Using Environmental Issues to Teach Persuasive Writing Skills

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Persuasive writing is a very important skill for high school students to learn. Students are often too vague in their writing. Practice with persuasive writing assignments will help students build their analytical thinking skills, research skills, and writing skills.

Begin the lesson by sharing examples of letters and articles about pollution in the environment that contain strong persuasive writing. Point out how the examples contain a lot of strong facts, strongly present the writer’s opinion, and back up the opinion in a logical way with facts and examples. Put at least one of the writing examples on the overhead to point out the facts in it – this visual teaching style is very helpful to students.

Where to Write

There are many different places students may wish to send persuasive letters about the environment. Ask each student to brainstorm their ideas by creating a list of places (or people) to send a persuasive letter about the environment. The list may include places like companies who pollute, to President Obama, to the Senators in their state, to individuals who pollute, to companies that clear cut land and created businesses there that pollute, or to other places the student thinks of.

Letter Format

Give students a hand-out with the requirements of a persuasive article or letter. Also give them a copy of the rubric that will be used to grade the persuasive letter. Inform them the writing assignment is for five paragraphs. They should clearly state their opinion on the topic in the first paragraph.

Each letter must have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.The assignment must contain at least 10 facts or examples. The writing must be logical and draw the reader to support the opinion of the writer.

The body of the letter must contain vivid language, strong examples and facts, and stick with the opinion presented in the introduction. The body of the letter must also provide strong ideas about how to solve the environmental issue under discussion.

The conclusion of the persuasive letter must restate the opinion given in the first paragraph. The conclusion should also summarize the most important fact used to support the opinion to help the reader come to the conclusion that the opinion is valid.

The hand-out about the persuasive letter may also contain ideas about to whom to address the letter. Students may come up with their own ideas about to whom to write a letter to or they may wish to use one of the teacher’s ideas.

Types of Pollution and Research

Remind students that there are many types of pollution in this world. Their letters may address pollution of the water sources, pollution of the air, pollution of animal life living in rivers or the ocean (many fish are found to contain high levels of pharmaceuticals), pollution of land via the dumping of toxic chemicals from manufacturing companies, pollution of vegetables and fruits from contaminants in the soil or air, pollution of the bodies of animals living on tainted land or near tainted water, and many more.

Before students pick the topic for their letter, provide them with at least one class period to do Internet research about pollution. This will help them find facts to use in their letter and give them specific examples of pollution in their area or the world at large.

Tell student to create note cards while doing Internet research. They will then use these notes to create a draft of their persuasive letter the following class period.

Assess the Letters

The next day, while students are writing the introduction to their letter, circulate the classroom and look at their writing. Give advice about whether they have stated their opinion clearly enough.

To assess student work on this persuasive letter writing assignment, ensure that students have followed the guidelines of the writing rubric and the hand-out of the assignment. Ensure that they clearly stated their opinion and backed it up with adequate facts and examples. Give feedback to the students about whether or not their letter is truly persuasive.