Of all the resources we publish on The Learning Network, perhaps it’s our vast collection of writing prompts that is our most widely used resource for teaching and learning with The Times.
This list of 401 prompts (available here in PDF) is now our third iteration of what originally started as 200 prompts for argumentative writing, and it’s intended as a companion resource to help teachers and students participate in our annual Student Editorial Contest. (In 2017, the dates for entering are March 2 to April 4.)
So scroll through the hundreds of prompts below that touch on every aspect of contemporary life — from social media to sports, politics, gender issues and school — and see which ones most inspire you to take a stand. Each question comes from our daily Student Opinion feature, and each provides links to free Times resources for finding more information. And for even more in-depth student discussions on pressing issues like immigration, guns, climate change and race, please visit our fall 2016 Civil Conversation Challenge.
What’s your favorite question on this list? What questions should we ask, but haven’t yet? Tell us in the comments.
And visit our related list as well: 650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.
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Writing assignment series
Persuasive or argumentative essays
In persuasive or argumentative writing, we try to convince others
to agree with our facts, share our values,
accept our argument and conclusions,
and adopt our way of thinking.
Elements toward building a good persuasive essay include
- establishing facts
to support an argument
- clarifying relevant values
for your audience (perspective)
- prioritizing, editing, and/or sequencing
the facts and values in importance to build the argument
- forming and stating conclusions
- "persuading" your audience that your conclusions
are based upon the agreed-upon facts and shared values
- having the confidence
to communicate your "persuasion" in writing
Here are some strategies to complete a persuasive writing assignment:
Write out the questions in your own words.
Think of the questions posed in the assignment
while you are reading and researching. Determine
- any sources that will help you determine their reliability
(as well as for further reference)
- what prejudices lie in the argument
or values that color the facts or the issue
- what you think of the author's argument
List out facts; consider their importance:
prioritize, edit, sequence, discard, etc.
Ask yourself "What's missing?"
What are the "hot buttons" of the issue?
List possible emotions/emotional reactions and recognize them for later use
Start writing a draft!(refer to: Writing essays, the basics)
Start as close as possible to your reading/research
Do not concern yourself with grammar or spelling
- Write your first paragraph
- Introduce the topic
- Inform the reader of your point of view!
- Entice the reader to continue with the rest of the paper!
- Focus on three main points to develop
- Establish flow from paragraph to paragraph
- Keep your voice active
- Quote sources
to establish authority
- Stay focused
on your point of view throughout the essay
- Focus on logical arguments
- Don't lapse into summary
in the development--wait for the conclusion
Summarize, then conclude, your argument
Refer to the first paragraph/opening statement as well as the main points
- does the conclusion restate the main ideas?
- reflect the succession and importance of the arguments
- logically conclude their development?
- Edit/rewrite the first paragraph
to better telegraph your development and conclusion.
- Take a day or two off!
- Re-read your paper
with a fresh mind and a sharp pencil
- Ask yourself:
Does this make sense? Am I convinced?
Will this convince a reader?
Will they understand my values, and agree with my facts?
- Edit, correct, and re-write as necessary
- Check spelling and grammar!
- Have a friend read it and respond to your argument.
Were they convinced?
- Revise if necessary
- Turn in the paper
- Celebrate a job well done,
with the confidence that you have done your best.
- Ask yourself:
How to respond to criticism:
Consider criticism as a test of developing your powers of persuasion.
Try not to take it personally.
If your facts are criticized,
double check them, and then cite your sources.
If your values are criticized,
sometimes we need agree "to disagree". Remember: your success in persuading others assumes that the other person is open to being persuaded!
Fear: If you are not used to communicating,
especially in writing, you may need to overcome fear on several levels. Writing, unlike unrecorded speech, is a permanent record for all to see, and the "context" is not as important as in speech where context "colors" the words. For example: your readers do not see you, only your words. They do not know what you look like, where you live, who you are.
Hopefully in school, and class, we have a safe place
to practice both the art of writing and of persuasion. Then later, when we are in our communities, whether work, church, neighborhoods, and even families, we can benefit from this practice.
Persuasion also has another dimension:
it is built with facts, which illustrate conclusions. Of course, this means you need to know what you are talking about, and cannot be lazy with your facts, or you will not succeed in convincing anyone. This shows another level of fear: Fear of making a mistake that will make your argument or persuasion meaningless. Since you are writing, and the words are on paper for all to see (or on a web site!), you need to work to make sure your facts are in order.