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How to Teach the Middle and High School Persuasive Essay: Peer Revision and Role Play

Updated on January 17, 2013
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Any writer knows that the most crucial part of the writing process is Revision. That is the step that takes a mediocre paper to extraordinary. Any teacher knows that most middle school and high school students don't care about the difference between mediocre and extraordinary writing; their concern is that an assignment is done.

As much as we push the Revision process to our students, we know that more times than not, the feedback and comments back and forth are not always that constructive and rarely reach the level of depth needed for good, quality revision. I cannot count how many times I have had a student approach me and tell me that their peer told them it was good and there was nothing to change. We all know a piece of writing can always be improved upon and always made better.

The question then becomes, how can we help our students give better revision feedback?


Role Play and Revision

I recently assigned my 7th grade students a persuasive piece. I had them write a draft, peer revise, and then re-type the draft and when I got to reading them, was disappointed to find that the details and the arguments presented were weak. Each student knew who his or her audience was going into the Drafting step and the reasons presented in the outlines were much stronger than what I was reading in the drafts I received. It was clear the initial peer revision was not as successful as I had hoped it to be.

I had an open discussion with my class, providing them examples of the arguments that were presented in their persuasive essays and was quite blunt with them when I asked, "Why should your audience care about this reason?" That's when I saw it start to click with some of the students that most of their reasons were superficial, that they weren't really going to work to convince the skeptics. I sent them to do some more revising with that question in mind.

There had to be another peer revision to take place and this time, I needed to have it be more guided. That is where role play comes in; students need to pretend to be the intended audience and in doing so, can better evaluate the arguments of their peers.

How It Works

Pass out a worksheet containing the following information:

I am _______________________________________ (audience).

The writer is trying to persuade me that…

Here are the reasons he/she is giving me:

Reason 1:

Evidence to support that reason:

What I think about that reason:

Here are the questions that I still have about this reason (So…What? Why is that going to convince me?):

Here are some counterarguments I can make against that reason:

Reason 2:

Evidence to support that reason:

What I think about that reason:

Here are the questions that I still have about this reason (So…What? Why is that going to convince me?):

Here are some counterarguments I can make against that reason:

Reason 3, 4, 5, etc. will have the same format depending on the length of the assignment

After reading this persuasive essay, I feel:

Not at all persuaded

Somewhat persuaded

Really persuaded

And this is why…

This forces the students to think like the audience and truly evaluate each point being made by the writer. It is helpful for them to tear apart each argument as well as to provide a counterargument for the writer to address in another draft. Ultimately, it makes for a more productive Revision process and it helps students become better persuasive writers.

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