Saturday, October 8, 2016

Persuasive Writing

In Waldorf persuasive writing is done in 8th grade... in public school it is usually begun MUCH MUCH sooner. Developing a well-crafted persuasive argument is a sophisticated skill and, as with anything else, it is a futile effort to teach someone something before they are developmentally ready to learn it. Not only do the children not understand the lesson and you have to waste extra time over and over in later grades re-teaching something you thought they already knew, they feel bad about themselves because they don't understand!

When you are ready for persuasive writing, whenever that is, I recommend Why We Must Run With Scissors: Voice Lesson in Persuasive Writing by Barry Lane and Gretchen Bernabei.

To successfully write persuasively, you must have a well-developed sense of yourself, a sense of the other person(s), a firm grasp of the mechanics of writing, and an awareness (either intuitive or explicitly taught) of the variety of rhetorical appeals, as well as the ability to evaluate the rhetorical techniques in your arsenal and choose the right one for the situation.

Demosthenes famously overcame his stutter by filling his mouth with pebbles and standing in front of the ocean's roar, practicing until he could speak clearly, loudly, and persuasively to any crowd. This is the one of the images from A Child's History of the World by V.M. Hillyer that most resonated with me as a child.

You can go on Teachers Pay Teachers and find all kinds of lessons for rhetoric and, like any collection of free materials, not all of it will be very good and you need to use a critical eye. Last year, when Natalie was in 8th grade, we used Sell Me This Pen: A Lesson in Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Natalie struggled but Leah, who was in 6th grade then (some people really do have a natural talent for rhetoric), did well for her first time and I saved her piece, meaning to put it in the blog. I was cleaning the library today and found it. So here it is:

Goal: To sell my teacher this pen.

    Logical Appeal: This pen is built to last with the durability you need for everyday use. It has an unlimited ink supply for free and it folds up to be easily portable.

    Ethical Appeal: "I have used this pen for my whole life and never had to replace it. The quality is like no other."

    Emotional Appeal: Made of metal with a quality body, it's spring-loaded to fold up with the touch of a button. It writes so smoothly it's like gliding and has beautiful gold accents on the body. You can get it in any color. The ink can also be customized to be the perfect shade.

I have to admit... I kind of want that pen!!!!

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