Green, Yellow, Red: The Keys to the Perfect Persuasive Essay

Hi! I’m Jennifer from Pages Of Grace, and I am thrilled to be a guest blogger for Minds in Bloom! One of my favorite things about teaching 5th grade is persuasive writing!  I think we can all agree that 5th graders have opinions…strong opinions  The great thing about persuasive writing is that the children get to voice their opinions. However, rather than just telling someone what they think, they learn how to organize their thoughts and give reasonable examples to support their opinions.

For many people, teaching writing in the upper elementary grades can be a daunting task. I have talked with teachers who dread writing and just try to “get through it.” While writing is definitely a more abstract and sometimes difficult skill to learn, it doesn’t have to be a scary and unenjoyable experience. Quite the opposite! It can be one the most enjoyable and thought provoking subjects for both teachers and students.  The key is to have a good plan of action to take students from start to finish.
My district was trained in Step up to Writing. There are many great writing programs, but the thing I like about Step up to Writing is the way we outline the format of the essay. It gives students a specific way to organize their thoughts and tells them exactly what is expected. If we just give students a prompt and tell them to write an essay to persuade others to take the same position, every student would come back with something different, and they probably would not give much support for their opinions. By giving students a clear outline to follow, we ensure that everyone understands what is expected. We also ensure that the students understand how to support their opinions and give appropriate reasons and details for the positions that they take. Step up to Writing uses the colors of a traffic light to organize each part of a paragraph or essay.


               Green: GO. Basically, tell the reader what you will be writing about. 
       Yellow: SLOW down and give a reason. 
       Red: STOP and explain. 
The persuasive essays that my students write are a total of 6 paragraphs.

*Paragraph 1-Introduction
*Paragraph 2-Reason #1
*Paragraph 3-Reason #2
*Paragraph 4-Reason #3
*Paragraph 5-Counterargument
*Paragraph 6-Conclusion
Using the color format of Step up to Writing, I created this outline for persuasive writing.


I show my students this anchor chart, and we discuss each part.  In the introduction, you state your position. My students usually write 2 sentences in their introductions, a thesis statement and a topic sentence. Of course, this can be done differently depending on your goals, but this works well for my students when they are first learning persuasive writing. The second, third, and fourth paragraphs cover three reasons for taking the specific position on the topic. The fifth paragraph is the counterargument. This is where students acknowledge the other point of view. Not all persuasive writing includes a counterargument, but it is required in my district. The outline also shows the students that they need to give 2 examples to further explain their reasons in each of these paragraphs. The conclusion is green, because the conclusion is a restatement of the introduction.

Once my students have a solid understanding of the basic format of the essay, we go through an example together. I introduce a prompt, and we choose a position (usually based on a class vote).  We brainstorm a list of reasons for why we chose that position, and then we choose three of those reasons to include in our essay. Then we come up with two examples to support each reason. We also discuss the other point of view and list some things that someone on the other side might think about the topic. Once we have all of the pieces, we plug the information into an outline, and the students can see an example of the complete format.
One of the fun writing prompts that I like to give my students is:
“Your family is getting ready to move to a new home, and your parents have
given you two choices: in a neighborhood near a city or on a farm in the
country. Where would you like to live? Write an essay persuading your
family to live either near the city or on a farm. Give at least three reasons
to support your choice.” 
My students always have a great time with this prompt! The photos below show some parts of my students’ persuasive essays on farm or city life.

This is an example of a student’s introduction. The first sentence is the thesis statement. It acts as an attention grabber and shows the student’s position. The second sentence is the topic sentence. This sentence tells about the main things that will be included in the rest of the essay.

This is an example of one of the “reason” paragraphs. The first sentence tells one reason for choosing a farm and gives the reader an idea of what will be explained in the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph gives examples to explain why this reason is appealing.

One of the most important factors of great persuasive writing is great writing prompts. Children don’t get excited about a boring writing prompt. While they may compose a well-written essay, their passion does not come to life with a prompt in which they aren’t interested. This is why it is important to provide students with relevant prompts that will inspire them. If you need some great writing prompts, check out my Persuasive Writing Prompts product in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is a set of 25 thought provoking writing prompts that are relevant to students and ignite passion about the topics. Every time we do persuasive writing, I love reading my students’ essays! The topics become so personal to them, and it shows in their writing. Between giving them a clear guideline for their essays and interesting writing prompts, they have the ability and the desire to compose wonderful pieces of persuasive writing.
Thank you for reading this! I hope that this information is valuable to you, and that you can use it to help improve your students’ persuasive writing skills as well!
I am an upper elementary teacher and mom to two pre-k children, so I enjoy both early childhood and elementary education topics. I also enjoy running, cake decorating, and just about every kind of craft. I would love to connect with you! 
Visit my blog, Pages Of Grace

Check out my store on Teacher Pay Teachers 
Click HERE to see my set of Persuasive Writing Prompts


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