6th Grade - Write Persuasive Compositions

Write persuasive compositions
Write persuasive compositions: Anticipate and address reader concerns and counterarguments.
In a persuasive composition, be aware of the “other side” to your argument and address it directly in order to refute it.

Sample Problems


What is the purpose of a persuasive composition? (to persuade the reader to agree with your position)


Will all readers automatically agree with your position? (No)


Why might a reader not agree with your position? (he or she may have concerns, biases, or beliefs different to yours)


What is a counterargument? (argument for the other side)


Should you address your reader’s possible counterarguments directly? (yes, you should mention possible concerns and other perspectives)


Why is it important to address your reader’s concerns and counterarguments? (So the reader knows that you can see another side to your issue but still believe that yours is correct)

Learning Tips


Offering a Counterargument (adapted from “Organizing Your Argument” at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/)

Concerned with asserting the importance of their own claims, writers sometimes overlook the importance of considering the views of the opposition within their own arguments.

Countering opposing claims shows the audience that you have carefully considered multiple perspectives on the issue and have reached an educated decision.

If you find that you could not effectively “shoot down” a counterargument, you may need to reevaluate your own opinions and claims about the argument.


Counterarguments may be located at various locations within your body paragraphs. They should NOT be included in your introductory paragraph.

You may choose to:

-build each of your main points as a contrast to oppositional claims.

-offer a counterargument after you have articulated your main claims.


Counterarguing effectively:

-Consider your audience when you offer your counterargument.

-Mildly agreeing with some of your opposition’s concerns can demonstrate respect for their opinions.

-Remain tactful yet firm.

-Using rude or deprecating language can cause your audience to reject your position without carefully considering your claims.


Example: Let’s say you are writing an essay in favor of removing students with behavior problems from the regular classroom and putting them all in one special class. What would be some concerns and counterarguments a reader might have?

(e.g. it is unfair to separate “troublemakers” from better-behaved students; troublemakers will not have a chance to be positively influenced; troublemakers will get in more trouble from additional negative influences; there will always be another troublemaker to take the place of one who was taken out)


Now write a statement that mildly agrees with one of these concerns.

(e.g. “It is easy to see how some people might think that troublemakers would only get into more trouble if they were separated from better influences.”


Now write a statement that goes back to your position and respectfully refutes this concern.

(e.g. “However, with the right teacher and classroom environment, this class of troubled students could be transformed into model students and eventually put back into the regular school community.”)


Remember, keep a respectful tone and do not insult your reader for disagreeing with you! For example, do not write “only an idiot would keep these losers in a classroom with regular students.”)

Extra Help Problems


Read the student essay “Marine Animals in Captivity” (http://teacher.scholastic.com/dolphin/conwin2.htm). Trace the author’s position, arguments, and counterarguments. How did she “shoot down” the opposing side?


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: We need higher taxes in California.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: We should raise the driving age to 18.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: Teachers should be paid twice as much as they are.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: The price of gas should be raised to $10 a gallon to protect the environment.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: Children should be allowed no more than 1 hour of TV watching per day.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: Homework should be banned.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: extracurricular classes such as P.E. and art should be eliminated until U.S. test scores improve.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: standardized testing should be eliminated.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: boys and girls should attend separate schools.


Create and “shoot down” a counterargument for this position: there should not be graduation ceremonies for elementary or middle school. 


Utilize the Three Argumentative Appeals, Aristotle’s methods of convincing:  Reason (logos), Ethics (ethos) or Emotion (pathos)

  1. Reason (logos) - support your general claims with concrete, specific data.

    1. Reason which begins with specifics and moves toward a generalization is inductiveExample:  Several clubs have reported difficulty completing their business during lunch period.  This proves that lunch periods should be longer.

    2. Reason which starts with a general observation and moves to specifics is deductive.  Example:  When people hurry, inefficiency and poor communication are the results.  Under current conditions clubs must hurry at lunch time meetings.  Therefore, lunch period should be lengthened to allow for better club meetings.

    3. Use two or three different strong reasons to support your argument.

      1. Support your reasons with evidence.

      2. Expert opinions or quotations

      3. Definitions - statement of meaning of word or phrase

      4. Statistics - offer scientific support

      5. Examples - powerful illustrations

      6. Anecdote - incident, often based on writer's personal experiences

      7. Emotional appeals - to provide support for reasons, carefully chosen loaded words, carrying positive or negative connotations, sway readers' emotions

      8. Present opposition - and give reasons and evidence to prove the opposition wrong

      9. Conclude with call to action - urge the reader to do something

  2. Ethics (ethos) - convince your readers that you are fair, honest, and well informed.  They will then trust your values and intentions.

    1. Avoid over-use of negatively charged loaded words.

  3. Emotion (pathos) - a carefully reasoned argument will be strengthened by an emotional appeal.

    1. Use description or narrate an example, often from your own experience.

    2. Your point of view is demonstrated in an emotional appeal, and is important to the reader.

Careful word choice presents your position accurately.


Use reason, ethics, and emotion to write an essay on one of the following topics (or another of your choice):


Your parents have told you that you are not allowed to associate with your best friend, Alice, anymore because her father has tested positive for the AIDS virus. Compose a logical argument, persuading your parents to let you keep your friend. Give reasons to support your argument and address at least two concerns/counterarguments.


Due to littering on campus, your principal has decided to close the student store. Compose a logical argument persuading him to reopen the store. Give reasons to support your argument and address at least two concerns/counterarguments.

Copyright ©2009 Big Purple Hippos, LLC