Error message

The spam filter installed on this site is currently unavailable. Per site policy, we are unable to accept new submissions until that problem is resolved. Please try resubmitting the form in a couple of minutes.

Persuasion Across Time and Space

This unit shows instructional approaches that are likely to help ELLs meet new standards in English Language Arts. The lessons address potent literacy goals and build on students’ background knowledge and linguistic resources. Built around a set of famous persuasive speeches, the unit supports students in reading a range of complex texts. It invites them to write and speak in a variety of ways and for different audiences and purposes. To learn more, see the lessons below and read our Guidelines for ELA Instructional Materials Development and Frequently Asked Questions.

Persuasion Across Time and Space: Analyzing and Producing Complex Texts
Unit Introduction

The goal of this unit is to provide exemplars illustrating how English Language Arts Common Core Standards in Reading Informational Text and Writing Arguments can be used to deepen and accelerate the learning and instruction of English Language Learners (ELLs), especially at the middle school level. It is based on the notion that ELLs develop conceptual and academic understandings as well as the linguistic resources to express them simultaneously, through participation in rigorous activity that is well scaffolded. Practices focus student attention and activity on key concepts--which are presented and discussed in their interrelatedness--with invitations for students to engage in higher order thinking throughout. These practices, and the intentional support offered to students throughout the unit, are designed to constitute an apprenticeship for students that over time builds their agency and autonomy.

In planning this unit, then, our goal was not only to make a high-quality teaching resource, but to demonstrate practices of broader application in the education of ELLs. This introductory section provides an overview for the entire unit, discusses the rationale for the instructional approach, and provides a "pre-assessment" for students to complete before the unit begins. For more on how this unit was developed, as well as guidelines for developing other instructional materials for ELLs, see our Guidelines for ELA Instructional Material Development and Frequently Asked Questions. Additional documents will be posted in the weeks to come.

Check out "Kid President" and his persuasive speech, available on TedEx and Youtube:
Another great example of a persuasive speech by James Baldwin, "A Talk to Teachers." Text available here:
This is a wonderful unit! Thank you for creating and sharing it.
Thank you for this excellent unit that indeed helps students with 21st century skills! Please let me know if there are examples of classroom lessons to view. I am eager to see students interact as teachers facilitate the learning process.
I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your website. It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Excellent work! ffdgedg
Interesting TedEd Talk about the Battle of Gettysburg using media (maps, visuals, and lecture), 9 min long video clip:
I see these lessons are designed for seventh and eighth grade intermediate level ELLs. Might they also be appropriate for HS intermediate-advanced level ELLs?

In the first lesson in this unit, students are introduced to the use of persuasion in visual, print, and multimodal advertisements. Many advertisements, particularly video, embed persuasive techniques in the familiar genre of narrative first to inform, engage, and interest readers and viewers emotionally, and then to persuade them to take some form of action. This action may be to buy a product, sign a petition, attend an event, or change their behavior. Sometimes the purpose is to raise awareness of an issue –the action or response required is not always made explicit. This lesson explores how the use of persuasive techniques within the narrative of advertisements accomplishes these goals.

Students are introduced to a number of textual analysis standards and persuasive techniques that will be developed and deepened throughout the unit. As they analyze multimodal texts, students examine the author’s point of view and purpose, and the intended effect on readers by analyzing modality, word meaning and nuances. They determine the central ideas of text and cite specific evidence to support their analysis. At the end of the lesson, students reflect on what they have learned about persuasive techniques before applying and deepening their understanding of persuasion as they read complex texts.

Lesson PDF
I'm really looking forward to using these materials. The link to the Dirty Water video did not work for me. I found the video at and also with a different soundtrack on YouTube.
Students enjoyed watching the videos-the water video spurred many emotions within our students (all ell 7th and 8th graders at dual language cps school). Watching the video without sound and then with sound was brilliant. Students were very engaged, paying close attention as we watched with a purpose. Instead of kids cutting out their own ads, I grabbed as many magazines, cut and pasted as many ads as I could, out of the magazines. I pasted them into folders. I handed out 3 folders to each dyad and kids then chose which ad they would analyze. This helped with saving time.
I was surprised to hear the amount of talk and debate students had on their own after watching the DOVE ad on beauty. We did use the talk, "what is the author's purpose?" "What is the author's bias?" as we watched these ads. Kids established arguments based on evidence from the ads.
With a class of intermediate HS ESL students, I was sad to find the Dirty Water Video was Youtube. My school district blocks it. So that was a disappointing class. Having used software to convert it, I could show it. Amazing indeed without sound and then with. Luckily Dove Evolution is available at My students responses to the message of the video ranged from the vapid "It shows how to make women beautiful" to "It communicates why media sets an impossible standard for beauty" to "It creates an impossible standard for women."
Thank you so much for this beautiful unit. I teach 8th grade Language Arts in Oxnard, CA and we worked through Lesson 1 last week. The lessons were incredibly thoughtful and though provoking. I absolutely loved the social/environmental justice aspects. I was surprised to discover holes in student understanding that I did not even know existed. I feel like I am learning right along with my students!
The only Can you live with dirty water video I can find is one with water sounds not lyrics for the soundtrack. I've tried suggested links and done my own search.

