA:

Persuasive Writing

Watch: Bubble Gum Letters

Create an authentic writing opportunity that motivates students to write persuasive letters to a target audience. See the lesson plan .

This video is published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet . See related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Text Structures and Genres section as well as the Writing Processes and Strategies section.

Collect resources

Language arts.

This persuasive writing lesson from ReadWriteThink uses the Beverly Cleary book Emily's Runaway Imagination as the springboard for kids to write letters to a librarian urging the addition of certain titles to the library. A Persuasion Map Planning Sheet guides students through steps similar to what is described above.

This resource shows the lifecycle of writing a persuasive letter to a child's parents about where to vacation for the summer. The PDF begins with the brainstorming, moves through drafting, editing, and publishing of the final letter.


From Writing Fix, here's a speech writing lesson that uses the mentor text Otto Runs for President in conjunction with the RAFT strategy. In this lesson, students assume to the role of a talking fruit or vegetable. Pretending that there's a "Fruit/Vegetable of the Year" election, the students will create a campaign speech that explains why their fruit/veggie is the best candidate for the job.

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, students with learning disabilities, and younger learners.

See the research that supports this strategy

Wollman-Bonilla, J. (2000). Family message journals: Teaching writing through family involvement . Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Children's books to use with this strategy

Emily's Runaway Imagination

Emily's Runaway Imagination

Emily Bartlett lives in an old farmhouse in Pitchfork, Oregon at a time when automobiles are brand-new inventions and libraries are a rare luxury. Can Emily use her lively mind to help bring a library to Pitchfork? ReadWriteThink offers a persuasive writing lesson plan featuring this book.

Otto Runs for President

Otto Runs for President

When Otto runs for school presidency, he must defeat some underhanded techniques used by his opponents. What might convince the students that Otto is the best candidate for the job?

How Oliver Olsen Changed the World

How Oliver Olsen Changed the World

Oliver Olsen learns how to change his own world as the engaging third grader works on a school science project. The telling (third person) is natural and the situations plausible. The story can be retold using transition words to emphasize or identify individuals' favorite (or most memorable) parts.

The Storyteller's Candle

The Storyteller's Candle

This is the story of librarian Pura Belpré, told through the eyes of two young children who are introduced to the library and its treasures just before Christmas. Lulu Delacre's lovely illustrations evoke New York City at the time of the Great Depression, as well as the close-knit and vibrant Puerto Rican community that was thriving in El Barrio during this time. Bilingual Spanish-English text.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Farmer Brown has his hands full when the cows on his farm get a typewriter. Duck, however, negotiates successfully for all parties in this very funny farm story of very clever animals. Be prepared to talk about typewriters or take a trip to a museum to see one!

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. grew up fascinated by big words. He would later go on to use these words to inspire a nation and call people to action. In this award-winning book, powerful portraits of King show how he used words, not weapons, to fight injustice.

I would also the Duck series (Duck for President) and the Pigeon Series (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) as books to use!

Thanks for this, it really helped!

This is a good site and very helpful to my son.

I agree with all of these

very good website

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Engaging Strategies for Teaching Persuasion, Argument, and Debate

Year after year, I love teaching persuasion. I love persuading my students that persuasion is a life skill worth learning. (Because isn’t all teaching just persuading kids to listen and learn?!) Luckily, with the right mix of ethos, pathos, and logos, this is usually an easy sell to my audience of adolescents.

After all, teens love to argue…with their peers, their parents, and *gasp* their teachers. They have plenty of practice with real-life persuasion, whether it’s convincing their parents to stay out past their curfew or proposing just one extra day to work on that project. And they’re always dying to debate: which sports team is superior, why they deserve more freedom, and what’s wrong with school, society, and this world! If you’ve ever taught teenagers, you know that they have no shortage of opinions. So suffice it to say: your students are already arguers.

The challenge, of course, is helping students channel their opinions and energy into structured, academic argumentation. To do this, you’ll need high-engagement activities that match your students’ energy… not the ancient 5-paragraph persuasive essay over a subject on that random list of 100 debatable topics you found online. If we want to move students to a more sophisticated level of debate, we need to offer them student-centered, authentic, and relevant tasks to practice their persuasion.

Ready to ditch the 5-paragraph persuasive essay and engage your students in meaningful persuasion? Here are dozen different strategies for your ELA classroom.


Want to teach students how important it is to support your argument with evidence (and what happens when you don’t)? Ready to watch your class eagerly annotate a text and cite said evidence *without* complaints?

teaching persuasive writing middle school

I wasn’t sure my students would ever see citing evidence as more than a chore until I dressed up as “Judge G,” borrowed a gavel, and facilitated my first mock trial!

A mock trial is the perfect way to practice persuasion and argumentation because it’s student-centered, inherently engaging, and 100% authentic. You’ll watch students become intrigued, take ownership, and get competitive real quick! Because students know they’ll be arguing in front of a jury of their peers, the standards become strategy. Citing textual evidence is no longer a chore, but a competition! The stakes are higher than a grade from the teacher because the real prize is bragging rights. 

To structure a mock trial in your ELA classroom, you’ll need a murder, crime, ethical dilemma, or essential question. In other words: literature! From there, you’ll want to divide students into teams of prosecution, defense, and jury. After that, students will get to work within their groups. In my classroom, this is what it looks like:

The prosecution and defense teams prepare evidence-based claims and rebuttals. Each student is responsible for a section, whether that’s the opening, a claim, a rebuttal, or the closing. Meanwhile, the jury works together to create a rubric and anticipate the arguments they may hear during the trial.

You can read more about mock trials HERE or find everything you need to facilitate a virtual or in-person trial HERE.


Bar graphs in ELA? Oh yes you can! Getting a gold star from her math cohorts, Ashley Bible at Building Book Love has her students create rhetorical bar graphs to analyze persuasion.

Rhetorical Bar Graphs

This digital or tactile strategy is simple yet highly effective!  All you do is assign each appeal a color before taking students on a color-coded text hunt.  (In her rhetoric lesson plan , Ashley uses: Pink Pathos, Light Blue Logos, and Emerald Green Ethos). 

