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A Persuasive Writing Lesson Inspired by Humor
this writing across the curriculum assignment inspires voice from your students

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A November Lesson:

Thanksgiving
Turkey Protests

showing persuasive skills by giving voice to something that doesn't wish to be eaten

This writing lesson was created by NNWP Consultant Barbara Surritte-Barker during the NNWP's Persuasive Writing Inservice Class for Teachers. Barbara is an amazing middle school teacher from Sparks, Nevada.

A book to encourage more humor in the classroom:

Author and longtime friend of WritingFix, Barry Lane, co-wrote the book that inspired this on-line lesson: Why We Must Run With Scissors: Voice Lesson in Persuasive Writing. In Northern Nevada, we purchase this text for our inservice participants who submit original lessons for the WritingFix website. Barry's co-author--Gretchen Bernabei--is also an accomplished writer of books for imprving the teaching of writing.

Hey all you teachers using this lesson this Thanksgiving: We want to see your students' best work inspired by this prompt and mentor text! You can now post up to three of your students' protest stories at our ning! Celebrate your students' revised and polished writing by sharing it with the world! Believe us when we say this is a powerful way to motivate your student writers to take their writing through the entire writing process!

Click here to find our posting page for this fun writing lesson!


This lesson has been differentiated for learners with a range of skills, taking into account the Seven Elements of a Crafted Writing Lesson.

A Quick Lesson Overview:

A note from Barbara, this lesson's creator: "In my classroom, I have found that the power of persuasion is a life skill. Children use it all the time to outwit their parents, teachers or any other adult essentially obstructing their goal or reward. I was reminded of this recently when talking to a parent about their child and his behavior in my class. Failing Language Arts, this child was looking at spending his summer in summer school. When inquiring as to why he didn’t attend summer school the previous summer, he replied, ' I weaseled my way out of it.' Hmmm… I got to thinking, what a great classroom activity. A writing prompt that captured (at least attempted to capture) the many conniving, sneaky, and clever ways children weasel their way out of things. The mentor text, My Lucky Day, is an example of how the tools of a persuasive argument can be sneaky, sly, or as my students would say, a little sketchy.



Summary of this Lesson's Mentor Text:

In the picture book, My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza, a hungry and naïve fox is surprised to find his dinner knocking at his door. Could this be his lucky day? Unfortunately, an intelligent and somewhat sly pig has other ideas. Using the power of persuasion, and a keenness for trickery, the pig outwits the fox and ultimately ends up clean, fat and happy. The fox, exhausted by the persuasive suggestions of the pig, collapses and is unable to “roast” his guest. A formidable opponent, intelligence clearly wins over stupidity, or an empty stomach in this case.

Getting Students to Think about Persuasion:

Give students two copies of this vocabulary graphic organizer and complete one on each of the following words: persuade and sly. This is a graphic organizer that uses as the core, the Frayer Model with a few additions that I have found, helps students to better “own” the word. Some of the not so obvious boxes to be filled out:

  • Box 1: teacher-provided definition:
    • persuade (verb) To succeed in making someone do or believe something by giving the person good reasons.
    • sly (adjective) Crafty, cunning, and secretive.
  • Box 2: Example – Use the word in a child friendly sentence. Manny tried to persuade his mother to buy him the puppy.
  • Box 3: Synonyms – List at least five examples
  • Box 4: Explanation-In your own words, write an explanation of the word using only synonyms. Or, how would you explain this word to an elementary student? Manny tried to convince his mother that he needed the new puppy.
  • Box 5: Non-examples – What is persuasion not? It is not obstinate, willful, or headstrong.
  • Box 6: Antonyms: List at least five examples.
  • Box 7: Mentor Text: List the title and author that goes with the lesson you're teaching,
  • Box 8: Mentor Text Word Bank – List other words from the story students might be interested in either using in their own story or looking up at a later time. Since this activity will be completed prior to the whole group read, be sure to reference back to this section once the story has been completed.
  • Box 9: Non-linguistic Representation...no words...symbols are okay.
  • Box 10: Question and Answer – Create a question with the vocabulary word as the answer. For example, “When taking a family vacation, how do you convince your parents that you should sit in the front sit?”
  • Box 11: Associations-Discuss personal examples of a time that your students persuaded someone or were persuaded.

