In the tenth grade, we've just started our persuasive essay projects, and I am so excited! I did something similar last year, but, as with so many things, I think having the time to reflect and modify instead of just create, this project is a little, well, better (aside -- I spent a lot of time thinking about the commas I just used there, but I'm pretty sure I got those right).
We started out by reading this New York Times op-ed written by a twelfth grader. In it, he implores politicians and policy makers to get over their obsession with multiple-choice testing. We used the article to have a class discussion about the author's purpose, the thesis statement, and the need for counterexamples. In the course of our discussion on counterexamples, we thought about why policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top became popular. Students challenged each other to think of other ways to make sure that schools focus their attention on all students. All I had to do was sit back and listen.
Then, we moved into the project proper. Students will write a two-page paper attempting to convince an administrator to change a school rule or policy. Technology use, the tardy policy, and time between classes have been the favorites so far. After workshopping our pieces, I'm going to give my supervising administrator a sample of student papers. She's going to read them and come talk to our class about what policies can be changed and why other ones may have to stay in place.
Before students peer conferenced yesterday, we read the Sunday Dialogue around the original piece in order to look for examples of what makes a compelling argument. We talked about how to ask the sort of questions to guide our friends to making those arguments (How can you add more substance to your emotional appeal? Have you thought about ___________ reason for the rule? How can you address that reason?). I'm so looking forward to getting the second drafts tomorrow!