Once students have each appeal coded, they arrange the rhetorical devices into a bar graph and analyze which appeal the speaker relies most heavily on and how they could make their argument stronger. This visualization technique always generates important insights about the topic at hand!

From analyzing speeches in Julius Caesar , to recognizing propaganda in Animal Farm , to tackling social justice in Dolly Parton’s America , this strategy is a gift that keeps on giving! Tag her @BuildingBookLove if you give it a try! 


To help students identify persuasive appeals and techniques in action, Shana Ramin from Hello, Teacher Lady suggests deconstructing commercials and advertisements.

Commercials & advertisements

When teaching in person, Shana enjoys facilitating this type of analysis with the tried-and-true “chalk talk” approach. After gathering a series of printed advertisements, Shana glues each one in the center of large chart paper and places them at various points around the room. Students rotate through each station with a small group, annotating each ad silently with an eye for purpose, audience, tone, etc. At the end of the activity, students return to their original stations and share out their final observations with the class. 

To mimic this activity in a hybrid or digital environment, Shana recommends using Jamboard, an easy-to-use, digital whiteboard app by Google. The setup process is pretty much the same, but replace the printed ads with image screenshots and the white chart paper with a digital Jamboard slide. Students can then use the sticky note and marker features on Jamboard to annotate the images in breakout rooms. 

Click here to learn more about the collaborative features of Google Jamboard .


The Argument Olympics are Emily Aierstok’s favorite way to teach middle and high school students evidence based writing. Emily, from Read it. Write it. Learn it. , uses an Olympic theme to deconstruct arguments, write outlines, and compete in the “strongest evidence” game complete with gold medals! Kids LOVE it and quickly understand the qualities of strong evidence in their writing. 

Argument Olympics

To really create an Olympic games feel, Emily creates a very simple (and free!) classroom transformation. She strings red, yellow, and blue streamers around the room, plays the Olympic theme song from YouTube, and prints gold medals to hand out for gold-medal-level deconstructed essays, strongest outlines, and strongest evidence. 

Next, Emily introduces the “Olympic events.” For example, the first Olympic Event she introduces to students is The Strongest Evidence Competition. Students are given two sides of an argument topic and asked to find three pieces of evidence to support each argument. After finding their evidence, students are tasked with identifying the evidence that’s the strongest. Students become so motivated to find the strongest evidence, and they’re practicing essential analysis skills. The quality of evidence students find is amazing. 

You can read more about implementing the Argument Olympics in your classroom here . 


Jenna, @DrJennaCopper , loves using silent discussions for students to debate the impact of articles and artifacts. The rules are simple: students are only allowed to write. This type of stipulation helps students really think about their responses since they can’t talk.

Silent discussions

Here’s how it works:

That’s it! Not only will your students be highly engaged, but you’ll also enjoy the few short minutes of precious silence!

As a bonus, this activity works great for a remote lesson as well. Just paste your article or artifact in a Google Doc and share it so they all have editing access. They can complete their silent discussions right in the document. 


Lauralee from the Language Arts Classroom frequently uses famous speeches and commercials to teach persuasion. By bringing in authentic examples to the classroom, this strategy offers history and media lessons, too.

Famous speeches

When students realize that they see strategies every day in social media, on their phones, and within stores, they engage and are excited to apply those concepts to their public speaking endeavors.

For instance, students can study the techniques in a Susan B. Anthony speech and then apply those techniques to their own speeches. Teachers can even pair her speech with a narrative speech assignment. Students can then employ sentence structure, tone, and logos into their speeches. Although ELA teachers often use persuasive techniques during public speaking lessons, many of the same activities work well with argumentative writing.


Staci Lamb from The Engaging Station loves switching up her creative lessons on ethos, logos, and pathos every year. She has had students watch Shark Tank and sell their own products, but last year, she was inspired to try something new by making a connection to the Netflix show Nailed It .

Nailed It! Challenge

Right before winter break, she went to Walmart to buy graham crackers, icing, candies, and more. Dollar Tree also had a great selection of inexpensive candy. Students had to create a gingerbread masterpiece and then use ethos, logos, and pathos to justify why their house was the best. The kids had a lot of fun, and it was an engaging activity to end the calendar year.

You can see this idea and more with free resources on her blog post Creative Ways to Teach Persuasive Appeals .


Today, students have access to more information than ever at their fingertips. Tanesha from Tanesha B. Forman leverages real world topics – that students want to debate in the classroom – with argu mentative writing lessons. Choice is the bedrock of Tanesha’s approach to lit eracy and she offers students a choice on a topic (e.g. should college athletes be paid?), and tells them the format (e.g. speech, letter). 

Real World Topics + Choice

Next, students research their topic. Tanesha always warns students to think about their position, but be open to changing based on what the research from credible sources reveals. Students spend a day or two gathering information for their writing assignment. For students who need support with this, Tanesha has 3-4 sources readily available. Once students have their evidence, they enter the writing process that Tanesha creates mini-lessons aligned to their needs and they present their work. Throughout the year, Tanesha encourages students to share topics they want to “argue” and she repeats the cycle.


No matter what you’re reading or learning about, adding a persuasive pitch to “sell” an idea, is a great way to include elements of persuasion beyond a persuasive unit.

Elevator Pitches

For example, if students are creating something to aid a character , rather than just explain it, challenge your students to create a short elevator pitch! It can even be used with literary analysis by asking a question such as: Which character is the most (insert character trait here)?  Staci from Donut Lovin’ Teacher finds that when students have to pitch their ideas, they really begin to reflect on their work and what makes it great, and also where it can grow. 

Staci likes starting with a graphic organizer to get students thinking and then begins layering in mini-lessons that consider the audience, point of view, tone, and rhetorical appeals, depending on how much time you have. Students can then begin crafting their pitch on a guided template and practice saying it aloud. If you’re able to incorporate this multiple times throughout the year, your students will really grow confidence in their speaking skills, too!


