Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #22

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Persuasive/Argumentative Essay vs. Opinion writing

Grades 7 to 12

Language Arts, Journalism, Media Studies

This lesson plan teaches students that writing a persuasive or argumentative essay for class is the same as writing an opinion article for their local newspaper. Use SchoolNet News Network's website to review journalism writing styles; check out SNN Monthly magazine for samples of articles.




1. Discuss opinion writing, persuasive/argumentative writing. Why is it important for students as well as other citizens to be able to express themselves this way? (Persuasive/Argumentative writing and opinion articles allow the writer to use logic and reason to convince the readers to agree with his or her opinion on a certain issue. In order to persuade readers to adopt a particular point of view, the writer needs to come up with an argument that uses sound reasoning and solid evidence.)

. Show your students how this kind of writing applies to their daily life. Show your students samples of opinion writing from SNN Monthly. Also, bring in a couple of newspapers and turn to the editorial section. The persuasive essay appears in the newspaper every day in the form of editorials, columns, or letters to the editor.

Take a look through the editorial sections from The Globe and Mail (http://www.globeandmail.com) and The National Post (http://www.nationalpost.com) two papers which are distributed to many places across Canada. Check out SNN's Newsroom ‘The Wire' section for links to local newspapers. Look at the Editorial Section

Other people - including writers and public figures - have the opportunity to express their views on subject by writing a column that applies specifically to their opinions and not those of a group. Every citizen is free to voice his or her opinion by writing a letter to the editor, which may appear (at the editor's discretion) in the newspaper's editorial section alongside other opinion pieces.

. Brainstorm with students on ideas for opinion articles. Write the students ideas on the board. Here are some ideas:

  • Has computer technology in the schools helped the students of 2000 learn more effectively than the students of 1980 or 1960?
  • Should teenagers have to wait until they are 19 before they can get their driver's licences?
  • Movie ratings, warnings on CD labels, acceptable use policies for the Internet -- these are all methods used to control or limit what young people see, read and hear. Should young people be able to make their own decisions about what's acceptable?
  • Your views on gun control
  • look at issues facing people in your own community — such as a decision to demolish a historic building or the controversy surrounding a new law against skateboarding.

Assign story ideas.

4. Discuss with them how to write a convincing opinion article/persuasive essay. The writer must research the topic and come up with a variety of information that can be used to build a compelling argument.

  • State the facts of the case.
  • Quote the opinion of experts and other people who know a lot about the subject.
  • Offer examples and anecdotes from his or her own life or other people's experience.
  • Use statistics to back up parts of argument.
  • Compare the situation to something that people can readily understand.
  • Give logical reasons for his or her opinion.
  • Anticipate and deal with any opposition to his or her argument.

5. HOMEWORK: Students must then begin researching their assigned stories, using the information listed in #4. Research can be done through internet news sites, newspapers, magazines, etc. Urge them to form their own opinions, based on what they've read and what they already know or believe.

Their article should answer the 5 W's: Who, What, When, Where, Why (and sometimes How). Tell them about the inverted pyramid. This means that articles should be written with the most important information first and the least important last. Students should also review SNN's Writing Guide and Lesson #1 on Writing a Newspaper Article.


Students will be assessed on in-class participation and well-written opinion articles.




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