Combine some persuasive writing practice with a fun activity: write a letter to Santa. State educational standards include persuasive writing for kids from around grade three and up. The key parts of persuasive writing--stating a clear position, supporting it with evidence and emotional appeals, organising the letter and addressing the concerns of the reader--fit seamlessly into a persuasive letter to Santa. Kids won't even realise they are practicing their state's standards and benchmarks as they have fun thinking about what to ask Santa for this year.
- Skill level:
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Ask kids the question, "What if you found out that Santa did not have your name on his list?" Give them time to answer. Jot down a few of their answers on the blackboard or a piece of posterboard at the front of the room.
Give students five minutes to write down everything they would like Santa to bring them this Christmas.
Tell students to imagine Santa saying, "You have been so naughty this year. Why should I bring you any presents?" Let students brainstorm what they might say to Santa to address his concerns about their behaviour and to convince him they deserve presents anyway.
Reveal to students that they have just formed the basis for a persuasive argument. They stated their position by discussing what they would do if Santa did not have their names on his list. They supported their position with details about what they would like Santa to bring them. Finally, they addressed the concerns of the reader, Santa in this case, when they thought of ways to discuss their naughty behaviour with Santa.
Show students the proper format for a letter, if they don't know it. Options for this step include putting up an overhead slide, handing out a template or drawing the letter's outline on the board. Show students where the date and salutation go, how to separate their letter into paragraphs and how to close the letter with a signature at the end.
Reinforce the structure with students, showing them that the first paragraph contains their position statement (Santa should bring me presents). The second paragraph adds specifics (a list of the presents they want) and the third paragraph addresses reader concerns (why they should get presents even if they were bad). Add a final paragraph, the conclusion, and ask them to summarise what the letter said and give one more appeal to Santa for the gifts they want.
Let volunteers read their letters aloud, and have other students comment on whether the argument is convincing. Discuss arguments that work and those that don't and explore reasons for both. When the letter is completely done, inform students that they can follow a similar format when they work on persuasive essays for classes or during state testing.
Tips and warnings
- For added fun, let students write their final drafts on Christmas stationery. Give them time to colour in the stationery's artwork with markers or crayons if the stationery is black and white.
- Pass out envelopes for students to address, a good practice for today's e-mailing students who may never have addressed an envelope for postal mail. Send the letters to students' homes, addressed to the parents.
- For more experienced persuasive writers, add the elements of transition sentences, placing the most convincing arguments first, writing only in complete sentences and limiting the number of errors. Use peer editing to encourage students to proofread each other's letters.
- Kids at home can write Santa letters, too, following the same basic format, with the parent explaining the parts of the persuasive letter to the children. Let kids address the letters to grandparents instead, if desired, but be sure to warn Grandma and Grandpa that the letters are coming and that they need not buy everything on the list.
- As an alternative to telling Santa why they should get presents, you might have students write to persuade Santa to give their gifts to needy children this year instead of to them. Or they could convince Santa he needs to update from his old sled to a new one with turbocharged reindeer.
- If you have students from diverse backgrounds, and some students do not celebrate Christmas, change this assignment accordingly to avoid singling out any students. For example, students can write persuasive letters to their parents asking for specific birthday gifts, or they can write letters to teachers explaining why they should earn a better grade on an assignment.
- State testing benchmarks vary; consult your particular state's criteria and incorporate any additional requirements when modifying the lesson for your class.
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