Middle and high school students can at times feel intimidated by debate and persuasion. That’s why Melissa from Reading and Writing Haven recommends a mini debate activity that engages all students and makes debate relaxed and approachable.

Musical debates

Musical debates amplify the energy, creativity, and social interaction in the physical classroom and online. By adding a simple twist of music, it lightens the mood and provides natural brain breaks so students have time to collect their thoughts. 

Here are Melissa’s simple steps for using this debate-style discussion strategy in your classroom:

To make this strategy work online, you can use breakout rooms to group students together randomly. 

Of course, you can run the same type of mini debates without the music. And, that’s fun, too! But, for students, the music adds energy and connectedness. Plus, it reduces the anxiety for students who are more reluctant to engage in debates. 

Musical debates create a warm, relaxed environment conducive to critical thinking and dialogue. And, students have multiple short opportunities to hone their skills and hear a variety of perspectives. Melissa wrote about engaging variations, prompts for musical discussions, and how to prepare students on her blog. Click here to read the post .


One way that Christina, The Daring English Teacher , likes to incorporate persuasion, argument, and debate into the classroom is by assigning a PSA Passion Project to students.

PSA Passion Projects

After learning about rhetorical appeals and argument writing , Christina assigns her students a PSA Passion Project. Her students select an important social issue and create a public service announcement campaign to raise awareness for their chosen issue.

The public service campaign usually includes a variety of items. To place students in charge of their learning, they choose several products to produce from a list of items: a speech, a persuasive letter, a graphic essay , a poster, an infographic, an informational video, a narrative video, a social media campaign, and more. It is important to make sure that students choose at least two items, and that their combination includes a writing component and a media literacy component.

To make the class project more fun, no two students can choose the same topic. To share their projects with the class, Christina likes to use Padlet.


Amanda from Mud and Ink Teaching likes to head the Disney direction when it comes to learning the ins and outs of argumentation. 

teaching persuasive writing middle school

So many great Disney songs offer an argumentative core, and their popularity and familiarity help build engagement with students.  Take “Under the Sea” for example:  Sebastian has quite the task in front of him.  Somehow, he must convince an uninterested Ariel to curb her curiosity about the human world and appreciate her home under ‘de water.  Reversely, Moana sings of the importance of heeding the call to the ocean in “How Far I’ll Go” as she debates within herself how far she is actually willing to go.  Each of these speakers has an important message to impart, and these are things that students are comfortable wrestling with.

Amanda’s favorite song to teach, however, is the well-loved classic “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast .  In this lesson that she outlines in her blog post and provides a free Google Slide lesson download , Amanda teaches students the importance of understanding the rhetorical situation (the rhetorical triangle) as well as the devices and techniques that the speaker uses to communicate his message.  Through practice and discussion with familiar texts and characters, students begin to embrace the fundamental ideas of argumentation.

I hope this post helps you make persuasion more engaging, authentic, and student-centered! What are your other favorite activities to teach persuasion? Let me know in the comments!

If you like any of these ideas, don’t forget to pin them! 🙂

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A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Argumentative Writing

February 7, 2016

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For seven years, I was a writing teacher.  Yes, I was certified to teach the full spectrum of English language arts—literature, grammar and usage, speech, drama, and so on—but my absolute favorite, the thing I loved doing the most, was teaching students how to write.

Most of the material on this site is directed at all teachers. I look for and put together resources that would appeal to any teacher who teaches any subject. That practice will continue for as long as I keep this up. But over the next year or so, I plan to also share more of what I know about teaching students to write. Although I know many of the people who visit here are not strictly English language arts teachers, my hope is that these posts will provide tons of value to those who are, and to those who teach all subjects, including writing.

So let’s begin with argumentative writing, or persuasive writing, as many of us used to call it. This overview will be most helpful to those who are new to teaching writing, or teachers who have not gotten good results with the approach you have taken up to now. I don’t claim to have the definitive answer on how to do this, but the method I share here worked pretty well for me, and it might do the same for you. If you are an experienced English language arts teacher, you probably already have a system for teaching this skill that you like. Then again, I’m always interested in how other people do the things I can already do; maybe you’re curious like that, too.

Before I start, I should note that what I describe in this post is a fairly formulaic style of essay writing. It’s not exactly the 5-paragraph essay, but it definitely builds on that model. I strongly believe students should be shown how to move past those kinds of structures into a style of writing that’s more natural and fitting to the task and audience, but I also think they should start with something that’s pretty clearly organized.

So here’s how I teach argumentative essay writing.

Step 1: Watch How It’s Done

One of the most effective ways to improve student writing is to show them mentor texts, examples of excellent writing within the genre students are about to attempt themselves. Ideally, this writing would come from real publications and not be fabricated by me in order to embody the form I’m looking for. Although most experts on writing instruction employ some kind of mentor text study, the person I learned it from best was Katie Wood Ray in her book Study Driven (links to the book: | Amazon ).

Since I want the writing to be high quality and the subject matter to be high interest, I might choose pieces like Jessica Lahey’s Students Who Lose Recess Are the Ones Who Need it Most  and David Bulley’s School Suspensions Don’t Work .

I would have students read these texts, compare them, and find places where the authors used evidence to back up their assertions. I would ask students which author they feel did the best job of influencing the reader, and what suggestions they would make to improve the writing. I would also ask them to notice things like stories, facts and statistics, and other things the authors use to develop their ideas. Later, as students work on their own pieces, I would likely return to these pieces to show students how to execute certain writing moves.

Step 2: Informal Argument, Freestyle

Although many students might need more practice in writing an effective argument, many of them are excellent at arguing in person. To help them make this connection, I would have them do some informal debate on easy, high-interest topics. An activity like This or That (one of the classroom icebreakers I talked about last year) would be perfect here: I read a statement like “Women have the same opportunities in life as men.” Students who agree with the statement move to one side of the room, and those who disagree move to the other side. Then they take turns explaining why they are standing in that position. This ultimately looks a little bit like a debate, as students from either side tend to defend their position to those on the other side.

