8 — Introduction to persuasive texts
This sequence introduces the structural framework and language features of persuasive texts – in particular written expositions – to the students and allows them to gain an understanding of the purposes of each sentence within a paragraph. Over the next few sequences, the students will be engaged in persuasive writing tasks with the final assessment task being a written persuasive text.
Ask the students what they believe was the intention of Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch when they wrote and illustrated One Small Island. Establish that they wanted to persuade readers that it is important to protect and restore Macquarie Island. ACHASSK113
Ask the students questions such as:
- Has your response to the book changed throughout the series of lessons? If so, what changed your opinion?
- What do the author and illustrator want you to think and feel?
- Are the author and illustrator trying to persuade you to act in particular ways?
- Persuasive texts can take two forms: one is to ‘persuade that’, meaning that a proposition has merit; another form is to ‘persuade to’, where the text encourages you to take action. Which stance did the authors take?
Activity 1: Thinking about the features of a persuasive text
Read to or with the students the persuasive text Help Save Macquarie Island! Display the text on an interactive whiteboard and support the students to analyse and identify its organisational framework and language features, as they did in Sequence 2. Point out that this text was written in 2007 and that since that time actions have been taken to restore the island and eradicate feral animals. ACELY1701
The following scaffold might be used to analyse and annotate the text. Structural annotations can be made on the left of the text and language annotations on the right.
Analysing text purpose and structure:
- Who wrote this text? (Staff or members of the Humane Society International.)
- Why would they write this text? What are the particular interests of this society? (Use the hyperlinks on the page to find out more about the society and its advocacy role.)
- Where might you find a text such as this? (Possible responses could include newsletters and websites from similar organisations, newspapers, magazines and brochures.) Discuss the nature of press releases and how these can be used to persuade readers to think and act in specific ways.
- What is the purpose of this writing? (To persuade readers to take a specific action.)
- Who is the audience for this writing? (Anyone.)
- Whose point of view has not been included in this text? (The Tasmanian Government’s.)
- How has this text been organised? (In two parts: Part 1 establishes the issue and Part 2 provides an explicit call to action.)
- What role does the heading play? (It orients readers by stating the issue and establishes the writer’s position.)
- Re-read the first three paragraphs. What is the relationship between the first sentence of each paragraph and the following sentences? (The first sentence provides an introduction to what will be elaborated upon in the rest of the paragraph. Introduce the term ‘topic sentence’ or ‘paragraph opener’.)
- What is the main idea of each of these paragraphs? (Paragraph 1 establishes the importance of the island and the reasons it should be protected. Paragraph 2 outlines the environmental issues facing the island. Paragraph 3 describes why action has not been taken to date and the effects of this inaction.)
Return to paragraph 1 and ask the students the following questions:
- What do you notice about many of the noun groups in this paragraph? (They refer to authorities and other official sources such as parliamentary acts.)
- Why has the writer chosen to include these references? (It offers authority and credibility to the arguments being made.)
- Does the writer attempt to establish their authority and credibility in any other ways? (Use of technical and subject-specific language such as ‘evolutionary history’, ‘breeding habitat’ and ‘eradication program’.)
- Does the writer use any language that seeks to persuade by appealing to the reader’s emotions? (For example, ‘iconic species’, ‘sky-rocketing populations of invasive rabbits, mice and rats’, ‘refused to front a single dollar’ and ‘international embarrassment.’)
For further support in teaching about the features of persuasive texts, refer to the Resources.
Activity 2: Looking at a persuasive text in more detail
Introduce students to the PEEL strategy. Explain that PEEL stands for P: Point, E: Evidence, E: Elaboration, L: Link to the main argument. Using a paragraph constructed in this format, ask the students to identify the four elements. For example:
What is the impact of feral cats in Australia?
No-one is actually certain how many feral cats there are in Australia as the area is too vast for a conclusive head count. Estimates say there are between 4 and 6.6 million feral cats in Australia that continue to disturb natural ecosystems and are predators of many native animals. These feral cats are not native to Australia and they devastate fragile environments and animal populations across the country, causing irreparable damage. Without adequate controls, the environment continues to suffer and with feral animal eradication programs on the backburner, the devastation will continue.
Point No-one is actually certain how many feral cats there are in Australia as the area is too vast for a conclusive head count.
Evidence Estimates say there are between 4 and 6.6 million feral cats in Australia that continue to disturb natural ecosystems and are predators of many native animals.
Elaboration These feral cats are not native to Australia and they devastate fragile environments and animal populations across the country, causing irreparable damage.
Link Without adequate controls, the environment continues to suffer and with feral animal eradication programs on the backburner, the devastation will continue.
Organise the students into groups of three or four. Print out sufficient copies of the text Help Save Macquarie Island! Cut them up into paragraphs, giving each group of students two or three paragraphs. The students work collaboratively to determine the role of each sentence within the paragraph, using the PEEL prompts. They use different coloured highlighters to distinguish the different functions of each sentence. Point out that some paragraphs may have more than four sentences and will actually have more of a PEEEEL structure (point, evidence, evidence, elaboration, elaboration, link). ACELA1505
Discuss with the whole class what the students noticed about the purpose of the sentences in the paragraphs. You can then display the paragraphs on the working wall. (Grammar and Meaning by Sally Humphrey, Louise Droga and Susan Feez, pages 126–56 and page 201, may be helpful in preparing for this discussion.)