Trait/Skill Focus:

In the very best writing lessons, the teacher has pre-determined a trait-based skill that the students all need to show growth with as part of the lesson's objective. For students who can handle more than one trait at a time, the teacher has pre-determined additional skills to focus those students on while they go through the writing process. Here are this lesson's trait skills:

  • Voice - all students will write a story about a turkey convincing people not to eat him on Thanksgiving, thinking carefully about perspective and vocabulary that is convincing as they write.
  • Idea Development - all students will select and develop good arguments that will be used by their stories' characters. Stronger writers will be expected to craft even stronger, well-developed arguments.

Using the Mentor Text Skillfully:

A note from Barbara, this lesson's creator: : Whenever I read a mentor text to the class, especially a picture book, I always like to type it up and Xerox it for my students. I just feel like the students can really manipulate the story when they’re holding it in their hands. With their copy in hand, I provide students with several options to enjoy this whole group read. Students can follow along whole group, looking at the pictures as I wander around the room, or students can follow along with their own personal copy."

Paying close attention to the details of the illustrations only supports and enhances this mentor text. The fox’s facial expressions, with each request of the pig, clearly identify his range of emotions. From sheer delight, to the final picture on the back cover, the fox is obviously reckoning with his gullibility.

After reading the piece whole group, have students complete this compare and contrast graphic organizer. Guide your students to focus on the motivation of each of the characters and pay close attention to the voice of each character. For the pig, it’s obvious through his written tone, for the fox, the illustrations guide the audience. Record details from your conversation.

Next outline the book, My Lucky Day, to identify the strategy of the pig. Exactly what tactics did the pig use to manipulate the fox? This should lead to the conversation starter: "So it's Thanksgiving...What sly tactics do you think a turkey would use to avoid becoming Thanksgiving dinner?"

 


Student and/or Teacher Models of the Writing:

From Barbara: "I’ve also included a copy of a newspaper article that highlights an actual fifth grade classroom from Lodi, California, that protested eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day." This article might inspire your students with energy as they prepare to write their own original stories.

Energy might also be gained from reading/discussing student samples from this lesson. When students read and discuss these stories, be sure they focus on the models' voice and idea development.

Samples from Barbara's Classroom

The Tale of the Clever Turkey
by Gurpreeti, seventh grade writer

One day, a hungry hunter was preparing for Thanksgiving Day. He sat in his rocking chair, polishing his gun, whene was startled by a knock and a shout at the door. “Yo chicken, what’s crackin’?”

“Chicken?” the hunter thought. “Man, if there were any chickens here, I’d have eaten them already!” When he opened the door, there stood a yummy-tastic, plump turkey.

“Oh dang!” squawked the turkey. “Wrong house!”

“Ooh danngg!” replied the hunter. “You’re just in time.” He grabbed the turkey by the neck and hauled him inside. “My lucky day! I mean, how often does a Thanksgiving dinner come knocking at the door?”

The turkey squawked some more. “Let me go!”

“Sorry dude," the hunter replied. “This isn’t just any dinner. It’s my Thanksgiving feast! Now get in this oven!”

It seemed useless to struggle. “Okay, okay,” sighed the turkey. “I will, but there’s just one thing.”

“What?” growled the hunter.

“Well, I’m a turkey, you see. I play in dirt and run around all day. I am kinda filthy. Shouldn’t you wash me first?”

So the hunter worked hard to start up the shower to let the turkey wash himself. “Okay, now hop in the oven,” the hunter said, wiping some sweat from his head.

“Well, there’s just one more thing,” said the turkey.

“What now?” the hunter replied, wiping his forehead.

“Well, you see, I’m not a big as my other friends. You shall need to fatten me up.”

So the hunter hopped to his feet, working hard to make some stuffing for the turkey to eat, and the turkey gobbled it down. “Okay now, get in this oven!”

“There’s just one last thing,” said the turkey.

“What? What?”

“My nails and beak are awfully long. You should trim them first.”

The turkey did have a point, so the hunter got out his wife’s grooming kit and began to groom.

“This is like being at a spa!” laughed the turkey, closing his eyes. “Keep trimming.” After a minute, he said, “Where did that hunter go?” The turkey looked and looked. There the hunter was back in his rocking chair, sleeping from exhaustion!

So, the turkey opened the door and left. “Who shall I outsmart next?” wondered the turkey.

(Click here to view/print Gurpreeti and two of her classmates' stories.)

Use this lesson? If you use this lesson with students in grades not represented on this page, be sure to contact us if you have an excellent and inspirational sample from your classroom. If we end up publishing your students' work at WritingFix, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of the NNWP Publications for your classroom. Samples can be sent to publish@writingfix.com.


