The Persuasive Essay

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10408

Do you want a puppy or a PS4? Learn how to write a persuasive essay that will convince your parents you are right to want that puppy! You'll complete fun online activities before writing your essay.


Writing, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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A Closer Look 

What exactly is the boy trying to do in the above scene?  

Maybe you answered something like, "Trying to get his dad to give him candy." 

He is definitely asking for candy! Take notice of his facial expression. Does he seem rational and willing to compromise or negotiate?   

How do you act when you really want something, but an adult in charge believes it is not good for you or is too expensive? Do you ask nicely? Do you beg? Do you throw a tantrum?   

If you do any of the above, do they ever work? You probably ruin your chances if you throw any sort of fit. What if you ask nicely, and the reply is, "Give me one good reason why I should agree?" 

Chances are, you were left stumped or without a very convincing answer because you had not really thought about it. This is why you are spending today working on your persuasive thinking strategies and writing skills. 

The Power of Persuasion 

In order to learn these skills, you need to fully understand what it means to persuade someone. It sounds like it has a negative connotation (underlying meaning), but persuasion on its own is neither positive or negative. It's how you use it, that determines if it's good or bad. 

Let's get a definition:  Persuade – (verb) To convince by appealing to reason. 

Therefore, to be persuasive (adjective), is to have the ability to convince someone of something by appealing to his or her sense of reason or rational thought.  

So, if you still don't have that puppy or iPhone or XBox1, then you need to sharpen your persuasive skills through writing. There are three primary elements of a persuasive essay: 

  1. State Your Opinion 
  2. Provide Rational Arguments (supported by facts) as to Why the Reader Should Agree 
  3. Convince the Reader to Take Action in Your Favor  

Make Your Opinion Matter 

Some opinions are so convincing that it's difficult to tell if they are facts or not. Take your chances with this Fact vs. Opinion Quizlet and see how you do.  

Did you find that the opinions with explanations were easily mistaken for facts? That is because of #2 above: "Provide Rational Arguments." If you appeal to reason with your arguments, your reader is much more likely to agree with you. 

Your Arguments Should be Based in Fact 

Sometimes it is tempting to blurt out any old thing when asked for proof to support your opinion. Making up information is lazy, dishonest, immoral, and worng. Plus, it can easily be proven wrong! All if takes is a quick Google search or Siri question for your whole argument to be proven a lie.

If you are passionate enough to start your persuasive argument, take the time to find valid information to support your stance. It doesn't matter if you're fighting to save the whales or your neighborhood park, you should find at least one solid piece of factual information as support for each argument.

Factual Support Can Include: 

  • Statistics
    Statistical evidence is the most popular data when trying to prove a point because it is very prevalent in today’s society.
    Have you ever seen a McDonald’s sign that said “Over 1 billion served?" 
    Have you ever seen the Trident chewing gum commercial that says “4 out of 5 dentists recommend chewing sugarless gum?"
    Every time you use numbers to support a main point; you’re relying on statistical evidence to carry your argument, and people trust numbers! 
  • Testimony
    Testimonial evidence is also a very reliable way to prove a point. 
    An example would be commercials where celebrities talk about the quality of a  product.
    When lawyers rely on eye-witness accounts to win a case; they are using testimonial evidence.
    Students will often quote  authority figures (such as doctors, community leaders or even parents) in their essays to prove their points. 
  • Anecdotal:
    Anecdotal evidence is based on a person’s observations of the world.
    It's another person's story about a similar situation that helps to support your claim in some way. 
  • Analogies
    If your argument does not have any statistics or authorities to support it, you have to get your evidence from somewhere.  Analogical evidence could be your saving grace!
    Here is an example: You want to buy a new scooter that costs $150, but you only have $90 saved. A friend suggests selling your old scooter, but you do not know what to charge for it.
    You will need to go online to find how much your old scooter costs new (if they still make that model). You will check websites to see if a used scooter like yours is for sale and for how much. You might even ask around to find out how much people would be willing to pay.
    If you take all of those factors into consideration (new costs $110, used averages $70, and two kids in the neighborhood would give you $60), you can reasonably argue with this analogical evidence that you should receive about $65 for your old scooter.  

Now it's Time to Get Your Reader on Your Side 

You have your opinion or position that you want your reader to take.
You have your three reasons or arguments for why your opinion is 
You have evidence for each of your arguments.

Now you need your agree with me statement. This will be your thesis statement – the reason you are writing the paper. Your thesis statement should tell the reader why your opinion or point of view is correct and why he or she needs to have the same opinion or point of view to be correct as well. Your thesis statement will say: This is how it is, and I'm going to prove why! So make it great! 

In your persuasive essay, your thesis statement is going to make a double appearance. It will be in the opening paragraph after you gain the reader's attention. It will appear again in your fifth and final paragraph when you make your closing remarks and sum up your strongest points of the essay. 

Time to Get Started 

The persuasive essay is a five-paragraph essay; however, it can be on any topic you choose making it one of the easier essays to write. This is your chance to make yourself heard so select something about which you feel passionate. No topic is silly or unimportant!

Before You State Your Thesis you MUST GRAB YOUR READER'S Attention! 

The best way to do that is with a good Hook! Take a look at this Writing the Hook chart for ideas on writing the sharpest hook!

Now you can focus on your thesis statement.

There are a few criteria for a good persuasive thesis: 

  • It must be rational and arguable.
    For example, you will not get very far if you try to convince the reader that squirrels can talk. 
  • It needs to be somewhat controversial.
    If there is no controversy behind it, whether on a household or global scale, there would be nothing to argue. 
  • It must be provable and supportable using the methods listed above. You cannot just state a random, pointless opinion that has no real backing.
    For example, you cannot have a thesis that argues broccoli should be banned. Other than some fellow broccoli haters agreeing with you, there is no real support for this claim. 
  • It must be an opinion. It would be very easy to prove a fact, and that's not our goal. 

Time to Outline! 

Now is a good time to use a graphic organizer or outline tool especially designed to help you complete your outline for the persuasive essay. This may be the first persuasive or argumentative piece you write, but it will not be the last. The content may get more complex, but the format will always stay the same. 

Go to the Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar and print the Persuasive Essay Outline. You will see that each element is laid out for you, paragraph by paragraph, so that your technical outline would look something like this: 

I.    Introduction: Hook
       a. 3 – 7 Sentences that use one of the given criteria, such as asking questions, to grab the reader's attention.
       b. Thesis Statement
           i.   Argument 1
           ii.  Argument 2
           iii. Argument 3
II.  Transition Statement
       a. Argument 1
           i.   Supporting Details (Statistics, Testimonies, Anecdotes, Analogies)
III. Transition Statement
       a. Argument 2
           i.   Supporting Details (Statistics, Testimonies, Anecdotes, Analogies)
IV. Transition Statement
       a.  Argument 3
           i.   Supporting Details (Statistics, Testimonies, Anecdotes, Analogies)
V.   Conclusion: Restate Main Idea
       a. Call to Action
           i.   Closing Remarks

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