Every class of students I have ever had, from middle school to college, has loved loved LOVED this activity. It’s so simple, it gets them out of their seats, and for a unit on argument, it’s an easy way to get them thinking about how the art of argument is something they practice all the time.

Step 3: Informal Argument, Not so Freestyle

Once students have argued without the support of any kind of research or text, I would set up a second debate; this time with more structure and more time to research ahead of time. I would pose a different question, supply students with a few articles that would provide ammunition for either side, then give them time to read the articles and find the evidence they need.

Next, we’d have a Philosophical Chairs debate (learn about this in my  discussion strategies post), which is very similar to “This or That,” except students use textual evidence to back up their points, and there are a few more rules. Here they are still doing verbal argument, but the experience should make them more likely to appreciate the value of evidence when trying to persuade.

Before leaving this step, I would have students transfer their thoughts from the discussion they just had into something that looks like the opening paragraph of a written argument: A statement of their point of view, plus three reasons to support that point of view. This lays the groundwork for what’s to come.

Step 4: Introduction of the Performance Assessment

Next I would show students their major assignment, the performance assessment that they will work on for the next few weeks. What does this look like? It’s generally a written prompt that describes the task, plus the rubric I will use to score their final product.

Anytime I give students a major writing assignment, I let them see these documents very early on. In my experience, I’ve found that students appreciate having a clear picture of what’s expected of them when beginning a writing assignment. At this time, I also show them a model of a piece of writing that meets the requirements of the assignment. Unlike the mentor texts we read on day 1, this sample would be something teacher-created (or an excellent student model from a previous year) to fit the parameters of the assignment.

Step 5: Building the Base

Before letting students loose to start working on their essays, I make sure they have a solid plan for writing. I would devote at least one more class period to having students consider their topic for the essay, drafting a thesis statement, and planning the main points of their essay in a graphic organizer.

I would also begin writing my own essay on a different topic. This has been my number one strategy for teaching students how to become better writers. Using a document camera or overhead projector, I start from scratch, thinking out loud and scribbling down my thoughts as they come. When students see how messy the process can be, it becomes less intimidating for them. They begin to understand how to take the thoughts that are stirring around in your head and turn them into something that makes sense in writing.

For some students, this early stage might take a few more days, and that’s fine: I would rather spend more time getting it right at the pre-writing stage than have a student go off willy-nilly, draft a full essay, then realize they need to start over. Meanwhile, students who have their plans in order will be allowed to move on to the next step.

Step 6: Writer’s Workshop

The next seven to ten days would be spent in writer’s workshop, where I would start class with a mini-lesson about a particular aspect of craft. I would show them how to choose credible, relevant evidence, how to skillfully weave evidence into an argument, how to consider the needs of an audience, and how to correctly cite sources. Once each mini-lesson was done, I would then give students the rest of the period to work independently on their writing. During this time, I would move around the room, helping students solve problems and offering feedback on whatever part of the piece they are working on. I would encourage students to share their work with peers and give feedback at all stages of the writing process.

If I wanted to make the unit even more student-centered, I would provide the mini-lessons in written or video format and let students work through them at their own pace, without me teaching them. (To learn more about this approach, read this post on self-paced learning ).

As students begin to complete their essays, the mini-lessons would focus more on matters of style and usage. I almost never bother talking about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or usage until students have a draft that’s pretty close to done. Only then do we start fixing the smaller mistakes.

Step 7: Final Assessment

Finally, the finished essays are handed in for a grade. At this point, I’m pretty familiar with each student’s writing and have given them verbal (and sometimes written) feedback throughout the unit; that’s why I make the writer’s workshop phase last so long. I don’t really want students handing in work until they are pretty sure they’ve met the requirements to the best of their ability. I also don’t necessarily see “final copies” as final; if a student hands in an essay that’s still really lacking in some key areas, I will arrange to have that student revise it and resubmit for a higher grade.

So that’s it. If you haven’t had a lot of success teaching students to write persuasively, and if the approach outlined here is different from what you’ve been doing, give it a try. And let’s keep talking: Use the comments section below to share your techniques or ask questions about the most effective ways to teach argumentative writing.

Want this unit ready-made?

If you’re a writing teacher in grades 7-12 and you’d like a classroom-ready unit like the one described above, including mini-lessons, sample essays, and a library of high-interest online articles to use for gathering evidence, take a look at my Argumentative Writing unit. Just click on the image below and you’ll be taken to a page where you can read more and see a detailed preview of what’s included.

What to Read Next

teaching persuasive writing middle school

Categories: Instruction , Podcast

Tags: English language arts , Grades 6-8 , Grades 9-12 , teaching strategies


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This is useful information. In teaching persuasive speaking/writing I have found Monroe’s Motivated sequence very useful and productive. It is a classic model that immediately gives a solid structure for students.

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Thanks for the recommendation, Bill. I will have to look into that! Here’s a link to more information on Monroe’s Motivated sequence, for anyone who wants to learn more:

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What other sites do you recommend for teacher use on providing effective organizational structure in argumentative writing? As a K-12 Curriculum Director, I find that when teachers connect with and understand the organizational structure, they are more effective in their teaching/delivery.

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Hey Jessica, in addition to the steps outlined here, you might want to check out Jenn’s post on graphic organizers . Graphic organizers are a great tool that you can use in any phase of a lesson. Using them as a prewrite can help students visualize the argument and organize their thoughts. There’s a link in that post to the Graphic Organizer Multi-Pack that Jenn has for sale on her Teachers Pay Teachers site, which includes two versions of a graphic organizer you can use specifically for argument organization. Otherwise, if there’s something else you had in mind, let us know and we can help you out. Thanks!

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Dear Jennifer Gonzalez,

You are generous with your gift of lighting the path… I hardly ever write (never before) , but I must today… THANK YOU… THANK YOU….THANK YOU… mostly for reading your great teachings… So your valuable teachings will even be easy to benefit all the smart people facing challenge of having to deal with adhd…

I am not a teacher… but forever a student…someone who studied English as 2nd language, with a science degree & adhd…

You truly are making a difference in our World…

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Thanks so much, Rita! I know Jenn will appreciate this — I’ll be sure to share with her!

