English - Sir, please let me gunk you

1st February 2013 at 00:00
Use charity stunts to raise the stakes for persuasive writing

How do you persuade your teaching assistants to spend the day dressed as a pantomime cow? Or your (male) teacher to don a tutu and a wig for a good cause?

When the last Red Nose Day coincided with the end of our literacy unit on persuasive writing, we realised that it presented the perfect opportunity for the children to put their newly acquired skills into practice. The Comic Relief cause provided a meaningful purpose, members of staff were a ready-made audience, and the children would be able to see the effectiveness of their writing through the entertaining consequences on Red Nose Day.

Their brief: to write a letter to a member of staff of their choice, persuading them to complete a challenge to raise awareness for Comic Relief. Identifying their chosen "victim" and deciding on the nature of the challenge sparked both hilarity and imagination. On a more serious note, the children soon recognised that if they were to persuade people to take part they needed their letter to present a convincing, well-reasoned argument.

Time was spent researching facts on the Comic Relief website, watching film clips portraying the impact the charity has on people's lives (available at tes.co.ukrednoseday) and finding out how the money raised is used. The stories captured the children's imagination, provoking an empathetic response and providing opportunities for discussion.

Armed with their new knowledge, the children set to work composing their letters on specially designed Comic Relief notepaper. They expressed themselves movingly and convincingly. The pupils enhanced their emotional appeals by using persuasive writing techniques with confidence. They structured their writing clearly, expressed a balanced viewpoint, included statistics to substantiate their argument where appropriate, asked rhetorical questions to appeal directly to their reader and used connectives effectively.

The impact of this activity on the level of the children's writing was staggering. All of them were able to access the task and engaged with it eagerly. Perhaps most importantly, they were able to see the impact of their words first-hand as they delivered the letters, saw teachers' reactions and then watched the consequences playing out on Red Nose Day. The sense of achievement they gained from knowing that they had persuaded staff to eat cold baked beans and be gunked made it all worthwhile - from everybody's point of view.

If a teacher's role is to help shape children's lives, why not extend this to children all around the world? The price of a coffee and sandwich could buy a mosquito net that could save a child's life.

Clare Trotter is a Year 4 class teacher at Belleville Primary School in southwest London


Help pupils to research the reasons why people live in slums with this set of writing resources.


Learn the art of persuasive writing with jomax766's template.


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