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Start and end persuasive pieces
november 10, 2017
Most students know that their book reviews, persuasive letters, and argumentative essays need to have an introduction. The problem is—they struggle to write one that isn’t literal. Hello, I’m writing to persuade you to. . . or This is an argumentative essay about. . . .
Unfortunately, their conclusions aren’t much better. They tend to end with That’s all I know. . . I hope I convinced you. . . Thank you for reading my persuasive letter.
The secret to supporting students within these two important facets is NOT to announce how many sentences they should write. Rather, they need to know what type of information could be included in each paragraph.
Introductions typically include sentences that:
- State the writer’s opinion or make a claim within a single main-idea sentence.
- Provide background information on the topic or issue. Writers do not assume that their readers know much about their topics, so before making a claim, writers educate readers with an important fact, a relevant scenario, or key vocabulary. If the piece is about literature, students should include background on the text itself–a sentence or two of summary about the text ideas.
- Reference the opposition (applicable to arguments only). Such a sentence often includes words like Opponents believe. . . or Some think. . . or Others disagree. . .
- Reveal the reasons that will be fleshed out within the body paragraphs.
Once students master the basics of an introductory paragraph, transition instruction to target the concluding paragraph. Again, identify the specific ingredients that could comprise their final sentences.
Conclusions typically include sentences that:
- Restate the opinion or position of the writer. However, rather than repeating the same topic sentence or thesis statement, suggest that students use synonyms or restructure that sentence to provide a variation.
- Reference the opposition (applicable to arguments only). However, encourage students to do this early in the final paragraph so that the reader hears the writer’s perspective last.
- Consider a call to action. Assuming the writer has convinced the reader of his position, then he can communicate what the reader should now do, say, or think.
- Remind the reader what’s at stake if he chooses not to agree with the writer. This is like the So what? or Consider this. . .ending. This element of a conclusion can be very dramatic and pull on the reader’s heartstrings.
- End with a clever one-liner. This may be a witty statement or a play on words that offers a memorable final sentence.
When introducing each facet in separate mini-lessons, consider presenting them as individual puzzle pieces. This demonstrates that the introduction and conclusion are NOT recipes or formulas that are all presented in the same order. Rather, writers choose the puzzle pieces of information that best fit the topic and then build a paragraph by arranging them in an order that makes sense.
Download the puzzle-piece graphics to build your own lesson resource.