In the second lesson students further their understanding and analysis of persuasive techniques as they engage in close reading of the Gettysburg Address. They first build their schema about the time, place, and political context of Lincoln’s famous speech through the reading of informational text. As students read the Gettysburg Address, they have multiple opportunities to examine and interact with the text in a number of ways, from the macro understanding of Lincoln’s message, to the micro word-level examination. Students examine the text to determine how cohesive and coherence ties work together to create meaning. The culminating Performance Task invites students to translate the Gettysburg Address into modern English, helping students to synthesize their understanding of what Lincoln’s message was.

Lesson PDF
This unit is wonderful; I love the strategies used to engage students in a historical text. I question the suggested pacing of this unit, however, as it is expected, for example, that students would be able to read 3 texts and then examine photos all in one day. That's quite a bit to cram into 1 day!
We are delighted by your reaction to the unit, Mark. We understand that the timing for Lesson 2 may appear to be tight, however, remember that one of our premises is that students do not learn practices –and the concepts, processes, and language associated with them- once. The process of learning evolves over time, moving students from narrower and incomplete understandings into increasingly deeper and more complete ones. Teachers can feel fine if the ideas highlighted in the focus for the readings, Handout 5, Background Reading Focus Chart, are accomplished. This activity is intended to be conducted as a jigsaw reading in its medium level of scaffolding. In this case, each student reads only one reading, discusses it with his expert group, and then goes back and reports to the base group. The activity could take about half an hour, and be followed by work with the photographs, which would once again be group work where each team selects only one picture to discuss.
I am struck by the narrow selection of text chosen for the unit given the vast availability of challenging complex texts that cross the globe. It seems that stepping away from the lean canon of common core text exemplars would offer a far better learning stretch for teacher and students alike. If we are to expect our students to think and learn with depth and breadth, so should we expect ourselves to do the same. While I am thrilled to see that ELLs are gaining significance in consideration for educational research, I share a concern that many ESL teachers have as to how the Common core standards are being applied to students who are anything but standard
I really appreciate the choice of The Gettysburg Address as the text for this lesson. I've taught this text for years as part of my Holt curriculum and felt good overall about what we were able to accomplish. However, the sequence of activities provided in this lesson is allowing students to go so much deeper. The students seemed to get a lot out of the 4 voices activity; there was such a high level of student engagement and the focus on the device of repetition was perfect. I am really looking forward to the vocabulary jigsaw tomorrow!

The third lesson in the unit introduces students to Aristotle’s Three Appeals, and helps students analyze how these rhetorical devices are used to persuade a reader or audience to take action or identify with a particular cause. Because rhetorical devices are an important element of speeches, the knowledge gained by students in this lesson is essential for them to critically analyze King’s I Have a Dream, Kennedy’s On the Assassination of Martin Luther King, and Wallace’s The Civil Rights Movement: Fraud, Sham, and Hoax, the three speeches in this unit.

Lesson PDF
This lesson needs a bit more fleshing out, particularly under the section for "Interacting with Texts." How is Handout #5 to be used? I would assume with the Reading with a Focus activity -- but there are no focus questions provided. Some explicitness and clarity here would be useful, especially in how students will transition from study of the background texts to that of the speeches.
Hello again, Mark. You are right, a Reading with a Focus activity would be very good for these readings. This unit is meant to scaffold teachers’ development as curriculum planners, and an important component of scaffolding is the “hand over” of responsibility for support, moving from other-support to self-support. As teachers progress through the lessons in the unit, they begin to assume responsibility for pedagogical decisions that were not offered them previously, helping them become autonomous practitioners.
Thanks for your response. I think that expectation of a progression in a teacher's independent pedagogical planning is fine--however, that expectation should then be made more explicit in the lesson guide itself, perhaps with some guiding suggestions for teachers to consider (such as developing a Reading in 4 Voices activity with the speeches, as done with the Gettysburg Address).
Because I have the luxury of implementing guided reading, I was able to look for additional readings to take into my guided reading groups. There, we used bookmarks to move through articles about the civil war, Wikipedia Simple and in Spanish. Some of our stronger readers crawled through parts of the Emancipation Proclamation during guided reading. A concern I have is that because the actual activities can take up to 60 minutes, I wonder if I were only teaching the unit with no silent reading-if that would be enough reading with eyes to text time to really push students' reading abilities. My sense is, that my ELLs need lots more time with eyes to text than the unit provides.
OK-you guys are really onto something for our ELLs. When will you roll out the next unit?

