Monday, April 18, 2016

Persuasive Letter Writing for Kinders

I wanted to share a little tidbit with you on how I teach Persuasive Letter Writing to my Kinder babies. My first year teaching Kinder when I was told I was expected to teach them not only how to write a letter, but how to write a persuasive letter, I thought, “You want me to do what? They are 5!” But, then as always, their little brains shocked me and handled it like ROCKSTARS. It has taken me a few years to fine-tune this unit and how to best teach it, and with a lot of help from co-workers and blogs, this is what I have come up with. Feel free to leave comments on how you have taught it in your classroom and we can all bump ideas off each other! J

The first thing I do is introduce what a letter is and why we use letters. Sometimes this is hard for them to relate to because we have things like Facebook, Instagram and email nowadays that we pretty much do not have to communicate Old-School anymore. I couldn't really find a simple mentor texts I liked for this lesson so I made this little book to use for this. I kind of camp out at introduction of letters for a day or two to let their little brains wrap around the fact that these are different than the letters, ABC, we have been learning about all year. If you click on the picture it will take you to my store to get it for yourself!

After they understand the purpose of letter writing, we go into parts of letters. This is fun to teach for me because they get it so quickly. If you are a Whole Brain Teacher, then this is a lesson that will fill your little WBT bucket. Check out the video on my last Five for Friday post to check out their little brains at work! 

After they learn the parts of the letter the complete this little informal assessment I whipped up. This is going to be their covers when it is time to publish. This is the little friend I shared on my Five for Friday a few days ago. I cracked up over how he spelled “body.” Click on the Picture for a free, blank download of this beauty!

After they got the parts of a letter down is when I introduce persuasive letters specifically! I go back and I re-read the persuasive letter page in the book mentioned beforehand. Then I go around to a few students and ask them to tell me something they really want. A couple of them, I respond with, “Why should you get that?” or “Why should you get to do that?” I then explain to them that sometime we really really want things to happen, and sometimes the best way to make them happen is to write a letter trying to persuade our reader.

I take this time to read a few letters out of the oh-so-wonderful book, The Day the Crayons Quit. After each letter I say, “Now what did the ____ crayon want from Duncan? How did they convince him?”

We then go into 3 days of why we write persuasive letters. I like to pair these with “Pigeon” books by Mo Willems. My kiddos love Pigeon! Before I let go of the reigns and let them write persuasive letters on their own, we write letters to the Pigeon!

The beauty of this is that for the most part they all choose the same side to write on. You might have a few kiddos that decide to stray from the pack, but in my experience, if their brains can take them there and justify it, than they do just fine writing it!

Here is the cover I use for their persuasive letters to Pigeon! This cover and every other writing paper included in this Pigeon plan was made last year by the wonderful and talented Stephanie Rhodes at Definitely Elementary. 


I use Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus for this mini-lesson. I love starting out with this one just because, 100% of my students agree that the Pigeon should not drive a bus. I make sure to make the connection that the Pigeon is trying really hard to convince us that he is more than capable to drive the bus! I make a t-chart where we list the reasons that Pigeon gives us as to why he should be allowed to drive the bus. On the other side of the chart, I write down the students’ responses as to why he should NOT drive the bus. I wish I had taken a picture of this chart, because their reasons are HILARIOUS! For example, “He has wings, how is he supposed to hold the steering wheel?” and “Look at his legs, how is he supposed to reach those pedal things.” From the mini-lesson, the students write a persuasive letter to the Pigeon trying to convince him that driving the bus is probably not a good idea.

After Bus Driver day, we go into another reason why writers write persuasive letters. TO SOLVE A PROBLEM! I love to use the book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late. After reading the book, I ask the students, what Pigeon’s problem was. They usually get this, because it is something they can relate to. I am sure they have plenty of practice begging their parents to stay up past their bedtime ;) I usually try and make a connection with them and brainstorm some reasons they have heard their parents use when they really want to stay up late. I jot those down on the board for them to reference to. This is where it gets fun, because you always have a few that are still on board for letting the pigeon stay up late, and that is wonderful! I love seeing their independence!
It is a great opportunity for a side conversation about opinions and it is okay for them to be different. From here, they go back and write a persuasive letter to Pigeon and convince him to either go to bed or stay up late!

From there we talk about the 3rd reason writers write persuasive letters, TO CHANGE SOMETHING WE DON’T LIKE! Before I read the book, Pigeon Needs a Bath, we brainstorm some things in our life that we don’t like that we would love to change. Their answers are knee slapping that is for sure. My answers would be like mortgage insurance, or the amount of traffic after work on Fridays. Their answers were more like, not enough cookies for lunch, or too short of snack time, or the amount of vegetables their parents make them eat. Oh how I wish my life were that simple!

I read the story, PigeonNeeds a Bath, and we talk about what it is that Pigeon really doesn’t like, baths. We have a discussion about how sometimes there are things in our lives that we don’t like and writing letters is one way we can try and solve it. Then from there, I split the class based on their opinions. On one side, I put the kiddos that think that Pigeon NEEDS to take a bath, and on the other, I put the kiddos that think that Pigeon really doesn’t need to take a bath. We brainstorm some supporting details for both and then I send them off to write their persuasive letters to Pigeon on whether he should or should not take a bath. This is where this unit gets really fun, because this is where they kind of take off with their letters. They get away from the typical responses or get away from relying on the ideas generated by the class, and they start to really think and come up with their own reasons and persuasions.

Look at this little precious one’s letter:

I know I know I said 3 days, but who doesn’t love a bonus?!? Now I know this teaching point isn’t a reason why we write persuasive letters, but I like to have 4 days with Pigeon, because this takes me to 2 full weeks of lessons before they spread their wings on persuasion! Before I send them off with their own persuasive letters, I like to have a mini-lesson about picking to a side/opinion and sticking to it. The book, Pigeon Wants a Puppy is perfect for this lesson because Pigeon really really wants a puppy throughout most of the book, but then learns that a puppy is scary and decides that he wants a walrus.

I make a connection with my writers about how sometimes we write a persuasive letter, but then change sides in the middle of our letter and that makes our letters not as powerful! I ask them does it really make sense for Pigeon to want a puppy so badly, and then change his mind to a walrus? No! Just like it doesn’t make sense for Pigeon to go from wanting a puppy to a walrus, it doesn’t make sense for us to write a letter trying to persuade our reader one way, then changing our mind in the middle of a letter. I then let the class divide themselves up among their opinions.  Then they go off and write their last letter to Pigeon convincing him to either get a puppy or not!

After the little trip down Pigeon Lane...
is when I let go and let them persuade their little hearts out! Now there are just way too many good books that encourage persuasive writing so I still have teaching points and mentor texts I use, but as far as their writing, they write a letter convincing whoever they want to, whatever they want to.

Some more teaching points include but not limited to:
-Writers are like magicians. They use their words to make things happen.
-Writers imagine the person they are writing to is sitting right next to them, so they can write like they talk.
-Writers try their best to use their words to get their way.

Some GREAT mentor texts that foster persuasive thinking:

I Wanna … by Karen Kaufman Orloff

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

Hey Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose

And to leave you with a few funny letters from my friends. Never in my widest dreams did I think I would get a student who would write a letter to her parents trying to convince them to EAT MORE VEGETABLES! Oh and I am a bad teacher because I forgot to buy Play-doh at the store. 

Happy Persuading My Friends!!