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Modifying the Persuasive Essay for Students with Learning Disabilities

written by: Barbara • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 7/12/2012

Students with learning disabilities enjoy writing and creating reflective work. However, the structure of technical writing such as a persuasive essay may prove to be a daunting task if their writing skills are underdeveloped. By modifying the persuasive essay, teachers can promote student writing.

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    Modifying the Persuasive Essay

    In modifying the persuasive essay for students with learning disabilities, start with having students use their reflective journals to create free-flowing ideas on possible topic areas. Teachers can narrow down topic areas to "Solving Conflicts Over the I-Pod" or "Whether to Buy the Teva Shoes or Not." Once students have decided on a topic area, then you can teach them how to develop a thesis and scaffold the persuasive essay into doable chunks of learning that include the following:

    • Topic Idea
    • Title that supports the topic idea
    • Supporting paragraphs that include chunks of information with cited facts and examples that transition from introduction to conclusion. There could be from 1-4 supporting paragraphs that develop the topic idea.
    • Conclusion summarizes the topic idea and brings the essay full circle.

    Modification the chunks of the essay components can include having students follow the sections below in creating an informative persuasive essay.

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    Topic Idea and Title

    Introduce and explain what a persuasive is so that students have an understanding that the intent of a persuasion is to convince the reader of a point of view. Have students think about topic ideas that interest them and start with one persuasive thought such as, "I persuaded him that ice cream is better than frozen yogurt because ice cream creates a more positive state of being after eating than frozen yogurt." There is a certain fun factor in the thought and students with learning disabilities can have fun creating a persuasive argument with a defined topic idea and support that topic idea with a title that stands out. Modify this chunk by having students start with one topic idea and build from that point if indicated by skill level and ability.

    The title for the above topic idea could be "Ice Cream vs. Frozen Yogurt-You be the Judge" or "Ice Cream - The Better Dessert Alternative." Have students brainstorm titles in their journals individually and then have them work in groups of 3-4 to compare title ideas and support each other's topic idea and titles. Students with learning disabilities can create one or two title ideas as compared to five-seven for their peers. The idea is to keep students focused and invested on generating the first chunk of information needed for the bigger goal of writing a persuasive essay.

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    Supporting Paragraphs and Conclusion

    The body of the essay includes supporting paragraphs that include facts and research citations that provide relevant connection to the topic idea. In modifying this chunk of learning, the teacher can can have students write 1-2 smaller paragraphs with 1-2 facts and research citations. By keeping the paragraphs doable, students will engage in creating smaller chunks of writing and learn about the process of constructing a persuasive essay.

    For example, a modified supporting paragraph for the above topic idea on ice cream could look like the following:

    Ice cream is better than frozen yogurt because it fills you up quicker. It does this because the cream is heavier and sits in your stomach longer. Ice cream is also sweet and makes you happy except when it's gone and then you're sad.

    Students are able to write in their own style and on their skill level. Incorporating technology by having students use the computer and a word.doc software program with spellcheck and a "save as" mode will allow students to come back and edit their essay draft and add the conclusion before editing the final essay.

    The conclusion restates the topic idea and brings all components of the persuasive essay full circle. Students with learning disabilities can create a two sentence conclusion and be proud of a finished product that contains all components of a persuasive essay that effectively persuades.

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