Lesson Four invites students to examine how writers construct persuasive texts at the macro and micro level. Students work together collaboratively to analyze the structural, organizational, grammatical, and lexical choices made in one speech, Barbara Jordan’s All Together Now. They communicate their understanding of these elements to a younger middle school audience in preparation for writing their own speeches as the culminating performance of the unit. At the end of the lesson students compare and contrast All Together Now to one of the speeches read in Lesson 3 using tools of analysis from this lesson and earlier lessons.

Lesson PDF
We changed things up a bit in this lesson. Because the goal is to get kids to write their own arguments, it seems important to focus on the connotation of words and phrases. I began the lesson by projecting an argument between a father and daughter regarding homework being completed in front of the television. Kids were able to infer the tone-when people got angry and the skill used to win the argument. When going into the 3 way interview-which is an absolutely brilliant cooperative learning strategy, kids really got into it. The extended discourse was fantastic. What a great question. I hadn't realized just how much kids like talking about winning or losing an argument. All kids-no matter what their linguistic standing due to ELL or other issues, talked at length! Kids were genuinely curious and asked their partners lots of clarifying questions. I love hearing my students on task using long sentences, one after the other! School settings do not provide enough space for this. :)
Think back to the first time you ever heard of Legal translation in Dubai. There are many factors which influenced the development of Legal translation in Dubai. Given that its influence pervades our society, Legal translation in Dubai is featuring more and more in the ideals of the young and upwardly mobile. It is an unfortunate consequence of our civilizations history that Legal translation in Dubai is rarely given rational consideration by the upper echelons of progressive service sector organisations, obviously. With the primary aim of demonstrating my considerable intellect I will now demonstrate the complexity of the many faceted issue that is <a hre=""> Legal translation in Dubai</a>.

In the final lesson of this unit, students appropriate what they have learned from their in-depth study of persuasive texts to independently analyze a persuasive speech and write their own persuasive texts. For this reason, the lesson only has extending understanding tasks. Students begin by consolidating their knowledge of how writers deliberately use persuasive devices by analyzing and assuming the role of one of the writers studied in the unit. Taking on the role of highly accomplished writers helps students to position themselves as writers of high quality persuasive texts. Students then examine a persuasive speech, written by someone close in age, which had a big effect on the world when it was delivered at a world conference. Finally, students apply the persuasive techniques learned in the unit as they construct their own persuasive texts.

Lesson PDF
The lessons are superb and need to be used as examples for all teachers; not just for ELL.
Looking forward to reading this unit more thoroughly.
The lessons are excellent. I do think we have to get clear on the writing genres, however. Persuasion has been replaced with argument in Common Core.
In answer to Kathleen, while the Common Core does explicitly shift the language from that of 'persuasion' to 'argument,' if you look at the discussion in Appendix A under "The Special Place of Argument in the Standards" (page 24), they note that they place more emphasis on the use of logos, logical argument, rather than other aspects of persuasion. I don't believe this necessarily means that other aspects of persuasion must be ignored.
I agree with Mark that presenting an argument does not exclude persuasive techniques. It is quibbling with words to think that persuasion and argument are mutually exclusive.
It would be helpful to focus more closely on argument and to us more Common Core vocabulary. I see your point in Appendix A, but we are living in a time of top down mandates and we might as well "play ball." The administrators evaluating us will be looking for Common Core.
The lesson developers did an excellent job! I do have one suggestion for future lessons. This may not be a big deal at all but I noticed that there exists a deep interrelatedness of the persuasive skills and techniques being taught. However, the content or subject matter is loosely-related from one unit-to-the-next (advertisements, The Gettysburg Address). Is it possible that students might learn to identify, analyze, and evaluate the techniques more readily if the topics, authors/writers/speakers, or time periods were more tightly connected? For example, one might design a unit that explores the techniques employed by women struggling to find their 'place' in this world. Students might examine persuasive/argumentative techniques through the reading of speeches, diary accounts, poems, watching video clips, and even study advertisements and political campaigns. I wonder if this would support learning even more? I stumbled upon this initiative through Freddy Heibert's Textproject website. THANK YOU for sharing your resources!
My 8th graders are completing the final assessment using Severn's speech today and tomorrow. I have been so pleased with the learning in my classroom and most especially with the high levels of student engagement in cognitively demanding tasks. I really appreciated the social justice connection that all five lessons had interwoven among and between them. My guiding question all along has been... How does persuasive language make the world a better or worse place? Thank you all so much for your work in creating such meaningful activities and for all teachers who have posted on this site. It's all about collaboration!
I used this unit last year, and so did a colleague of mine. Today we were wondering, are there any more units available? This unit was so powerful, it would be amazing to have more. Please respond if able. Thanks!