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Lesson Plan

Developing Persuasive Arguments through Ethical Inquiry: Two Prewriting Strategies

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Developing Persuasive Arguments through Ethical Inquiry: Two Prewriting Strategies

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Teresa Henning, Ph.D

Teresa Henning, Ph.D

Marshall, Minnesota


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students use focused prewriting strategies to explore content and ethical issues related to a persuasive assignment. These strategies work best after students have established their topic and audience and have begun exploring their rhetorical (writing) situation as it relates to a specific, local problem about which they have some knowledge. These strategies would pair well with Joelle Brummitt-Yale's “Persuading the Principal:  Writing Persuasive Letters about School Issues”.

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  • Ethical Inventory Questions: This tool helps students discover ethical values that they possess and may share with others.
  • Ethical Question Star: Students use this tool to discover what ethical values relate to a specific rhetorical (writing) situation of their choice.

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This lesson takes the position that “ethical inquiry is an important form of critical thinking and as such it is an important component of students’ cognitive development.” Including prewriting heuristics that encourage ethical inquiry when students are preparing to write practically focused persuasive pieces can help students create “sufficient, audience-based content for their work” and “understand that writing is a form of action and as such can have consequences for themselves and others in the world.”


Further Reading

Henning, Teresa. “Ethics as a Form of Critical and Rhetorical Inquiry in the Writing Classroom.” English Journal 100(6): 34-40.

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