Your purpose is to convince your reader that your position (pro or con) has merit. Your reader might not change his opinion after reading your essay, but he should think “You know, that writer made some good points. She said some things that made sense that I hadn’t really thought of before.”

After you have written a first draft of your essay ask yourself the following questions:

Have I stated my position clearly? (Will my reader know for sure what the issue is and whether I am for or against the issue?)

Have I supported my position with reasons and statistics that my reader will appreciate?

Have I offered solutions to my opponent’s (and possibly my reader’s) most likely arguments?

Evaluate your essay. Does it seem strong in the traits of ideas and content, voice, organization, and conventions? Revise as needed to strengthen your essay, then ask at least two other people to listen to you read it out loud. Have them give you comments on what is working well and what needs improvement. (You might ask them to respond to the same questions you looked at above and to rate it using the six-trait rubric.)

After you have gotten some comments and suggestions from others, revise your essay again. Edit it carefully before you write or type a final draft.

Providing students with opportunities to write for real purposes helps them to see the value of writing well. And real purposes add passion to writing. Several of the pieces of writing I’m particularly proud of are not published stories, but letters that are essentially persuasive essays.  Here, for example, is a letter I wrote to the management of a health club of which I am a member.  Within a couple days of receiving my letter, the management changed the check-in system at the club so that members using the women’s facility need not cross over to the main facility–a very gratifying result!:

I’m sure that by now you are tired of fielding complaints about the new check-in system at the [name withheld] Fitness Club. Please hear me out:

I’ve been a member of the Club for four years now, living (and exercising!) through the club’s earlier incarnations as [names withheld]. Since [name withheld] has been at the helm, I’ve noted several positive changes to the Women’s Fitness Center, the part of the club I frequent. These changes include additional class offerings, and improvements to the physical facility itself: installation of new fans, air conditioning repairs, a new clock in a more visible spot, and more recently, complete re-painting of the aerobics room. These are wonderful, and much appreciated changes. The recent decision, however, to require all club members to check in at the main facility two parking lots across from the Women’s Fitness Facility is of concern to me, and most of the women members with whom I have spoken.

At first glance it may seem that asking (mainly women) members to check-in at the main facility each day before their workout is a small thing. Perhaps you feel also, as one male manager jokingly remarked, that the extra jaunt across the parking lots and back is what our fitness routine should be preparing us to be able to do! However, I can’t help thinking that if the situation were reversed, and male club members were required to check-in at the Women’s Fitness Center before working out in the main facility, an alternative would be quickly implemented.

Arriving a few minutes early to allow for the extra time it takes to cross back and forth and wait to pick up a print out might seem a logical solution, but unfortunately, we women who use the Fitness Center are probably no better than the men and women who frequent the main facility at squeezing out the required extra few minutes. We too are busy people, trying to sandwich our exercise between demanding work and family schedules.

That extra jaunt is more than just a minor annoyance to women, many with several toddlers in tow, who must cross between facilities to have their membership cards scanned, wait for a print out slip, then trek back across-usually in inclement weather to hand the slip to the attendant at the desk inside the door before depositing their children in the daycare center, and scurrying into the aerobics room hoping to make it on time for the beginning of class. I worry that one day, should the current system prevail, a woman ( or child in tow) will dash across the parking lot in a hurry to get to a class, and be hit by a car . I should think such a possibility would worry you, too.

I am told that the purpose of the new check-in system is to make sure memberships are current, and to gather statistics on club use. Seems reasonable to me. I was more than a little chagrined to discover recently that my own membership had lapsed nearly nine months ago, though I’d never been sent a bill. But surely there are other ways that [name withheld] could gather statistics and make sure members are current that don’t involve making its (mostly female) members trek across the parking lots daily. I understand that networking computers between the two facilities is a problem, but I wonder if that option and others have yet been fully explored. A hand-held, battery-powered scanner that could later be down-loaded into the main facility’s computer is one possibility that comes to mind. Or if all else fails, a paper and pencil list giving member names, and card expiration dates, that the Women’s Fitness Center attendant could check against. I seem to see the same faces each time I workout, suggesting that there is a fairly stable group of “regulars” that comprise most of the users of the Women’s facility.

My hope in writing this letter is that you, the [Name withheld] Management, will use all the imagination and creativity you possess to come up with an alternative check-in system that doesn’t require your (mostly women) members to cross over to the main facility to check-in. So far the Club employees I’ve spoken with will only say that the current check-in system is “just the way it will be,” implying that it won’t ever change, and that they’re hoping we Women Fitness Center members will simply get used to the situation after a while, and stop grumbling. I can not believe that this is actually the attitude of [name withheld] management. Why would any business knowingly aggravate a large group of its members? I remain optimistic that a better solution will present itself to you.


