English Language Arts

Persuasion Across Time and Space Instructional Unit

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.

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Persuasion across time and space: analyzing and producing complex texts


    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.

    Unit introduction.pdf

  • LESSON 1

    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 1 pdf

  • LESSON 2

    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 2 pdf

  • LESSON 3

    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 3 pdf

  • LESSON 4

    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 4 pdf

  • LESSON 5
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    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 5 pdf