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Love it! Its simple and very fruitful . I can feel how dedicated you are! Thanks alot Jen

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Great examples of resources that students would find interesting. I enjoyed reading your article. I’ve bookmarked it for future reference. Thanks!

You’re welcome, Sheryl!

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Students need to be writing all the time about a broad range of topics, but I love the focus here on argumentative writing because if you choose the model writing texts correctly, you can really get the kids engaged in the process and in how they can use this writing in real-world situations!

I agree, Laura. I think an occasional tight focus on one genre can help them grow leaps and bounds in the skills specific to that type of writing. Later, in less structured situations, they can then call on those skills when that kind of thinking is required.

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This is really helpful! I used it today and put the recess article in a Google Doc and had the kids identify anecdotal, statistic, and ‘other’ types of evidence by highlighting them in three different colors. It worked well! Tomorrow we’ll discuss which of the different types of evidence are most convincing and why.

Love that, Shanna! Thanks for sharing that extra layer.

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Greetings Ms. Gonzales. I was wondering if you had any ideas to help students develop the cons/against side of their argument within their writing? Please advise. Thanks.

Hi Michael,

Considering audience and counterarguments are an important part of the argumentative writing process. In the Argumentative Writing unit Jenn includes specific mini-lessons that teach kids how, when and where to include opposing views in their writing. In the meantime, here’s a video that might also be helpful.

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Hi, Thank you very much for sharing your ideas. I want to share also the ideas in the article ‘Already Experts: Showing Students How Much They Know about Writing and Reading Arguments’ by Angela Petit and Edna Soto…they explain a really nice activity to introduce argumentative writing. I have applied it many times and my students not only love it but also display a very clear pattern as the results in the activity are quite similar every time. I hope you like it.

Lorena Perez

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I’d like to thank you you for this excellence resource. It’s a wonderful addition to the informative content that Jennifer has shared.

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What do you use for a prize?

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I looked at the unit, and it looks and sounds great. The description says there are 4 topics. Can you tell me the topics before I purchase? We start argument in 5th grade, and I want to make sure the topics are different from those they’ve done the last 5 years before purchasing. Thanks!

Hi Carrie! If you go to the product page on TPT and open up the preview, you’ll see the four topics on the 4th page in more detail, but here they are: Social Networking in School (should social media sites be blocked in school?), Cell Phones in Class, Junk Food in School, and Single-Sex Education (i.e., genders separated). Does that help?

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I teach 6th grade English in a single gendered (all-girls) class. We just finished an argument piece but I will definitely cycle back your ideas when we revisit argumentation. Thanks for the fabulous resources!

Glad to hear it, Madelyn!

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I’m not a writing teacher and honestly haven’t been taught on how to teach writing. I’m a history teacher. I read this and found it helpful but have questions. First I noticed that amount of time dedicated to the task in terms of days. My questions are how long is a class period? I have my students for about 45 minutes. I also saw you mentioned in the part about self-paced learning that mini-lessons could be written or video format. I love these ideas. Any thoughts on how to do this with almost no technology in the room and low readers to non-readers? I’m trying to figure out how to balance teaching a content class while also teaching the common core skills. Thank you for any consideration to my questions.

Hey Jones, To me, a class period is anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour; definitely varies from school to school. As for the question about doing self-paced with very little tech? I think binders with written mini-lessons could work well, as well as a single computer station or tablet hooked up to a class set of videos. Obviously you’d need to be more diligent about rotating students in and out of these stations, but it’s an option at least. You might also give students access to the videos through computers in other locations at school (like the library) and give them passes to watch. The thing about self-paced learning, as you may have seen in the self-paced post , is that if students need extra teacher support (as you might find with low readers or non-readers), they would spend more one-on-one time with the teacher, while the higher-level students would be permitted to move more quickly on their own. Does that help?

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My primary goal for next semester is to increase academic discussion and make connections from discussion to writing, so I love how you launch this unit with lessons like Philosophical Chairs. I am curious, however, what is the benefit of the informal argument before the not-so-informal argument? My students often struggle to listen to one another, so I’m wondering if I should start with the more formal, structured version. Or, am I overthinking the management? Thanks so much for input.

Yikes! So sorry your question slipped through, and we’re just now getting to this, Sarah. The main advantage of having kids first engage in informal debate is that it helps them get into an argumentative mindset and begin to appreciate the value of using research to support their claims. If you’ve purchased the unit, you can read more about this in the Overview.

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My 6th graders are progressing through their argumentative essay. I’m providing mini lessons along the way that target where most students are in their essay. Your suggestions will be used. I’ve chosen to keep most writing in class and was happy to read that you scheduled a lot of class time for the writing. Students need to feel comfortable knowing that writing is a craft and needs to evolve over time. I think more will get done in class and it is especially important for the struggling writers to have peers and the teacher around while they write. Something that I had students do that they liked was to have them sit in like-topic groups to create a shared document where they curated information that MIGHT be helpful along the way. By the end of the essay, all will use a fantastic add-on called GradeProof which helps to eliminate most of the basic and silly errors that 6th graders make.

Debbi! I LOVE the idea of a shared, curated collection of resources! That is absolutely fantastic! Are you using a Google Doc for this? Other curation tools you might consider are Padlet and Elink .

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thanks v much for all this information

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Love this! What do you take as grades in the meantime? Throughout this 2 week stretch?

Ideally, you wouldn’t need to take grades at all, waiting until the final paper is done to give one grade. If your school requires more frequent grades, you could assign small point values for getting the incremental steps done: So in Step 3 (when students have to write a paragraph stating their point of view) you could take points for that. During the writer’s workshop phase, you might give points for completion of a rough draft and participation points for peer review (ideally, they’d get some kind of feedback on the quality of feedback they give to one another). Another option would be to just give a small, holistic grade for each week based on the overall integrity of their work–are they staying on task? Making small improvements to their writing each day? Taking advantage of the resources? If students are working diligently through the process, that should be enough. But again, the assessment (grades) should really come from that final written product, and if everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing during the workshop phase, most students should have pretty good scores on that final product. Does that help?

