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Lesson Plan

Persuasive Essay: Environmental Issues

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Persuasive Essay: Environmental Issues

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 45-minute sessions, plus independent work
Lesson Author

Laurie A. Henry, Ph.D.

Laurie A. Henry, Ph.D.

Lexington, Kentucky


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Independent Work


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Develop a critical stance in regard to environmental issues

  • Research information to support their stance

  • Write persuasive essays

  • Participate in peer conferencing

  • Evaluate their writing through self-assessment

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Session 1


1. Begin the class by asking, “What makes a good argument?” Have students share their ideas about making a good argument.

2. Conduct the Role Play Activity by selecting two student volunteers to read the parts of parent and child in Scenario 1 and two student volunteers to read the parts in Scenario 2. Once the readings are finished, compare the two scenarios and discuss which one provided a better argument. Ask students to identify what made the argument better.

3. Introduce the genre of persuasive essays by reading aloud the sample persuasive essay Should Marine Mammals Be in Captivity? printed from the Internet. Prior to reading, engage students in a brief discussion about whether they think marine mammals should be kept in captivity. Students should respond by stating their opinions on the topic and providing a few reasons to support their opinions. (This step could also be done as a journal writing activity with time for sharing responses with the whole class.)

4. Engage students in a discussion in response to the essay. Do students agree or disagree with the author of the essay? Were any students swayed from their previous thoughts on this topic? Students should use information presented in the essay and/or background knowledge to support their opinions.

5. Have students access the Persuasive Writing website independently or with a partner to further introduce them to this genre of writing. This website is an excellent resource that walks students through the process of writing a persuasive essay. Students should take notes on the three main sections of a persuasive essay (i.e., introduction, body, and conclusion).

6. Label three sheets of chart paper with the three main sections of a persuasive essay. Once students have finished reviewing the website and taking notes, have each student add a detail from his or her notes to the appropriate sheet of chart paper.

7. Review with students the main components of a persuasive essay as presented by students on the chart paper. Hang the sheets in the classroom for future reference during the writing process in Session 2.

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Session 2

1. As a whole class, have students brainstorm topics that could be used in writing a persuasive essay about an environmental issue. The topics should be pertinent to the students and their daily lives. Is there something that is happening in the community that students feel strongly about? For example, are there plans to do away with a park to widen a roadway? Is a major corporation dumping chemicals or pollutants in the local river? Are there any other environmental issues that concern students, such as air pollution, global warming, or endangered animals? Should hunting be banned?

2. Once students have generated a list of possible topics, have each student select one topic that he or she is interested in pursuing. Students should each generate a list of ideas and questions specific to his or her topic. What information do they already know about the topic? What do they want to know more about?

3. Conduct a minilesson on how to formulate a thesis statement. Select a very general topic that all students are familiar with, such as water pollution. Have students generate a list of their ideas about water pollution. Model the development of a thesis statement or question that could guide further research and set the tone for a persuasive essay. For example, “Local rivers are becoming more polluted and new laws need to be created to prevent pollution from continuing.”

4. Have students begin exploring their selected topics to obtain some general background knowledge about the issues. (This general research can be accomplished using Internet resources, print resources, or both.) Once some background knowledge has been gained, students can select a particular issue to focus on and develop thesis statements for their essays.

5. Allow students time in the computer lab to access the environmental websites and find supporting evidence for their essays. It is helpful if the websites are already bookmarked on the computers in the lab. [Note: If other topics are selected for this lesson, you will need to prepare a list of websites that students can use for their research.] Students should also be encouraged to use print resources, such as books, magazines, and newspaper articles, to find information to support their thesis statements.

6. Make sure that students remember to take notes and print relevant information that they locate to support their thesis. All notes and printed materials will need to be submitted with the final copy of the essay.

7. Instruct students to continue researching their topics as homework, if more time is needed.

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Session 3

1. Begin this session by conducting a minilesson that focuses on the language and voice used when writing in the persuasive genre. Provide students with opposing examples of strong versus weak statements. (For further instruction on persuasive essay writing, see “Can You Convince Me? Developing Persuasive Writing.”)

2. Before beginning a first draft of their essays, have students use the interactive Persuasion Map as a prewriting activity. Using the information gathered during Session 2, students can enter their thesis, the three main reasons to support their thesis, and facts and examples to validate each reason. Remind students to print their maps when they are finished as the tool does not enable students to save their work online.

3. Using the completed persuasion maps, students can begin writing a first draft of their essays. They should be reminded to follow the outline provided on the Persuasive Writing website and to refer to the classroom charts as needed.

4. When one or two students have completed their first drafts, model a peer conference. Distribute copies of the “Conferencing with a Peer” handout. Engage in a conference with one of the students to show how the conversation might take place using the handout as a guide. If a particular component of the persuasive essay is missing, model how suggestions can be offered. As students complete their first drafts, they can be paired for peer review and conferencing.

5. Students should continue with the writing process as they work through editing and revising their first draft.

6. Students can then meet with a different peer for additional feedback using the “Conferencing with a Peer” handout, if time allows.

7. Briefly review the criteria for evaluation of the essays using the “Persuasive Essay Rubric.” Establish a final due date for the essays to be submitted.

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Independent Work

Students should complete their revisions and prepare a final draft of their persuasive essays to be submitted on the established due date. In addition, students should self-assess their essays using the “Persuasive Essay Rubric.” Finished essays should be submitted, along with the ”Conferencing with a Peer” handouts, the self-assessment rubrics, the persuasion map printouts, and any notes or information printed off the Internet that was used to support the writing.

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  • Have students share their essays with the class and discuss or debate the topics. Students can also examine the essays to see which ones do the best job of persuading the audience and why.

  • Encourage students to write their essays in the form of a letter and send them to a particular person or organization that has an interest in the specified topic. For example, it may be appropriate to send letters to politicians, corporations, the President, etc. Students can use the interactive Letter Generator to compose their letters.

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  • The “Conferencing with a Peer” handouts should clearly show that the writer followed the persuasive essay format. If any elements were missing from the conference sheet, the final draft should reflect that revisions were made to incorporate comments and suggestions from the peer conferencing session.

  • The “Persuasive Essay Rubric” can be used as a guide to determine whether the student understands all the elements of writing a persuasive essay. Weak areas should be discussed with each individual student for future writing pieces. Strong areas should be reinforced and commended. Individual conferences between the teacher and student would allow for discussion of particular strengths and weaknesses, as well as future goals for the student as a writer.

  • Evaluate the completed persuasive essay to assess each student’s ability to compose a thesis statement and to use appropriate language and voice in the essay. Does the essay include an introduction, body, and conclusion? Does it include supporting information to support the student’s stance in the essay?

  • Engage students in thinking about how they envision they will be able to use this style of writing in the future. Do they feel this skill will benefit them and in what ways? (This reflection can be completed during individual conferencing, through journal writing, or added to the self-assessment rubric.)

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