Writing a Persuasive Essay Teacher Notes

Thank you for reading this unit on writing a persuasive essay. The ideas in this packet come from my experience teaching hundreds of high school and first-year college composition students. I have included the worksheets, handouts and activities that have worked successfully for my students, and I’m sure they will work for yours, as well.

Whether you assign a simple opinion piece, or require students to use outside sources, you will find everything you need here.

You can use the assignment sheet and grading rubric that are included, but you will probably want to use them as examples and create your own to your specifications. I always hand out the grading rubric with the assignment sheet so there are no surprises.

I’ve included a bonus section on MLA formatting and avoiding plagiarism that you might find useful if you are requiring outside sources.

The in-text citation and works cited sections are necessarily brief—they give an overview and a few examples of the most common sources, but your students will invariably have sources that don’t fit these examples. The best resource I have found for looking up current MLA format citations is the Online Writing Lab from Purdue University. You can find it here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/

Another great resource I found for Persuasive Essay writing tips is Edusson. You can find Persuasive Essay  Outline here and Persuasive Essay Topics here.

I wish you all the best, and please let me know if you have any questions or feedback. www.compositionclassroom.blogspot.com


Pre-Writing Teacher Notes

Review ethos, pathos and logos with the students. Following are sheets you can use as handouts or overheads. If you want to give the students extra practice with the three techniques, divide the class into groups and give them some magazines. Have the students identify ads that use primarily ethos, pathos or logos.

Tell the students to pretend that they are on a boat with two other people, and they are about to be shipwrecked on a desert island. They have fishing hooks, fishing line, a knife and matches, but no other supplies. There are three bags of supplies, but the group can only bring one bag. Each student must write three paragraphs, one each using ethos, pathos and logos to convince the other two people to bring the bag of his or her choice.

Set the items on a table, labeled Bag 1, Bag 2, and Bag 3. Alternatively, you could put up the included posters.

Bag 1: Toilet paper, blanket, two cans tuna fish
Bag 2: ipod, large can of baked beans, bottle of water
Bag 3: Saucepan, three granola bars, sunscreen
Give the students a limited time (about 20-30 minutes) to construct their paragraphs.

Ask volunteers to come to the front of the class and try and persuade the other students that his or her choice is best. Or, put students in groups (ideally in groups of three, each with a different bag choice) and let them share with each other.

Discuss with the class what worked and what didn’t work, and what seemed to most persuade the others.



Pathos means appealing to the audience’s emotions. If you can inspire an emotional connection with your audience, get them to feel what you feel, such as anger or pity, or get them to feel sympathetic to your cause, they are more likely to agree with your position.


Persuasive Writing Exercise Shipwrecked!

You are on a boat with two other people and are about to be shipwrecked on a desert island. You have fishing line and hooks, a knife and matches. There are three bags of supplies on the boat, but you can only bring one for the whole group. Decide which bag you want to bring.

Unfortunately, the other two people each want to bring a different bag. Write three paragraphs, with each paragraph using one of the persuasion techniques, ethos, pathos and logos, to convince the others to bring the bag you want.

Bag 1
Toilet paper, blanket, two cans tuna fish


Argument Worksheet

Name: ________________________________
Topic: _________________________________________________________________

Thesis: _________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________

Your Argument: _________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________

Possible Opposition: ______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________

Your Answer: ____________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________


Sources for a Persuasive Essay

You will want to review a variety of sources to write a good persuasive essay. A research paper focuses on academic sources, but with a persuasive essay, you can use a broader array of sources to help influence your readers. For example, to appeal to a logical audience, you will want to use academic sources. To appeal to people’s emotions, you may want to find a story or personal experience that moves your audience to action. You could also look for an opinion piece in a newspaper or magazine that has the same opinion as you do.

Where do I find sources?

  • –  Academic search engines. Many schools and libraries subscribe to academicsearch engines such as EBSCO or Academic Search Premiere or InfoTrac. These

    search engines filter results so you can be sure they qualify as academic sources.

  • –  Googlescholar.com. This search engine, available to anyone, also filters resultsso you only get academic sources. Not every source listed is available online.
  • –  Library. Print sources from your school or public library that you can’t get onlineare available here. Asking a librarian for help is a great resource.
  • –  Internet search. Using a regular search engine such as Google or Yahoo can turnup good sources for examples and stories to help make your point. You can also look at website for newspapers and magazines.


Works Cited Page

The last page of your essay should be a works cited page. The page should be double-spaced with the title (Worked Cited) centered. Each entry should be alphabetized. The author’s last name comes first.

Here is an example of a Works Cited page:

There are many different types of publications and variations in how they need to be listed. Some of the most basic types of sources are listed below:

Book: Author. Title. City: Publisher, Year of publication. Medium.

Gleick, James. Making a New Science. New York: Penguin, 1987. Print.

Article in a Reference Book: “Title of the article.” Title of Book. Edition. Year. Medium.

“Ideology.” The American Heritage Dictionary. 3rd ed. 1997. Print.

Article in a Magazine: Author. “Title.” Magazine Day Month Year: Year. Pages. Medium.

Buchman, Dana. “A Special Education.” Good Housekeeping Mar. 2006: 143-48. Print.

Article in a Scholarly Journal: Author. “Title.” Journal Title Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium.

Duvall, John N. “The (Super)Marketplace of Images: Television as Unmediated Mediation in DeLillo’s White Noise.” Arizona Quarterly 50.3 (1994): 127-53. Print.

© Laura Torres 2012