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9 — Jointly constructing a persuasive text

This sequence continues to lead into the final assessment piece: writing a persuasive text. In the sequence a persuasive text will be modelled and then jointly constructed, enabling the organisational and language features to be explicitly demonstrated.

Activity 1: Looking at the use of modality in a persuasive text

Since the students will be writing their own persuasive text, this activity will incorporate both modelled writing and joint construction as instructional approaches to support the students and explicitly share an exemplary text. Display page 30 of One Small Island and read the sentence, ‘For if we can save one small island, perhaps we can save them all’. Explain that the class will be constructing a text to persuade others that Macquarie Island should be saved and they will be learning about some of the language features that are typical of this type of writing.

Focusing on the modal auxiliary verbs ‘must’ and ‘may’, model how an area of meaning is related to possibility, probability, obligation or permission.

Discuss the sentences above and ask the students to rank them from low modality to high modality. Explain that modalities can be high, medium or low and that these have an impact on the certainty of the argument or assertiveness of the writer (or speaker). Model how sentences can express a range of certainties through different grammatical choices. A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derewianka (pages 131–39) is a valuable resource to support teachers in this area. Modality can be expressed through the choice of auxiliaries, verbs, adverbs, adjectives and nouns, as illustrated in these Modality examples.

Learning about the forms and effects of different types of modality helps the students to identify how they are being positioned as readers and listeners, and to then use these techniques effectively in their own persuasive texts. ACELA1508

Activity 2: Jointly constructing a persuasive text

Blank notebook page on green background with heading Save Macquarie Island

Above: Illustration by Jan Gillbank

Provide the heading ‘Save Macquarie Island’ and explain that the class will jointly construct a text to persuade others of the need to save the island. Display the annotated text from Sequence 8 and ask the students to suggest three reasons or arguments for saving the island. List the arguments.

Next work with the students to model and jointly construct an introductory paragraph previewing the arguments that will be developed in further paragraphs, using think-aloud and sharing-the-pen strategies. Follow this model for the further paragraphs, reminding the students that each paragraph needs a topic sentence that will be elaborated on.

Encourage all students to participate by suggesting additions, edits and improvements to the language choices.

Have students co-construct a concluding paragraph that provides a summary of their arguments and a call to action. Once the text is complete, the students re-read it and make any further suggestions for its improvement. Display the completed text as a model for the students’ own writing. ACELY1701ACELY1704

Activity 3: Looking at literary devices used in journal entries

The students return to the journal entries from One Small Island and highlight the literary devices used (for example, foreshadowing and inclusion of details). For more information see Annandale et al. First Steps Writing Resource Book (see Resources). Students could use a strategy called ‘lift a line’ where they write down any lines they particularly like in their workbooks. They then modify the lines before using them in the next sequence as a starting point for writing their own persuasive text. For example, the sentence ‘Our clothes are thin and always wet’, from the Sealer’s Journal 1890 on page 12, could be changed to ‘The clothing provided is inadequate for the conditions and constantly soaked, making it difficult to carry out our work’. ACELT1798


Review with the students their new understandings about the structure, language and literary devices typical of persuasive texts. Tell them that in the next sequence they will work in groups to construct their own persuasive text, drawing on these understandings.

Transcript of first 1:10 minutes of clip (The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant, 2004)

Governor Arthur Phillip: We are not just solving the problem of overcrowded prisons, we are expanding empire ahead of the Dutch and the French.

(Reverend pours his wine down to the hull where the convicts are; they catch it and lick it off their hands.)

Elizabeth (convict): Oh … Do you know who they are entertaining up there? Lord Muck himself.

1st male convict: Captain Arthur Phillip, he’s to be Governor of the Colony.

2nd male convict: A good man? (convict vomits)

Governor Arthur Phillip: Lieutenant Clarke? Perhaps you would like to share your thoughts on our prospects?

Lieutenant Clarke: Yes sir. I was just thinking of the question of the reform of our human cargo.

Governor Arthur Phillip: Yes, reform; well there should always be hope, always hope.

Reverend Johnson: But not with regard to the criminal classes; experience tells us there should be very little of it.

Governor Arthur Phillip: Yes I think turning wretches into workhorses is as much as we can expect.

Reverend Johnson: I do what I can! I did try reading to the women … [excuse me] but the stench down there it’s enough to floor an ox.

Governor Arthur Phillip: Ah the pig... (Murmurs from the other guests ‘wonderful’.)

Elizabeth: Oh. Pork!