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Lesson Plan

Vote for Me! Developing, Writing, and Evaluating Persuasive Speeches

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Grades 4 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sarah Dennis-Shaw

Avon, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: The Characteristics of a Strong Speech

Session 2: Persuasive Writing

Session 3: Effective Speech Delivery

Session 4 Convincing Their Classmates


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Develop critical thinking skills by learning about the characteristics of an effective speech, both how it is written and how it is delivered, and then applying these criteria to sample speeches

  • Formulate an argument, including the use of examples to support a thesis, using an online tool that helps them organize their ideas

  • Develop skills in persuasive writing and oral delivery by writing a one-minute persuasive speech and presenting it to a small group of their peers

  • Interpret and evaluate persuasive arguments using a rubric to assess their peers' speeches

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Session 1: The Characteristics of a Strong Speech

1. Introduce the concept of speechwriting to students. Ask them to brainstorm a time when they have heard someone give a speech (e.g., school assembly, presidential or political speeches) Talk about why people make speeches. Specifically discuss campaign speeches and their purpose (i.e., to try to convince or persuade people to vote for or support a particular candidate).

2. Tell students that they are going to do two things. Pretending that they are running for president, they will write a campaign speech. They will also listen to each other's speeches and evaluate them.

3. Using either individual computers, or one demonstration computer with a projection screen, go to Speechwriting. Read aloud (or play the audio for) the homepage and the "Write It" page. In addition, show students the "Tips From the Pros" page.

4. Discuss with students what you have read and talk about the characteristics of an effective speech.

5. Pass out the Persuasive Speech Rubric and explain that students will be using these characteristics to evaluate each other's speeches. Define the word rubric (in this case it is a chart that helps classify and evaluate information). Quickly review the five areas that they will evaluate and explain the four-point scale. You may want to go over some of the more complicated terms on the rubric, such as what is meant by expressive speech.

6. Tell students that you are going to read a speech and that they will then use the rubric together to evaluate the speech. Tell them that they should take notes on the rubric while you are giving the speech because they will be turning it in at the end of the session.

7. Read John F. Kennedy's Announcement of Candidacy 1/2/60 aloud (or, if you have chosen to write your own or selected another speech, read that aloud). When you are finished, go over each category on the rubric and discuss what students thought of it and what rating it should receive. Ask them to indicate their ratings on their sheets, along with a few short reasons why they selected that particular rating. Collect the rubrics at the end of the session.
Some things to consider pointing out
  • Kennedy's announcement wasn't a surprise-he was nearly nominated for vice-president in 1956. He had worked hard to make sure that he had national recognition although he was a senator from Massachusetts at the time.

  • There had not been a president from the Democratic Party since 1952. He is therefore making a case not only for himself as a candidate, but also for the Democratic Party as one that can win.

  • His speech is blunt and direct, especially at the beginning and end. You might ask students if they think this strategy is effective. (It is a somewhat different approach than the Speechwriting website tells them to use.)

  • He indicates very clearly what he plans to do if elected. You might see if students can remember any of these goals, using this information to discuss the importance of clarity and concision in their own speeches.

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Session 2: Persuasive Writing

1. Distribute the Persuasive Speech Checklist and briefly discuss it with students, telling them they should refer to it as they are writing their speeches to make sure they are on the right track.

2. Help students access the Persuasion Map and go over instructions for using the map. If you have created a sample map, pass it out to the students and review. Have students enter their names and topics on the opening screen. Complete the first section ("Goal or Thesis") as a class. The goal or thesis is the stance that students are taking on the issue. Everyone's goal or thesis should be "To persuade others in my class to vote for me for president." Students should then brainstorm three reasons to support their stance, and come up with facts and examples to support each reason.

Tell students that "Tips from the Pros" on the Speechwriting website suggested covering only one or two major ideas, so they may fill in only one or two reasons on their maps for each piece of evidence (there is space for three reasons).

3. Allow students time to complete their Persuasion Maps. You may want to have the Speechwriting site available on one computer for students to review if they need a refresher. Remind students to print their maps before exiting.

4. When students complete their maps, they should use the rest of the time to start writing their speeches using their maps and the Persuasive Speech Checklist as guides.

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Session 3: Effective Speech Delivery

1. Students should spend the first half of the session working on their speeches. After about 25 minutes, tell them that if they have not completed their speeches, they should do so during their free time or for homework.

2. Access Speechwriting. Read aloud (or play the audio) for the section entitled "Say It" and talk to students about the importance of rehearsing their speeches. Spend some time reviewing how to mark up a speech. You might want to mark up part of the speech you delivered, pass it out to the class, and then demonstrate how the marks show you how to read the speech.

3. Give students time to rehearse their speeches (even if they are not quite complete) and encourage them to mark it up as described on the Speechwriting website. Depending on the needs and abilities of your class, you may want to have students practice alone or with a partner. Inform students that they will be presenting their speeches to a small group and encourage them to practice at home that evening.

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Session 4 Convincing Their Classmates

1. Divide the class into small groups of four to five students. If this is a new activity for them, explain the expectations-they will speak quietly, demonstrate respect for other speakers by listening carefully, and not comment until the speaker is finished. Appoint one student to be the group manager; he or she will contact the teacher if there are any problems following these procedures.

2. While each group member is giving his or her speech, one other member will be assessing the speech using the Persuasive Speech Rubric. A different group member should complete the rubric for each speech. Make sure each student is clear on who will be completing the rubric for whom (you might want to prepare a list in advance). The other members of the group will be listening carefully and should be prepared to give verbal feedback.

3. Allow students time to present their speeches to their small group. Give the group a few minutes to discuss each speech before moving on to the next one.

4. When the speeches are complete, bring the class together to discuss them. Questions to consider include: What made a particular speech more effective than another? What did they learn? Who would they vote for from their group and why? Collect the rubrics at the end of the class.

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  • Explore the "Record It" section on the Speechwriting website. Listen to the student speeches and discuss and evaluate them using the Persuasive Speech Rubric. You can also have students record their speeches for the site.

  • View and discuss some actual campaign speeches and compare them to the students' speeches.
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    • Observe student participation in the initial discussions about what constitutes an effective speech. Collect the Persuasive Speech Rubrics from the first session's discussion and review them to make sure students are correctly applying the criteria to the sample speech. If you observe some consistent misconceptions, address these at the beginning of Session 2.

    • Review each student's Persuasion Map and speech and offer him or her feedback using the Persuasive Speech Rubric.

    • Observe students both when they are practicing their speeches and while they are working in their groups. Review the completed Persuasive Speech Rubrics to determine that they understand how to apply the criteria to evaluate a persuasive speech.

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