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Awesome Step 2! Teaching mostly teenagers in Northern Australia I find students’ verbal arguments are much more finely honed than their written work.

To assist with “building the base” I’ve always found sentence starters an essential entry point for struggling students. We have started using the ‘PEARL’ method for analytical and persuasive writing.

If it helps here a free scaffold for the method:

Thanks again,

Thank you for sharing this additional resource! It’s excellent!

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I’ve been scouring the interwebs looking for some real advice on how I can help my struggling 9th grader write better. I can write. Since it comes naturally for me, I have a hard time breaking it down into such tiny steps that he can begin to feel less overwhelmed. I LOVE the pre-writing ideas here. My son is a fabulous arguer. I need to help him use those powers for the good of his writing skills. Do you have a suggestion on what I else I can be using for my homeschooled son? Or what you may have that could work well for home use?

Hi Melinda,

You might be interested in taking a look at Jenn’s Argumentative Writing unit which she mentions at the end of the post . Hope this helps!

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Mam it would be good if you could post some steps of different writing and some samples as well so it can be useful for the students.

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Hi Aalia! My name is Holly, and I work as a Customer Experience Manager for Cult of Pedagogy. It just so happens that in the near future, Jenn is going to release a narrative writing unit, so keep an eye out for that! As far as samples, the argumentative writing unit has example essays included, and I’m sure the narrative unit will as well. But, to find the examples, you have to purchase the unit from Teachers Pay Teachers.

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I just want to say that this helped me tremendously in teaching argument to 8th Graders this past school year, which is a huge concept on their state testing in April. I felt like they were very prepared, and they really enjoyed the verbal part of it, too! I have already implemented these methods into my unit plan for argument for my 11th grade class this year. Thank you so much for posting all of these things! : )

-Josee` Vaughn

I’m so glad to hear it, Josee!!

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Love your blog! It is one of the best ones.

I am petrified of writing. I am teaching grade 8 in September and would love some suggestions as I start planning for the year. Thanks!

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This is genius! I can’t wait to get started tomorrow teaching argument. It’s always something that I have struggled with, and I’ve been teaching for 18 years. I have a class of 31 students, mostly boys, several with IEPs. The self-paced mini-lessons will help tremendously.

So glad you liked it, Britney!

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My students will begin the journey into persuasion and argument next week and your post cemented much of my thinking around how to facilitate the journey towards effective, enthusiastic argumentative writing.

I use your rubrics often to outline task expectations for my students and the feedback from them is how useful breaking every task into steps can be as they are learning new concepts.

Additionally, we made the leap into blogging as a grade at It feels much like trying to learn to change a tire while the car is speeding down the highway. Reading your posts over the past years was a factor in embracing the authentic audience. Thank You! Trish

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I love reading and listening to your always helpful tips, tricks, and advice! I was wondering if you had any thoughts on creative and engaging ways to have students share their persuasive writing? My 6th students are just finishing up our persuasive writing where we read the book “Oh, Rats” by Albert Marrin and used the information gathered to craft a persuasive piece to either eliminate or protect rats and other than just reading their pieces to one another, I have been trying to think of more creative ways to share. I thought about having a debate but (un)fortunately all my kids are so sweet and are on the same side of the argument – Protect the Rats! Any ideas?

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Hi Kiley! Thanks for the positive feedback! So glad to hear that you are finding value in Cult of Pedagogy! Here are a few suggestions that you may be interested in trying with your students:

-A gallery walk: Students could do this virtually if their writing is stored online or hard copies of their writing. Here are some different ways that you could use gallery walks: Enliven Class Discussions With Gallery Walks

-Students could give each other feedback using a tech tool like Flipgrid . You could assign students to small groups or give them accountability partners. In Flipgrid, you could have students sharing back and forth about their writing and their opinions.

I hope this helps!

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I love the idea of mentor texts for all of these reading and writing concepts. I saw a great one on Twitter with one text and it demonstrated 5-6 reasons to start a paragraph, all in two pages of a book! Is there a location that would have suggestions/lists of mentor texts for these areas? Paragraphs, sentences, voice, persuasive writing, expository writing, etc. It seems like we could share this info, save each other some work, and curate a great collection of mentor text for English Language Arts teachers. Maybe it already exists?

Hi Maureen,

Here are some great resources that you may find helpful:

Craft Lessons Second Edition: Teaching Writing K-8 Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts and Mentor Texts, 2nd edition: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-6

Thanks so much! I’ll definitely look into these.

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I love the steps for planning an argumentative essay writing. When we return from Christmas break, we will begin starting a unit on argumentative writing. I will definitely use the steps. I especially love Step #2. As a 6th grade teacher, my students love to argue. This would set the stage of what argumentative essay involves. Thanks for sharing.

So glad to hear this, Gwen. Thanks for letting us know!

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Great orientation, dear Jennifer. The step-by-step carefully planned pedagogical perspectives have surely added in the information repository of many.

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Hi Jennifer,

I hope you are well. I apologise for the incorrect spelling in the previous post.

Thank you very much for introducing this effective instruction for teaching argumentative writing. I am the first year PhD student at Newcastle University, UK. My PhD research project aims to investigate teaching argumentative writing to Chinese university students. I am interested in the Argumentative Writing unit you have designed and would like to buy it. I would like to see the preview of this book before deciding to purchase it. I clicked on the image BUT the font of the preview is so small and cannot see the content clearly. I am wondering whether it could be possible for you to email me a detailed preview of what’s included. I would highly appreciate if you could help me with this.

Thank you very much in advance. Looking forward to your reply.

Take care and all the very best, Chang

Hi Chang! Jenn’s Argumentative Writing Unit is actually a teaching unit geared toward grades 7-12 with lessons, activities, etc. If you click here click here to view the actual product, you can click on the green ‘View Preview’ button to see a pretty detailed preview of what’s offered. Once you open the preview, there is the option to zoom in so you can see what the actual pages of the unit are like. I hope this helps!

