Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Power of Persuasion

One of our 5th grade writing expectations is for the students to practice writing a persuasive letter or essay. This is often a hard thing for children of this age to do because they don't see a reason behind it.

So for this group, I turned it around. We talked a lot about things that we might want to change. When we first started the assignment, we came up with three possible scenarios we could try to convince someone to change. One was getting me to assign less homework (not that I really assign much), one was getting the school board to reinstate full-year art/music (we get art half a year, then music half a's majorly lame) and the last one was getting our principal to let us put a pop/candy machine in the school for the students. Clearly I knew the last one would never happen but it was a fun idea for the kids.

Interestingly enough, that last one sparked a discussion about gum at school. We've banned gum at school because of the messes (gum on the floor, in sinks, etc). The kiddos were talking about how they wanted to be able to chew gum during big tests because it makes them relax and be able to concentrate on the test better. So we decided to make our final letters to our principal asking her to let our class have gum for the MAP test and any big tests I give in the room.

We worked on them last week and on Friday, we wrote our final letters and I put them in her  mailbox before I went home. She was out on Tuesday and I was out yesterday but she stopped in to my room yesterday and told the kiddos that she'd read their letters to her boys and they all voted to see if the kiddos had really managed to be persuasive. And because they took the time to write the letters as well as set standards if they were granted their request, she said yes.

It was great. They were so excited to tell me this morning when I saw them. It was the best kind of teachable moment because the kids realized if they really wanted something, they just had to be able to provide reasons WHY they wanted it. Plus last week Mrs. Principal had stopped into our room while we were working and we gave her a bit of heads up about it and it was perfect -- she jumped right into the lesson and ran with it.

I loved that. She also emailed me later and said it made her miss teaching SO much. That made me feel really great. I'm so proud of those kids. Plus, she told me later today that we are the ONLY class who asked for that privilege so no one else but us gets to do it. The kids and I talked about that too and I said we had to make sure that we didn't abuse it or we'd lose it.

I really love my job!


  1. This post made me smile :)! I LOVE it when stuff like this this happens! I'm so glad your principal took the whole thing very seriously and that the whole thing worked out!

    PS: did you know that research supports chewing as a way to focus the brain? Interesting thought. Maybe your MAP scores will go up :)

  2. That is so great! In school, we also had to write persuasive letters about things we wanted to change- I remember that assignment still. It's the good lessons that really stand out- and I'm sure that your students will remember this one for a long time!

  3. @Sarah -- Honestly, after we started talking about why they wanted it, I figured even if it only psyched them out into thinking they could do better on the test, SO BE IT!! Whatever will help the scores go up at this point is fine with me! :)