School Life
School Life
Sunday 18 Apr 2021
You Convinced Me | 想要说服全世界?先来说服我……

Michael Booth

English Teacher

Convincing the world or even another person that your ideas have merit can be a big challenge. Which facts, emotions and trustworthiness will make the difference and impact your audience? These are some key questions that guided our study into persuasive techniques; the roots of which began with our ongoing analysis of Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. In Morpurgo’s historical fiction about World War I, we are introduced to the influences of wartime propaganda, enlistment efforts and issue of recruitment of underage soldiers. Building context requires us to explore these forces and the underlying concepts of persuasion in written and oral forms.

When designing a unit around a piece of literature, we think about the concepts, knowledge and skills that will meaningfully enrich our students’ academic journey while deepening their understanding of the text. Connecting the student to the text and the text to the world isour secondary goal. Private Peaceful opened the door to explore persuasive writing and speech, investigating its function in our daily lives. We started this study with a look at the classical understanding of rhetorical techniques presented by Aristotle.

And why man is a political animal in a greater measure than any bee or any gregarious animal is clear. For nature, as we declare, does nothing without purpose; and man alone of the animals possesses speech . . . .[S]peech is designed to indicate the advantageous and the harmful, and therefore also the right and the wrong; for it is the special property of man in distinction from the other animals that he alone has perception of good and bad and right and wrong and the other moral qualities, and it is partnership in these things that makes a household and a city state.

——Aristotle, Politics (1.1.10-‐11) 

Later, in his writings, Rhetoric, Aristotle discusses three tools of persuasion: pathos, logos and ethos. In short, these arethe speaker’s ability to use of emotions to appeal to the audience, to use of logic and to use an association of credibility to reason with the audience, respectively. To build confidence with these tools, students observed their application in television advertisements. Then, students were asked to make a short but convincing plea, utilizing one of these persuasive techniques.


Student Pleas

Additional tasks involved studentslearning about specific methods students could use to improve their persuasive writing. Students were assigned to write an email to their teacher persuading me on a several potential topics.

Here is an example email by Jason You about why King's College International School, Wuxi is the best school in Wuxi:

Dear Mr Booth,

I think King's College International School, Wuxi is the best in Wuxi. I hope you will take the time to read my reasons. I am sure that at the conclusion you will join me in celebrating the best of KCIS.

First of all, look at the tremendous environment in this school. The location of our school is far from the city, and it's close to the fresh-air countryside. Look at the alluring trees. Cherry blossoms were just born some days ago! Who even doesn't want to see cherry blossoms and the green gorgeous growing grass that’s everywhere around us. It is an ideal environment. Don't you feel relaxed?

Second, look at the luxury gate of our school. The main gate is so engaging that we feel we can't wait to go past those magical doors. When we go inside, we are immediately struck by the brand new buildings! The gates and buildings provide us with the literal structure to take on the learning without fear or worry. The security guard flashes us a smile; so, the danger is dashed!

Lastly, observe the pleasing smiles on everyone's faces. Walking around the school campus, adorned with our honourable school uniforms, we are at a school that will empower us to take on the challenges of the century. Our teachers are intelligently guiding their students with an education that will be very effective for us. We prepare to be triumphant! Other schools cannot compare. In the face of what we have at KCIS the other schools are dreadful.

Everything is perfect in our school. The environment, structure and dedicated teachers combine to perfection into precision. As a student in his third year, I can honestly say that King's College International School, Wuxi is the best school in Wuxi. I know you will raise your voice in harmony as we spread the message: you'll love this school!

Best regards,

Jason You, Grade 7 International

Jason You

In Jason's email, we can see his emerging expertise of applying exaggeration (hyperbole), alliteration, emotive language, loaded words, generalization and ethos, to his text. We appreciate the way he tries to employ these techniques; moreover, we can be reassured that with practice he will gain confidence and a level of mastery.

Another tact to understanding the ways people effectively use persuasive strategies was the study and analysis of great speeches. In 1941, Winston Churchill made his world famous “Never give in,” speech at Harrow School sometime after the start of WWII. Students were asked to listen to the speech and annotate the text. StudentsThey alsohadveclass discussions and evaluated each other’s ideas to strengthen their ability to conceptualize the ways in which we can effectively communicate and connect to our audience.


“Never Give In” by Winston Churchill

Apple Chou response in CommonLit when asked about how Churchill’s language contributed to the development of the ideas in the speech: 

In paragraph 4, Winston Churchill asserts, “Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.” Churchill is warning people shouldn’t limit their imagination when bad things happen. For example, the case of war. Imagination, in Churchill’s proposal, can do good things for the course of the war. By imagining a righteous outcome of the conflict, the United Kingdom can persevere the challenges it will meet along the way. That's kind of useful, practical and essential to be victorious.

Apple Chou

In another look at a famous speech, this time by the British suffragette leader, Emmaline Pankhurst,. In it,we found valuable lessons for our own work in composing a persuasive speech. In preparation, students deconstructed the text, looking for clues in the language. When we look at the work of others, we can unlock these techniques for our personal use as we strive to be more secure communicators.

As a culminating activity to assess understanding of persuasive techniques, students were encouraged to choose a topic that held a degree of passion and personal connection. Topics included but were not limited to:

Women's Rights 

Aging Populations

Air Pollution


Armed Conflicts


Climate Change Policy

Endangered Species 

Women in the Military

Is winning really so important? 

Do electronics make kids lazy?

Is life better now than 50 years ago?

Are zoos ethical?


Eddie Yang and Air Pollution

Students had the option of presenting their final composed speeches in three distinct formats: audio, video or live presentation. Each student was required to research their topic, pre-write their speech using a graphic organizer, edit and revise with peer and teacher input and publish their final speech. The structure was like a 5-paragraph essay, containing an introduction, the body of the speech and a conclusion. Students use a rubric to self-assess their writing throughout the process. The teacher uses the same rubric for a summative assessment grade. Students used Flipgrid to upload their speeches, making them available for friends and family to enjoy, comment on and reflect. 



At the conclusion of our unit, students were asked to reflect on the topic and share what new knowledge they have added to their approach to the usage of persuasive techniques in speech and written work. As their teacher, the hope is that they can access this knowledge when they read other novels, watch movies or television and interact on social media. The power of knowledge is that the students can assert unique, supported and open-minded thinking in any context. However, don’t trust me. Listen to the students and see if you can say, “You convinced me.”