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Great Content!

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Another teacher showed me one of your posts, and now I’ve read a dozen of them. With teaching students to argue, have you ever used the “What’s going on in this picture?” I used it last year and thought it was a non-threatening way to introduce learners to using evidence to be persuasive since there was no text.

I used to do something like this to help kids learn how to make inferences. Hadn’t thought of it from a persuasive standpoint. Interesting.

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this is a very interesting topic, thanks!

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Persuasive Writing

Persuasive Writing

About this Strategy Guide

This strategy guide focuses on persuasive writing and offers specific methods on how you can help your students use it to improve their critical writing and thinking skills.

Research Basis

Strategy in practice, related resources.

Students often score poorly on persuasive writing assessments because they have no authentic audience or purpose; thus their counterarguments and rebuttals are weak. However, if they see writing as personally meaningful and a useful way to express their needs and desires, they will want to improve their skills in writing style, content, spelling, and other mechanics. Research shows that young children are capable of anticipating their readers’ beliefs and expectations when writing for familiar readers to get something they want and when prompted to think about their audience’s perspective while writing. 1 Teachers can also guide students to analyze examples of persuasive writing and understand the author’s purpose. Before writing a persuasive piece, students should understand how persuasion is used orally in everyday life by practicing making short, convincing speeches about something that’s important to them. 2 1 Wollman-Bonilla, J. (2000). Family message journals: Teaching writing through family involvement. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

2 Wollman-Bonilla, J. (2000). Family message journals: Teaching writing through family involvement. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Here are some ways you can help your students master persuasive writing:

Vary the types of assignments you give to meet the different learning needs, styles, and interests of your students. If students sense that voicing their opinions may lead to change, it can motivate them to formulate effective arguments for their positions and propose possible solutions.

Through a classroom game and resource handouts, students learn about the techniques used in persuasive oral arguments and apply them to independent persuasive writing activities.

Students analyze rhetorical strategies in online editorials, building knowledge of strategies and awareness of local and national issues. This lesson teaches students connections between subject, writer, and audience and how rhetorical strategies are used in everyday writing.

The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.

Students examine the different ways that they write and think about the role writing plays in life.

Explore Resources by Grade

teaching persuasive writing middle school

Writing & Grammar

10 Steps to Teach Persuasive Writing

teaching persuasive writing middle school

Kids are natural-born persuaders. They do it all the time. The trick as a teacher is to take their set of cajoling skills and help them use their power for good. And by good, I mean to channel these skills into writing effective persuasive pieces.

So, what exactly do we need to do to teach persuasive writing? I won’t lie to you…it’s not an easy task, but I’ll try to break it down here and simplify the steps to hopefully make this something that you can use in your classroom.

1. Teach Paragraph Writing FIRST

Before I even begin to think about writing a persuasive piece, I make sure that my class has learned the basics of writing a good paragraph. We spend a lot of time with each component and after they’ve mastered one paragraph, we move on to the five-paragraph essay.

Since I teach 4th/5th, this is one of the standards we need to reach. Once I know the kids can write a reasonably good essay, then we can add the persuasive aspect a little more easily.

Mentor texts for teaching persuasive writing

2. Use Mentor Texts to Teach Persuasive Writing

I am a big fan of mentor texts. I just love how picture books easily capture the attention of my “big” kids, while quickly teaching them so many lessons.

When I teach persuasive writing, I like to gather several of these persuasive mentor texts and share them with my class. We talk about how the character used persuasive techniques well, and how he/she didn’t.

Mentor texts for teaching persuasive writing

3. Introduce Persuasive Writing Techniques

We have a really fun discussion about how advertisers try to persuade us to buy their products using a number of techniques, and how we might incorporate some of these same ideas into our writing.

We look at ads that I’ve selected on a PowerPoint that showcases each example. I use the EITHER OR acronym:

E – Everyone is doing this (Bandwagon) I = Appeal to intellect (Intellect) T = This is good for you or for someone you know (Beneficial) H = This will bring you happiness (Happiness) E = Every reasonable person would agree (Common Sense) R = This is your right (Right) O = Opinion of an expert (Expert) R = This is your responsibility (Responsibility)

I have the kids write these in their Writer’s Notebooks as we discuss them and then send them home with a homework assignment (included in my persuasive writing unit) which asks them to select an ad from a magazine or online, to identify the persuasive techniques used, and to bring it in to share.

4. Practice Persuasive Techniques with Task Cards

persuasive writing task cards

Task cards help reinforce every single concept you can think of. I feel so strongly about them that whenever I make a resource for my classroom, I almost always include some kind of task card to go with it. Kids love task cards and especially like to move around the room in pairs to solve them. They think of it as fun, but I know they’re learning as they go.

These persuasive strategies task cards are definitely tricky and will require lots of critical thinking skills, so it might be a wise idea to pair a stronger student with a weaker one.

Also, before the kids begin, it’s a good idea to point out that an advertising slogan might use more than one persuasive technique. For example, an ad for Disneyland might use Happiness as well as Bandwagon.

5. Work on Hooks

Now we spend some time focusing on how to start the essay. We start using a hook!

I like to describe a writing “hook” using a fishing analogy. The fisherman puts a nice pink, juicy worm on the hook, hoping to attract the attention of the fish. If the fish bites, the fisherman’s happy. If the fish doesn’t bite, that means that it wasn’t interested in the hook, and there won’t be any fish caught.

Our goal as a writer is to get the reader interested by “hooking” them into reading our essay, from the very first sentence.

We go over six different types of hooks and practice these. Then we practice writing hooks with topic sentences.

6. Practice Paragraph Star Ideas on Whiteboards

I can’t tell you how much I love using whiteboards in the classroom. I use them daily for math lessons, and use them off and on whenever I need the kids to practice a skill and want instant feedback and 100% participation (well, maybe not 100% but 99% is pretty close!).

I purchased mine at Home Depot (bought shower board for about $14 and they cut them into 12 x 12 inch squares for free for me). Whiteboards are great for writing lessons and I use them often when teaching paragraphing skills.

