English - Pride and persuasion

17th February 2012 at 00:00
Even the least confident writers can find courage on the soapbox

"Today, children, I have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the core values of our school. I have a dream that one day all the children will go out on to the broad expanse of the playground and get along with each other. I have a dream that all the children in Y5 and the children in Y6 will one day learn to share the football pitch in a spirit of peace and fellowship. I have a dream ."

By this time 30 hands are in the air, with every child bursting to tell me that I'm using REPETITION! Reluctantly, I step off the soapbox. However much I'm enjoying myself, it's time to let the children have a turn.

This week we have been studying persuasive writing. Or, rather, persuasive talking, because in truth it hasn't involved too much writing. What it has involved is thinking on top of the box.

Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and Mark Antony's "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar are often used when studying persuasive texts, but to get the most from them children have to hear them performed. It is only when they listen to them performed that they begin to appreciate the persuasive power of the words. The seductive quality of the human voice speaking passionately allows children to begin to understand the dramatic force of using repeated statements and posing rhetorical questions.

This also works when children begin making their own persuasive arguments. Oral lessons are not just a way of avoiding marking (honestly) and they work especially well for children like Marcus. Marcus finds writing difficult because the process gets in the way of what he wants to say. He's eager to step up to the soapbox though. Literally and metaphorically it raises his status in class. Suddenly he is empowered with the confidence to take on the world.

If I had given him a persuasive argument checklist and asked him to write about why his year group should have exclusive access to the football pitch, I would have been lucky to drag two mind-numbingly boring sentences out of him. For Marcus the soapbox is literally one small step to learning success.

He breathes deeply and begins. "Friends, classmates, children, lend me your ears. I'm here to praise Mr Eddison, not to criticise him. They say Mr Eddison is a good teacher, and he is. But is it good teaching to let children get away with doing no writing? They say Mr Eddison is a good teacher and he is. But is it good teaching to do talking lessons just to get out of marking our books?"

Et tu, Marcus?

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield

What else?

Make speaking practice fun with a "Taboo" starter from BlueSky1.

Do your pupils have the persuasive skills to sway the House of Commons? Try the National Schools Partnership lesson to find out.

Feel inspired by Martin Luther King and improve persuasive speaking with TeachFirst's scheme of work.

In the forums

Share your ideas for persuasive topics with other teachers.

For all links and resources visit www.tes.co.ukresources022.

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