Helping Students Choose Topics Well:

Students will be writing an original story inspired by My Lucky Day. In students' stories, they will be having a turkey (instead of the pig) convince a human (instead of a fox) not to eat him this year at Thanksgiving.

Brainstorm arguments a turkey might make to convince a human being not to eat him at Thanksgiving this year. Here are some ideas that get Barabara's students started with their own original ideas to choose from for their stories.

  • Some turkeys are too good looking to eat, and others are too skinny
  • Some turkeys might be missed too much by their families
  • The swine flu scare
  • Alternative foods taste better – pig, chicken, or vegan - and turkey might be unhealthy to humas
  • Turkey meat is too dry
  • You might not have a big enough pan to cook a turkey

Once you’ve created a class brainstorm of reasons and arguments, hand out the graphic organizer below.


Using the Graphic Organizer:

Use this piece as a whole group read to support the brainstorming process. Once you’ve completed the brainstorm, use this graphic organizer to outline your ideas.

  • Carefully consider who the antagonist might be in this story.
  • Do you understand the perspective of the turkey? Of your second character?
  • Why is it so important that he/she not be eaten on Thanksgiving Day?
  • What persuasive words or phrases might the turkey use?
  • Have students discuss character roles, point of view (will students write from the perspective of the turkey or the other character?).
  • How will students develop their story?


Click here to open/print this one-page graphic organizer.


Student Talk Throughout the Writing Process:

It is critical for students to talk to each other throughout the writing process. When students hear how other students are thinking about a writing assignment, all students benefit.

In this writing lesson, purposeful conversations should happen:

  • as they discuss the mentor text;
  • as they look for the focus trait/skills in the student models;
  • as they make choices for their characters' arguments;
  • as they fill in their graphic organizers. As they finish each row, have them share their ideas with a different partner.

In addition, students can use this list of interesting persuasive phrases to talk about dialogue they might insert into their rough drafts and revised second drafts.


Revision Suggestions:

Revision is a very important step during a skill-based writing lesson. When students revisit and think deeply about the lesson's focus trait/skill after a rough draft has been completed, they are more likely to remember strategies for using that skill the next time they are asked to write. We often gloss over the step of revision when writing lessons go longer than they were supposed to; make certain to find time to include real revision with this lesson.

Attach the following revision post-its to your students' drafts to help them determine skill-based goals for their stories' revision:


Print on yellow paper or yellow Post-it notes.

Print on green paper or green Post-it notes.

Have students work cooperatively peer editing and revising their work. We use highlighters in our classroom to identify suggested corrections, misspellings or convention errors. Discussing the traits of idea development and voice, have students rank each others papers according to the trait-specific Post-Its.


Publishing Suggestions:

Posting revised and edited stories on bulletin boards, selecting “sparkler” stories to share during morning announcements, or providing an opportunity during class for students to share stories aloud are just some of the ways you can publish their work. Our school is close enough to an elementary school, where I’ve invited them to come over and hear our stories during their lunch time. The kids are looking forward to the visit and the elementary students are excited to come to the “big school”. Gobble! Gobble!

We also invite teachers from all over the United States to post their students' best writing to this lesson at this lesson's posting blog. Featuring your students' work online is a fabulous motivator!

Although Barbara wrote this lesson for her middle school students, when she posted it on-line, it was adapted and used by elementary teachers. Below, you can enjoy some of those teachers' student samples. If you use this lesson, we hope you'll consider sharing some of your writers' final drafts!

A Turkey Speaks
from Jayden, second grade writer

Please don't choose me for your Thanksgiving table. My meat tastes like wolf hair. I am really special because I have a silver waddle.

I have many responsibilities in my family. My mother is in the hospital and I have to take care of my baby sister. My Auntie is also having a baby, but not too soon. I have to plan the baby shower.

Instead of having Thanksgiving, you can celebrate Turkey Day. Yes Turkey Day, the day of all days when everyone has to show appreciation to every single turkey there is.

How about starting with eating stuffing?

Please...Don't Eat Me
by Campbell, third grade writer

The day before Thanksgiving a farmer was chasing me. Frankly, I can't understand why everyone has to do the same thing every year. What happened to variety? Eating turkey is so boring.

"Please," I begged, "I am a bad tasting turkey."

"Why, what's wrong with you?" asked the farmer.

"Once I caught on fire. I used to live with Mrs. Tooblah. Once she had a fire going in her fireplace and her evil child, Condilo, threw me in. Also, I have broken both of my wings."

