As your students progress in their academic and professional careers, they will need to learn how to present their opinions to their peers in a mindful and grounded way. Persuasive writing sharpens this skill, as it requires the writer to back up their statements with solid evidence to convince the listener or reader of why they should consider their opinion. Take a look at the elements of good persuasive writing and persuasive writing prompts for 5th graders.
The Elements of Good Persuasive Writing and Persuasive Writing Prompts for 5th Graders
First and foremost, your students’ persuasive writing needs to have a strong introduction, a middle with supporting research and counter arguments and a conclusion to summarize their viewpoint. Here is a quick list of other things your students should include in their persuasive writing pieces;
- An active voice to ensure that readers know what your position is on the topic
- Positive and negative loaded words to show if you are in support of or against the issue in their writing
- Transitional words to organize thoughts
- Reputable research and real-world examples to support the viewpoint
Click here for a more thorough student-friendly checklist for persuasive writing.
The Importance of Good Research
No persuasive piece is complete without proper research. It is important that students use research to support their viewpoint. The internet is an amazing resource for statistics, facts and interesting information that your students can use to back up their argument. However, it’s also riddled with false information and misleading articles.
Take persuasive writing lessons and activities as an opportunity to educate your students on basic practices in finding the best facts to back their claims. Your students can follow this checklist to ensure that they find the right facts to support their argument:
- Always look for sources of authority like newspapers and university studies
- Make sure the website you’re visiting is original and safe. Look at the browser’s address bar to see if it has a lock icon. If it doesn’t have one, your connection to it is not safe, and the information it provides may not be reliable.
- Use the information responsibly. When you want to use a particular phrase or sentence for your essay or speech, give the publisher credit by saying, “According to ,” before or after the statement. Remember to enclose what they said in quotation marks (“) if you’re going to copy and paste the information without any editing.
Persuasive writing skills play a significant role in the everyday life of your students, from requesting what their parents pack in their lunch to deciding who will be class president. Use these fifth-grade persuasive writing prompts to test what they’ve learned so far and help build their persuasive writing skills.
Writing Prompt #1: You want to change a school rule or put a new rule in place. Convince me why you think this rule should change or why your new rule is a good idea.
Kids are constantly on the receiving end of rules, especially in school. They have to show up at school on time, walk instead of run in the hallway and have a limited number of minutes for recess - you will likely hear the argument for longer recess come up in quite a few of the prompts your students submit. With all of these rules that your students may or may not fully understand, they probably have a list of things they want to change when it comes to school rules.
Get your students started by giving a short explanation of why we have rules in the first place. Then have them get into small groups and create a list of major school rules and talk about why they think these rules exist.
Next, have them choose a rule that they would like to change from the list they created as a group or a new rule that they think should be made and start building their argument.
Before your students start writing, have them do some research on their chosen rule to support their ideas for change. You can assign this research as homework or set research time aside in class. You want to make sure that your students have some solid information to back up their writing and avoid simple arguments like, “I don’t like it.” or “Just because.”
After your students gather the research they need, they can start writing their argument using the techniques we talked about above. Have them read their first or second draft to a partner to see if they can convince their partner that this rule change is a good idea. Once they feel that they have a rock-solid argument, have them finalize their writing and draw what will happen if their rule gets approved. Gather your students’ writing and illustrations and create a published classbook of new rules. After you receive your published books, you can set up a time for your students to present their thoughts on school rules to the principal. Who knows? Maybe one of the rules will actually end up being put in place at the school!
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Writing Prompt #2: You are running for president. What laws do you want to put in place? Use these laws to convince people to vote for you by making a campaign speech.
This prompt is great for your 5th graders because they understand the primary responsibilities of the president and have a baseline understanding of how government works. This prompt also tests their ability to think about big-picture decisions. It’s always interesting to hear a young person’s perspective on public policy and how their peers react to it.
Kickstart this prompt by having a quick class discussion about specific issues that the students feel need to be solved. Are the sidewalks not wheelchair accessible enough? Are there any recent changes that negatively affect your ability to learn? Write down their thoughts on the board or have them take notes during the class discussion. Some students may come up with their own laws to put in place, but this exercise will help get the creative juices flowing for students who are feeling a little stuck.
After they gather ideas for new laws, they can then brainstorm and research potential solutions to the issues they want to address in their campaign speeches. Have them create three columns on a piece of notebook paper with one labeled, “Problems” another labeled, “Solutions” and a third labeled, “Notes.” (In the “Notes” column they can cite statistics and resources they used to come up with their solutions). This helps them organize their thoughts and will be a huge help when they start to create their speeches.
Before your students start writing, give them a little inspiration by screening a great presidential speech, like John F. Kennedy’s famous “We Choose to Go to the Moon,” or Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Then, have students write their speeches using the idea organizer they made using an active voice and persuasive language. After your students complete their speeches, have them visualize themselves giving the speech to thousands of people and draw a picture of what they visualized. Then combine the speeches and illustrations into an awesome classbook. After your classbooks are published, celebrate in presidential style by having your students read their speeches for the class.
Writing Prompt #3: Your parents have a rule that you don’t agree with. Give 3 reasons why they should change that rule.
Every one of your students probably has to follow a rule at home that they find annoying or flat out unnecessary. It could be short screen time, a specific bedtime or the classic make-your-bed-every-morning rule. Whichever the rule they choose to persuade their parent’s to change, your students are going to love this activity.
First, have your students come up with a list of rules that they have in their household and rank them from “most annoying” to “least annoying” by using a number system. This will help them figure out which rule they really want to change and help them avoid switching their choice halfway through the activity.
Next, have them think of several reasons why they shouldn’t have to follow that rule any longer and write them down. If they think of more than three reasons, encourage them to choose the ones that will make for the most solid argument - if they really want this rule to change, they will definitely take note of this. They’ll need facts to back these reasons up, so give them time to search for them online. For example, if one of your students wants a later bedtime, they can research how much sleep someone their age needs and use that to figure out their new bedtime.
After your students come up with their argument and do research to back themselves up, have them work with a partner who chose a similar rule, chances are there will be some overlap of the rules that need to be changed. They can discuss the research they found and may hear something they didn’t find in their research or come up with a fresh idea on the spot. After this peer discussion, have your students start writing their arguments for the rule change using the persuasive writing skills that they have learned. They can then add an illustration depicting each of the reasons why said rule should change. Then publish their work into a classbook that they can show their parents and maybe even have the rule they dislike changed!
Writing persuasively is a learned skill that will benefit your students for years to come. Giving them a set of practices for persuasive writing will follow them throughout the rest of their lives as they continue to create their own opinions and grow.
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