Convince Me: Developing a Clear Organization and Structure for Persuasive and Problem-Solution Essays

Apr 28, 2013
Posted by: Laurie

My students often struggle with how to begin an essay and
create a strong essay structure.  In
Julia Marino’s “Let’s Cancel CSI,” (TBTW,
2012, p. 188-192) this young writer is able to capture her audience
right away in the first line, “I love Twitter.” 
Young readers can all relate, even if Twitter isn’t their preferred
social media choice.  Her introductory
paragraph is a compelling and humorous take on why so many people suffer from
Celebrity Stupidity Influence, or CSI, as she calls it, playing on the popular
television series to draw in her readers, and ending with a strong thesis statement
that illustrates exactly what she plans to expound on in her essay.  This mentor text is an excellent model of how
one student took on the social issues topic of morality and personal values and
using the formal persuasive/problem-solution essay structure, shaped it into an
entertaining example of development, organization, and structure. 

Some of the structures the author uses to achieve this end
include clear transition words at
the beginning of each body paragraph that link directly to the thesis statement such as first, second,
and solutions.  Citations are also cleanly used throughout the piece referencing
reputable print and web sources.  The conclusion then picks up the threads of
earlier references to Twitter and CSI while reiterating solutions to the
disturbing social phenomenon of our world’s obsession with celebrities and a
desire for fifteen minutes of fame at any cost.  

I plan to use this mentor text in my classroom as an example
of a strong persuasive/problem-solution essay and begin by reading and
discussing the piece in small groups prompting a student led discussion within
those small groups by posing questions such as:

  • What did you think about the essay? 
  • What stands out to you or reverberates for you
    in this essay? 
  • How did the essay make you feel? 
  • Do you agree or disagree with the author about
    our country’s value system? Why or why not?
  • What writing structures did you notice in this
    piece? Do you think the author used them effectively?

Next, I will shift them into thinking about writing processes
such as prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing by posing
questions such as: 

  • How do you think the author arrived at the final
  • What steps would she have taken to get
  • What structures might the author have used in
    her prewriting to arrive with this final product?

Students can then begin deconstructing Marino’s essay by
creating a prewriting piece using a word web/clustering or outline to
illustrate how the author might have began this writing process.  With the visual aid of a graphic organizer
such as a word web/clustering or an outline, students can more easily see how
the author might have begun the process and thus, how they can begin their own
process of writing a persuasive/problem-solution essay.

At this point, I would want my students to begin
brainstorming their own ideas of possible persuasive/problem-solution essay
topics related to social issues they are currently facing. One way to keep
students actively engaged in the process and collaborating with each other is
to use Kagan’s Round Table Consensus, One Stray, and Stand N Share, creating a
brainstormed list of topic ideas at each small group table, then one master
list on the SmartBoard.  The master list
can be printed and distributed so students can choose a topic and begin their
own prewriting graphic organizer based on their own topics.  This prewriting, along with the original
mentor text, then serves as a springboard for a persuasive/problem-solution

“Let’s Cancel CSI” offers many opportunities for multiple
mini-lessons within essay development and style choices.  There are allusions within the text to
popular television series as well as cheeky humor amid the structured
transitions and citations, which serve to hook young readers.  Please feel free to share ideas of other ways
in which you might approach this text in your classroom.



Mentor Text for Research

Submitted by Shaun on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:12.

Laurie, I am so happy you posted this. I find that research writing is insanely difficult for my students to conquer. Even my 12th graders are mystified by the idea of citations and a works cited page. They know they have to use them, but unless they see it as a model - like in "Let's Cancel CSI" - they are lost.

I am going to use parts of this idea for my students on their final research papers this year. I think it's a great mentor text because, as you said, the author hooks the reader from the beginning by being relevant and timely to teenage readers. Thanks for sharing!

Chuck Klosterman

Submitted by Lorraine on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:25.

Julia Marino’s subject and style in “Let’s Cancel CSI”
reminds me of American essayist and pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman. He’s
published collections of his essays that could make for interesting pairings
with Marino’s piece. Sex, Drugs, and
Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto
is one of his best-selling collections.
Here is a link to his essay  “Death by Harry Potter”: http://www.esquire.com/features/chuck-klostermans-america/klosterman1107


Submitted by Laurie on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:27.

Thanks for sharing this link, Lorraine!

Laurie, I enjoyed reading

Submitted by Tricia on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:33.

Laurie, I enjoyed reading your posting.  Your ideas would be helpful for me in teaching this topic and your choice of topic will keep my students entertaining even as they grapple with writing in this text structure.

I appreciate the details you provided about teaching this particular text--questions you would ask students before they read and after they read.  I am a fan of questioning and having students interrogate a piece or their own choices in writing.

I look forward to using your suggestions for teaching this piece in my classroom.



Persuasive Swing on Things

Submitted by Veronica on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:34.


Thank you for this post! After four years of teaching formal persuasive writing, you have given me a new edge. Thank you for putting your resources on the website, this was very helpful.

The CSI Essay

Submitted by SLJHyatt on Wed, 2013-11-06 10:24.

I love this assignment as well.  One could also use it with the NWP 18 Topics Assignment to spur thinking and different reasons to write.  One could express and reflect on celebrites and a host of other instances. What makes them famous?  What SHOULD make them famous?  A criteria to evaluate celebrites by..... the list is endless.  Of course, it could be used with taking a stand and argumentative writing as well.  Really like this piece.