Suzanne Williams

If you and/or your students can not come up with real reasons to write persuasively, allow students to at least choose topics/issues for which they have strong feelings.  The following student essays were written by sixth graders on self-chosen topics.  Have your students use the six-trait rubrics and the criteria for persuasive essays above to rate them, and discuss the essays strengths and weaknesses:


Do you think that children should have homework? No, of course not!

Why should they have to sit in a hot classroom and work for six hours and then come home and work another three hours on homework? After school hours instead of homework, they could use the extra time to explore other educational areas not taught in the classroom.

I think that children should have time to go outside and play and exercise. They also need to learn to get along with others in all different situations.

They could use their after school time to go to the opera, symphonies, museums, study painting, drawing, learn to ride horses, play sports, visit the zoo, volunteer time at the local nursing home or hospital. All of these things help to develop a well rounded personality .

I’m not the only person that feels this way. Out of the sixty kids that were interviewed, fifty of them said “no” to homework. Here’s what just a few of them had to say. M.   from Ridgewood Elementary says, ” No, because some kids don’t do it anyway so that is the same thing as not having it.” R. said, ” No, it puts too much pressure on you.” A. had pretty much had the same idea, ” No, because you learn the stuff in class, why should we have to do it at home? It should be optional.” A. also said, ” No, we go to school for six hours, and maybe I want to go home and spend time with my family.” C. says, ” No, we need time to exercise and play ’cause we go to school for six hours.” J. says no because, “School takes up half the day, so we shouldn’t have to do it for the whole day.” K., M., and B. said, ” No, ’cause there’s no point in it, and it takes too much time.” W. said, ” No, ’cause I hate it!” (Which brings up another point-too much of something makes kids rebel)!

Using time wisely at school to do your work instead of having homework makes more sense because you have all the materials right there to do all the work. The teacher is there to answer questions and help with problems. The school has all the reference materials, the computers, and the materials for projects. It’s a wonderful learning center! Many times kids, parents, and teachers all think a different way about how an assignment should be done or explained. Then this becomes real confusing to the kids.

Should We Have Homework ?

Should we have homework? Yes, definitely. The majority says no homework, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it! In the World Wide Education Test the United States came in fourteenth. Taking away homework will just put us lower and we’ll probably be in twentieth or maybe worse.

Some people say the United States is a lazy country. If we take away homework it could prove this and turn a rumor into a fact. In college you will have homework, and if you don’t have homework at a younger age, you won’t be ready for what college and life has to give.

Some parents like to see what their child is doing in school If there isn’t any homework what is the child going to show their parents and how are the parents going to know exactly what they are doing in school?

At school, the teacher has to help everyone. If you are still confused about the things you are learning, then when you have homework, you can go home and ask your parents to help you. If we never had homework, then how could you understand it when you are still confused? When you-have homework then you get one-on-one help from your parents or siblings, but when you are at school, the teacher can’t help you individually as much. Having homework will help you understand the work you are doing even better. You1l get better grades and you’ll have a better reputation.

Without homework there won’t be as many people with a very good education. There won’t be very many people who will be really good at certain jobs. There will be fewer people with jobs and homes, and there won’t be as many job openings. That’s why I think we should have homework.

Should There Be a Pop Machine in the Bay Area [at School]

I believe that having a pop machine in the bay area is a bad idea.  I think this because I can think of many reasons why we shouldn’t.  For instance I did a study on how many people in the sixth grade wing brought a lunch to school.  I found out that about 95% of the people bring a lunch and only 5% bring money to buy other things.  So if most people bring a lunch then they probably won’t bring money to buy anything else if they already have something to eat.  another thing I did was I asked ten sixth graders if they wanted one.  Eight people said they didn’t, one said they did and one said they didn’t really care.  What’s the point of having a pop machine if only one out of every ten people will actually use it?

When I asked my parents if they thought that having a pop machine in the bay area was a good idea they said it was not because if I really wanted pop they could go buy it for me at a cheaper price at the store.  Then I asked my friend’s parents what they thought about the idea and they said the same thing.  So my point again is that having a pop machine might just cost the school money if not that many people buy any of it what’s the point in having one at all.

In this essay I have told you many things and I think they are all true.  But what I haven’t told you is that pop could distract the classes from learning.  I did some extensive research on what the caffeine in the pop can do to you and I found out this: in small amounts caffeine acts as a mild stimulant and is harmless to most people.  In large amounts, however, it can cause restlessness and anxiety.  Caffeine also increases heart rates and can cause heart irregularities.  As you can see it might not be very good for our health.  Pop may also cause some people to burg and will cause the class a great deal of disturbance.