For this lesson, I give the kids a topic (school uniforms or treats at school or which season is the best, etc.) and then ask the kids to write three stars on their whiteboards. Next to each star, they write down a word to describe a reason they like/dislike this idea.

For example, if the topic was school uniforms, the child might write lack of individuality, gets boring, uncomfortable… I can quickly glance at their lists, while we discuss a few of them and then we’re on to the next topic.

Without writing a whole essay, this is teaching the kids to think about organization and how reasons help support their opinions. I think this kind of practice is great!

7. Share a Persuasive Essay Example

It’s one thing to talk about a persuasive essay’s components and to even practice them. It’s another thing to see a really good example of an essay and to get to go through it and to discuss what makes it work and why.

I have several great examples I’ve saved over the years (and have one I wrote about why cats are excellent pets that I included in my persuasive essay unit).

Additionally, I like to type these student essays examples to make them easier to read and then I project them on my smartboard for the kids to see. I also like to use “bad” examples, to show them some mistakes to avoid. I’m always careful to hide the names of the authors before I share them.

8. Make an Outline and an Essay as a Whole Class

Okay, here’s where your perseverance has to kick in.

Trying to complete an essay as a whole class will drive even the most saintly of teachers to want to pull their hair out at times but this hard part is crucial. There, I said it. It is that important, that this is a step you shouldn’t miss.

Here’s how I do it. I break it down into two or three days. The first day we create an outline together. I have the kids write this outline in their Writer’s Notebooks as a model to refer to when they need to make their own outline later. We always do school uniforms, because I find it to be a great topic and one that the kids feel strongly about.

I tell them for the sake of continuity, we need to take a stand as a class for the essay, whether they really agree with that stand or not. We take a class vote and then stick with it, whether it’s for or against the uniform idea.

On the second day, when we have the outline in place, I make a deal with the kids…I tell them if they stick with me and participate and don’t zone out…I’ll do the writing and they can just tell me what to write. If they don’t stay focused, then they’ll have to write it themselves. This works like magic. I’ve never had a class that lost out on this “deal.”

So, using yesterday’s outline, we to go step by step and write each paragraph together. Kids feed me sentences, which I try to use or gently guide them a bit where needed. Usually, we do 2 – 3 paragraphs in one day and the other 2 – 3 the next. Attention spans of 9 – 10 year olds can be a killer, so I find that breaking it into several days helps.

Persuasive writing rubric

9. Go over Expectations Using a Rubric

I really like to use rubrics for a lot of assignments. It breaks down the activity into its components and it also serves as a road map for kids to know what is expected of them. I think the more we can explain to students exactly what we’re looking for, the more they can meet and sometimes exceed (hallelujah) our expectations.

There’s never a reason to hide what we want from kids, in my opinion. So, we go over the rubric and it’s a kind of review for all of the lessons leading up to this. I make sure it’s three-hole punched so they can store it in their binder, or you could make one to fit their Writer’s Notebook or Interactive Journal if you wish.

10. Practice Writing Persuasive Essays…Over and Over and…

Once your kids have gone through lots of lessons on persuasive writing, it’s their turn to write independently. I choose several different topics for them, over the next few weeks and we do about an essay a week in class. The kids get better as time goes by and usually, I let them choose a topic for the last essay. It’s interesting to see what they come up with (school appropriate, of course).

Whew…such a huge unit and so many skills to fit in but in my mind, it is an awesome unit. I love teaching it because of the great number of discussions it provides and because I see it as an important set of tools for them to have in their writing tool belt.

teaching persuasive writing middle school

If you’d like some resources for persuasive writing , I love this unit I created. It’s a 52 page packet and comes with the task cards. I think it works well for 3rd – 6th grade.

What do you like to do for persuasive writing? Know any other good mentor texts to use? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by!

teaching persuasive writing middle school

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  1. Persuasive Writing | Classroom Strategies | Reading Rockets

    Persuasive writing is a form of nonfiction writing that encourages careful word choice, the development of logical arguments, and a cohesive summary. Young children can be guided through a series of simple steps in an effort to develop their persuasive writing skills. More writing strategies Descriptive Writing RAFT Revision

  2. Teaching Persuasive Writing - Annenberg Learner

    Teaching Persuasive Writing In this session, participants visit two middle-level classrooms to see how teachers can help young writers develop effective and authentic persuasive pieces based on their own experiences and interests - for example, using cell phones in schools or altering their homework schedule.

  3. Engaging Strategies for Teaching Persuasion, Argument, and ...

    Middle and high school students can at times feel intimidated by debate and persuasion. That’s why Melissa from Reading and Writing Haven recommends a mini debate activity that engages all students and makes debate relaxed and approachable. Musical debates from @readingandwritinghaven

  4. A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Argumentative Writing

    So here’s how I teach argumentative essay writing. Step 1: Watch How It’s Done One of the most effective ways to improve student writing is to show them mentor texts, examples of excellent writing within the genre students are about to attempt themselves.

  5. Persuasive Writing | Read Write Think

    Before writing a persuasive piece, students should understand how persuasion is used orally in everyday life by practicing making short, convincing speeches about something that’s important to them. 2 1 Wollman-Bonilla, J. (2000). Family message journals: Teaching writing through family involvement. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of ...

  6. 10 Steps to Teach Persuasive Writing - The Teacher Next Door

    10 Steps to Teach Persuasive Writing Kids are natural-born persuaders. They do it all the time. The trick as a teacher is to take their set of cajoling skills and help them use their power for good. And by good, I mean to channel these skills into writing effective persuasive pieces. So, what exactly do we need to do to teach persuasive writing?

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  8. Persuasive Writing Middle School Teaching Resources | TPT

    Argumentative /Persuasive Writing Unit for middle school (editable, scaffolded) by Teach 4 the Heart 4.9 (16) $9.97 Zip Editable persuasive essay writing unit includes complete plans and scaffolded students handouts for English Language Arts grades 5 - 8. Help your students master the writing process by taking them through it step-by-step.