Making persuasive writing engaging and effective can be a challenge, but NAPLAN rewards students who are able to do it. There are many myths circulating out in the teaching world about what gets marked down in NAPLAN, but the NAPLAN markers we know have told us, ‘they’re just not true’! Even worse, they can hurt your students’ writing and scores.

So come along and join us in some old-fashioned myth-busting and you’ll learn how important it is for students to make their persuasive writing come to life!

Myth 1. An introduction must state your side and summarise reasons.

‘I think X is better than Y because of reason a, reason b and reason c.’

There is nothing in the NAPLAN guidelines that dictates this. It is formulaic writing and will not get strong marks.

Trust us on this, NAPLAN markers turn up to Seven Steps workshops regularly (because they want to know what we are doing right!) and they all say the same thing: the introduction should immediately engage the reader.

To learn how students can immediately engage their readers, discover Step 2: Sizzling Starts and try the free classroom resources.

Myth 2. You can’t use narrative in persuasive writing.

Oh yes you can! For instance, there are 6 marks (out of 48) just for ‘engaging the audience’. Look at the NAP website and see the sample marking of a child’s wonderful introduction called: The Lion’s Glorious Hair (Pages 62–5).

Here is the comment from the marker: ‘Opens strongly by using narrative to engage reader, illustrate point and set up context’.

Yes, narrative is definitely encouraged…and rewarded.

We dive deeper into how to use narrative in persuasive (and informative) writing at Workshop Two: Putting It All Together.

Myth 3. There is no place for dialogue in persuasive writing.

Dialogue is an extremely powerful persuasive tool and it also adds vibrancy to writing. Here’s a simple example.

‘It’s not fair, why should I have to unpack the dishwasher!’ In every household with children, these words are wailed often. Should children do household chores? Yes, definitely yes. Any child over six years of age can carry a plate to the table. So why can’t they carry a few plates to the cupboard as well?

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Myth 4. Be reasonable, not emotional.

Wrong! Reasonable, cool, calm language does not persuade. It can put the reader to sleep. And when a NAPLAN marker has piles of papers to assess, that’s the last thing you want!

Appealing to the reader’s emotions is far more effective.

It is cold and it is dark and it is two hours until morning. Michael Malvern is walking, walking, though the empty park limping a little on his aching feet. Two years ago, Michael was a bank teller, he had a wife, a home and three happy children. Then came the onset of depression, the financial problems and finally the divorce.

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Myth 5. You must state the facts. You can’t use Show, Don’t Tell.

Painting word pictures is a fantastic persuasive device. This is far more convincing than facts alone, e.g. For the topic ‘Chocolate is better than ice-cream’:

It’s a hot day, a little kid is screaming and his mum is frantic. She’s just paid $5 for an ice-cream, but the kid’s tongue is too small and the ice-cream melted too fast. Four licks, a slurp and… plop, the ice-cream slipped off the cone and onto the floor. The older sister was smarter, she chose a chocolate bar. She holds it safely in her hand, looks at her brother and calmly takes another bite.

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Myth 6. Persuasion is serious business. Humour should be avoided.

We laugh and learn at the same time – and of course that makes us want to read more. For example:

Are dogs smarter than cats? Oh purrrrlease. Let me ask you this question. Would you ever be able to persuade eight cats to pull a heavy sled and a couple of men through a snowstorm? I don’t think so. Though it does appear to be easy to find eight dogs to do this.

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