Like many transitional readers, some of my fourth graders have trouble with the difference between persuasive text and informational text. We're making a crucial transition from text with a lot of graphics and features to texts with fewer helpful aids.
And, in a way, I can see their problems. Most informational text does have an element of persuasion--the author is saying, "Listen to me, believe me, I know what I'm talking about." By the same token, most persuasive text also does include some information. It's no wonder that kids are having problems!
And these problems lead to the kids being, well, easily led. Maybe they're not as impressionable as my five year old, who wants to purchase everything on every commercial. (I gave in and bought the Pillow Pet, but I refuse to get the toothpaste dispenser...despite his pleas!) But some students still have trouble recognizing when someone is trying to persuade them.
I decided that students needed to experience much more persuasive text...and learn how to be more skeptical. To direct their thinking, I shared 5 questions for them to ask of persuasive text.
1. What is this text trying to persuade me to do?
2. Who is the speaker? Is it different from the author?
3. Why is the speaker/author trying to persuade me? What's in it for them?
4. Does it feel like the speaker is using unfair tricks? (Putting other people down, making me feel bad about something, making me feel like this will make me popular)
5. Do I believe in what the speaker is trying to say?
We had fun taking apart an advertisement, an essay that I pulled from a writing book, and even Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. They felt very grown-up and sophisticated as they used these questions...and were able to find a lot of unfair tricks.
Hopefully, this immersion in persuasive text will help students to be able to recognize it more easily--and resist it if necessary!