"And how did you do that?" said the farmer.

"I got run over by a car."

"So your point is...?" asked the farmer.

"Why settle for tukey when you can have stuffing or maybe even chicken?" I suggested. "I am sure you'll save money too." Then I made the cutest face I could and the farmer exclaimed, "FINE!"

Eat Chicken!
by Annika, third grade writer

Please don't eat me for many reasons.

First, I smell like skunk. I walked on a skunk's tail and it sprayed at me. Next, I have no feathers. Children plucked my feathers off and used them as Native American feathers for their headdresses.

You should eat Chicken, corn, pudding, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. You should eat it because it is healthy and that's a promise! And you won't be disappointed. All you have to do is take a bite of chicken and everything will change!

Now farmer, can I go take a bath?

Another Lucky Day
by Tayden, third grader

One day a bear was at his house sharpening his claws when he heard a knock on the door. “Mr. Rabbit, are you home?”

The bear thought, “If there were rabbits in here, I would have already eaten them.” Mr. Bear opened the door and saw a yummy looking squirrel.

“Yikes!” yelled the squirrel. “I’ll just go.”

“Oh no you aren’t!” said the bear. The bear picked up the squirrel. “Now get in the oven, now!”

“OK,” said the squirrel, “but shouldn’t you give me a bath? I am pretty gross.”

“He is pretty gross,” said the bear. So the bear ran to the lake, brought back the water, boiled the water and got some bubbles.

“You’re a terrific scrubber,” said the squirrel.

“OK,” said the bear, “now get in the oven.”

“OK,” said the squirrel, “but…”

“But what?” asked the bear.

“Shouldn’t you feed me? I am super small. You want a big meal, right?”

“I do like big meals,” said the bear. So the bear caught a turkey and killed it. Then he ran to the market and bought the rest of the thanksgiving meal.

“You’re a terrific cook,” said the squirrel.

“OK, now get in the oven,” said the bear.

“OK,” said the squirrel, “but…”

“What?! What?!” growled the bear.

“I’m pretty stiff. I could really use a massage. You like tender meat, right?”

“I do like tender meat.” So the bear pushed and pulled and squeezed.

“You’re a terrific rubber,” said squirrel.

Mr. Bear was so tired. “OK, now GET IN THE OVEN!”

“OK,” said the squirrel, “but…”

“BUT WHAT?” shouted the bear.

“Shouldn’t you give me a haircut? I am pretty hairy.”

“He is pretty hairy,” said the bear. So he snipped and snipped.

“Mr. Bear, are you there?” asked the squirrel.

The bear had fallen asleep on the ground.

So the cleanest, fattest, softest, most stylish squirrel ran home and opened his address book. “Mr. Coyote, watch out,” said the squirrel.

My Lucky Day!
by Jaynee, third grader

One day, a hungry spider was about to go get himself dinner. Then he got startled by a knock on the door.

“Hey, hey ladybug, what’s doin?”

The spider thought to himself, “A ladybug? If a ladybug lived here, I would have eaten it already. This must be my lucky day!”

The spider got up and opened the door. The cricket who had knocked tried to run away, but the spider quickly grabbed him and brought him in the house.

Next he said, “Hop in this pot so I can cook you.”

“Ok, ok, ok,” said the cricket, “but first, shouldn’t you give me dinner? I am on the skinny side.”

“You are on the skinny side,” said the spider. So the spider got busy and made cookies, brownies. But he needed a salad so he ran to the store, got a salad, ran back home and made the salad. ”Ok, now hop in this pot so I can eat you.”

“Alright, but shouldn’t you give me a bath? I’m very filthy.”

“You are pretty filthy,” said Mr. Spider. So the spider rushed upstairs, ran the bath, poured some bubbles and threw in a rubber duck. Then he ran downstairs and carried the cricket upstairs into the bath. When the cricket was clean, they went back downstairs and the spider once again said, “Hop in this pot.”

“Ok,” said the cricket, “but…”

“What, what, what?”

“Shouldn’t you massage me first? My skin is very rough.”

“You have a point,” said the spider. So he rubbed and pushed and pounded.

The cricket said, “Just a little to the left, just a little to the right.”

But the spider was no longer there. He had passed out.

The cricket ran home, saying, ”What a dinner! What a bath! What a massage! This must be my lucky day!”


WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  You can post up to three of your students' monologues at our posting page for this lesson.



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