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Teaching Ethos, Pathos, Logos in Persuasive Writing

Writing persuasively can be a challenge, and it can be even more challenging to teach! How do we move a student from being a struggling persuasive writer to an excellent persuasive writer? We must strengthen their writing process. I know that talking about the writing process seems a little old fashioned, especially in a world of technology and testing, but a student must learn that the steps to writing well are important. Students must learn to plan, edit, draft, revise, proofread, and publish! There are no short cuts. We can make this process easier by giving students strategies within the process. So… let’s start with the planning process!

Every essay must begin with a strong thesis statement. The thesis is the blueprint of the essay, so it has to be good. In essence, a thesis is a statement with ideas attached. Let’s look at the below example:

The thesis is just a statement containing your claim and a few reasons. I know that using a formula to write is a bit controversial. However, I would argue that we must first teach the formula, so students will have a great foundation to build on. Struggling writers need a guide.

Once students have a thesis, they are then ready to learn ethos, pathos, and logos. We teach these elements of persuasion every year by asking kids to identify how they are being persuaded on a daily basis by family, peers, social media, etc. This is great! However, we can't stop there. We must also teach them to yield these techniques when writing persuasively. There are specific techniques that are appropriate for each element of persuasion. See the chart below.

Now it is time to teach students to gather relevant evidence to support their claim. While gathering evidence, students should immediately document their thinking. It has been my experience that students who complain of “brain fog” or “writer’s block” do not have the tools necessary to pull their thoughts together. We often tell our students

to generate ideas and pull textual evidence to support their ideas. Then, when it is time to write, students are supposed to remember why they decided to use that evidence. You can imagine that this process becomes convoluted very quickly. It is better to have them write down how they intend to use the evidence write as they are gathering information. I have a graphic organizer you can use. (Click the picture) This graphic organizer can be used at the beginning of the essay writing process to eliminate these concerns.

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