Persuasive Writing: Using adjectives as examples of positive and negative language

For Teachers

This activity might be used as an introduction to an exploration of the effects of positive and negative language in a persuasive text.

1.  With the class or group, do a quick brainstorm of their favourite dishes to eat as part of a meal.  Vote on the popularity of these dishes in order to select a specific dish on which to focus for this activity. Ask students to suggest a list of adjectives that could be used to describe the dish.  Because this is a ‘favourite’ dish the adjectives will be examples of positive language.

2.  Together, as a class or group, use some of these adjectives to write a positive description of the dish. Get the students to think about the audience for whom they are writing this.

For example,

This delicious chicken dish is easily prepared.  It only takes a few minutes.  The rich flavours are certain to appeal to your family.  They’ll love the sharp, tangy taste of the limes and the smooth, creamy taste of the sauce.

This description is written for a parent audience who cooks meals for their families.

3. Discuss with students how the language choice is likely to work to persuade the audience to want to prepare this dish.(Although not related specifically to the focus on adjectives, the above sample description also provides an opportunity to discuss the persuasive appeal of the statement: ‘are certain to appeal to your family’. If your shared writing activity produces something similar, take advantage of this to draw attention to other persuasive devices and how they work.)

4. Do another quick brainstorm, this time of ‘negative’ adjectives and then write a negative description of this  dish, or another suggested by the students.

For example,

The weird mixture of flavours  is very unpleasant.  The bitter taste provided by the limes and the fatty richness of the sauce completely ruins this chicken dish.

Again, discuss with students how the language choice is likely to affect the reader.

5.  Now ask students to work individually to create two short pieces of writing about a topic.  The first piece of writing should make use of positive language and seek to persuade a designated audience to do, to buy or to believe something.  The second piece of writing should make use of negative language.  Students could brainstorm a list of topics from which they might choose, but here are a few to get started:  school, television, sport, car journeys, school uniforms, computer games.  Do some ‘unpacking’ of the purpose so that students understand ‘to do, to buy and to believe’.  For instance, if the topic is ‘school’, the purpose might be to encourage prospective parents to send their child to your school; if the topic is ‘computer games’, the purpose might be to convince a parent to buy a particular computer game for their child.

Alternatively, students might work in pairs and then exchange their writing with their peer whose task is to change the language from positive to negative, or vice versa.

6. Share some of the writing with the class to analyse how students have used  the positive and negative language and to discuss its likely effectiveness on the designated audience.

Otisa.com.au features activities on both adjectives and persuasive writing.

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Why am I reading this?

Good readers know that why they are reading will determine how they read.

Why they are reading will decide how quickly they read.
If they are reading something that they need to remember, perhaps for a test, then they read slowly.
If they are reading something that it is important that they understand, then they will not only read slowly, but they will also re-read to make certain they have understood.
If they are reading for pleasure, then the rate of reading is not important, and they might read much more quickly.
Why they are reading will decide how carefully they read.
If they are reading something in order to get the ‘big picture’, to work out what the magazine or newspaper article is all about, then they will skim the words rather than read each one individually. They will focus on the opening paragraph, on the opening sentence of other paragraphs, and on the concluding paragraph. The rate of reading will be fairly quick.

If they are reading for a particular piece of information then they will scan the article or chapter, searching for key words. When they find those key words  they will stop and read the surrounding sentences or paragraph carefully to see if they information they require is to be found there.

Readers who lack confidence tend to waste a lot of time, and create a lot of anxiety for themselves, by thinking that they have to read every word no matter what their purpose is in reading. You can help your child to read more efficiently, by (a) identifying their purpose in reading and then (b) showing them what kind of reading is going to be most appropriate for that purpose.

Helping your child to prepare for a return to school

For parents

It might seem a little early to be talking about this topic, but actually the beginning of the new school year is now fewer than three weeks away. 

How can you help your children to get ready to go back to school, to start on the ‘right foot’ and set themselves up for successful learning in 2013? Here are some suggestions:

  • Consider involving your children in the practical aspects of getting back to school  – making stationery and textbook purchases,  organising their uniform, schoolbag, lunchbox, drink container etc. Children can make and check lists and investigate relative costs online.  By involving them in these activities you encourage independence and acceptance of responsibility – both of which are qualities that you want them to have when they’re at school.
  • If you haven’t already done so, set up a learning zone at home – somewhere that your children can use when they do their homework.  Involve them in planning what needs to be in the learning zone – for example, a wall calendar on which they can note when schoolwork needs to be completed, perhaps a computer, pens and pencils, adequate lighting and shelving and a display board. (If your child is older and has a school diary, emphasise how this is an important tool to help them to organise their learning.  Explain that you want to work with them to check their diary each day and help them to use it efficiently. This is not a punitive exercise.  Rather it’s a way of developing the necessary self-management skills that assist learning.) 
  • Encourage your children to think about what they would like to achieve at school this year.  Use the SMART acronym to help them develop some goals: the goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-boundFor example, I will use the wall calendar to mark the dates of spelling tests or I will practise using reading strategies when I am reading. (The reading strategy should be named and a specific time allocated to practising it – perhaps a week or two.)  
    Display their goals somewhere in the learning zone so that they can be reminded of them and revisit these goals each week to revise as necessary.
    Avoid setting too many goals. You want to make it possible for your children to experience success.
  • Talk with your children about returning to school.  Sometimes there are certain anxieties that need to be aired.  Discuss these and ask your children to suggest strategies that they might use to cope with certain situations.  Children can be reassured and empowered by this process.
  • Help your child to feel motivated and confident by talking positively about the return to school.  It’s a new year, full of new opportunities  – rather than an unfortunate end to a holiday period.
  • Resolve to be actively involved in your children’s learning.  A general question such as ‘How was your day?’ or ‘How was school today?’ will inevitability elicit a closed response such as ‘OK’ or ‘’Boring.’  Make your questions specific:  ‘What were you learning in your English/Maths lesson today?’ ‘Do you think you were successful in learning that?’  ‘Do you need more assistance to help you understand?’ Emphasise what they learned, rather than what they did.