No Pop Machine in the 5/6 Wing

There are many good and logical explanations why there shouldn’t be a pop machine in the 5/6 wing.  For one, [teachers] would have to spend extra time making rules so people don’t leave their classrooms too often.  Rules don’t just pop off the top of your head.  They take a lot of extra time an what if someone disagrees?  They will have to debate over it–more time wasted.

Sure you think after the rules are set it’s over.  Well, you’re wrong.  People will be burping all the time, that makes the class laugh and the person might have to stay in at recess. There is more wasted time.  Pop also makes you go to the bathroom .  Therefore, kids will be asking to go to the bathroom while you’re in the middle of a lesson.  That interrupts with your teaching and again, wastes more time.

If you think pop machines cost just a couple hundred bucks, you’re wrong.  They cost thousands of dollars.  Where are we going to get that kind of money?  You aren’t very smart if you think we are going to go through all that trouble with PTA, Student Council, and fundraisers just for a pop at lunch.  Plus we could just use the money for recess equipment or school supplies.

Think about this: 4 out of 5 people in the 6th grade don’t want a pop machine in our school, mostly because of their work.  We have different lunch periods than primary so when it is lunch for them it is probably Math or Social Studies for us.  Primary kids tend to not be quiet and we can hear what is going on very clearly.  That will disrupt us.

I do not think pop should be sold in 5/6 wing because of work.  Kids probably will drink some pop then do a math problem, then take another drink then start talking.  They would start talking because when they look up they think that it is all right to talk which it is not.  So in my opinion I think no pop should be sold at Ridgewood.

Twelve year olds Shouldn’t Drive

I don’t think twelve year olds should drive.  First, I think driving would be fun, but I don’t think I could do it or any other 12 year old.

One fact is that kids don’t make as much money as adults.  It costs lots of money to drive, and to have money you have to have a job.  I don’t think babysitting, being a paper boy or “savin’ your pennies” is going to get you money for gas, insurance, and the lambergine itself.  And don’t forget the toys and pleasure stuff.  I don’t think your parents are going to pay for that.

I would get pretty ticked if I got in a car accident and got out o inspect the damage and see a 12 year old in the car.  Who is going to pay for the damage?

Another fact is that 12 year olds are not as responsible as adults.  Twelve year olds aren’t responsible enough to have a car.  They will lose the key, or lock themselves out of the car.

Another fact is that younger people get in more accidents.  There would be a lot more accidents in 12 year olds are behind the wheel.  Besides, I don’t think a cop could give a kid a ticket.  Twelve year olds shouldn’t drive.

What if a 12 year old is in a car at night, waiting for a stop light and a much more older and powerful person walks up, gets in the car, and hurts the 12 year old?

Twelve year olds are too immature to drive.  What if they have an urge to floor it and go wild?  What if they hit somebody?


Ninth inning, bases loaded, and Ken Griffey Jr. steps up to the plate.  Do you feel the excitement?  Okay, let me rephrase that.  Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded.  Two outs, and Mariners down by one, and Kendra Griffey II steps up to the plate.  “Strike one,” the umpire calls.  Strike two right down the middle of the plate.  The tension is building up inside everyone’s body. The pitcher winds up and lets it fly.  She swings.  The crowd stands up.  The ball is above everyone’s head, like a bird flying high above the sky, over the center fielder’s head it’s going, going, gone.  Bye bye baseball.  Get out the mustard and the rye, grandma, it’s time for a grand salami, folks.  The Mariners are going to the World Series and because of an amazing grandslam by a female.  By a female that no one thought could hit because everyone thinks she’s too petite to even get the bat around.

Well guys, guess what?  We are stonger than you think we are.  We may not be able to bench press a 400 pound man, but we are stronger than you think we are.  We are also equal and we deserve the right to show our ability and play with the males and be proud of it.  We, as females, should be able to participate in a quote on quote “guy’s sport” because we are equal.  We can also make the game more interesting, and besides, some females are faster and have greater ability than males.

Many people are against having females play on a male team, because there would have to be another locker room especially for females.  Many people think that this would increase tax rates, not necessarily though.  More people would come to see the females play, because the crowd would thin the game would be more interesting.  So if more people showed up that means more dollar signs, more decimal points, and more cent signs.  So with more money, you can buy things like plaster, lockers, shower nozzles, and sheetrock to build a locker room.

May people also think that a female would get hurt, but the females would not play the sport if they did not want to take risks and be athletic.  So my personal feelings are that females have the right to play, socialize, and make money like the males.


From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams www.suzanne-williams.com