Children are often pleading with us parents for one thing or another—a new toy, a yummy dessert treat, more screen time, etc. Why not turn that tendency into a writing exercise? Teaching children the art of persuasive writing can be fun and useful. This usually works best with children aged 9 and older.
Persuasive writing is a type of nonfiction writing in which the author tries to persuade or convince the reader about a particular issue using logical arguments and persuasive language. The best place to start is to examine examples of good persuasive writing. You can show your child editorials from the newspapers, watch effective commercials, find age-appropriate online persuasive arguments, etc. When looking at these together with your child, notice what techniques seem to be used most frequently in persuasive writing. You’ll most likely notice particular word choice, a reliance on facts (not just opinions), and a good summary to finish up the piece. It might even be helpful to come up with a list of persuasive words and phrases that your child could use in his own persuasive writing.
Once your child looks at examples, it’s time for her to think about a topic she’d like to write about. This is a crucial element—the writing will come easier and be more convincing if your child really believes in it. Help your child find a subject that really matters to her. It could be about something that happens at home (perhaps pushing for a later bedtime or a new pet), something that happens at school (asking a teacher for extra recess or reduced homework), or something on a community level (pushing for extended hours at the library, creating a new park in the neighborhood). What’s most important here is that the topic comes about organically. What does your child often complain about? These make great topics. (It is important to tell your child from the start that just because they write a persuasive essay doesn’t necessarily mean any actual change will come. Help them understand that this is merely an exercise.)
With topic in mind, your child now needs to lay out a logical argument. Help him brainstorm at least two to three points that hopefully will help convince the reader of his view. For each of the points, he will need to have some supporting ideas. It’s also a good idea to acknowledge one or two opposing viewpoints and try to refute them. The final part of the piece should be a summary paragraph which outlines your child’s main points again. Help your child write these brainstormings down so that he can use it when it comes to the actual writing.
Using the brainstorming page as a guide, your child should now write the piece. This is when you can encourage her to use some of the persuasive language you both discovered when examining other examples of persuasive writing. Remind your child that she needs to convince her readers that she has the right idea. She should avoid getting too much into opinion statements, but rather try to keep it fact based.
Children often love persuasive writing because they like the power inherent in giving their viewpoints and trying to convince someone else. You may find that your child takes quickly to persuasive writing. It is an empowering and rewarding experience for them, even if they don’t actually get their way in the end.