Persuasive Essay - Why I Should Be President

Language Arts - Grades 5-8

Persuasive and Presidential Writing

Students will learn persuasive writing and presentation skills.

Apps: Pixie® or Wixie®


Mt. Rushmore, sculpted between 1927 and 1941 by Gutzon Borglum with the assistance of over 400 local workers, is one of the most notable American treasures. But the mountain still has a bit more room! In this project, you will research a U.S. President and create a presentation to persuade the National Park Service to add another face to Mt. Rushmore.


Discuss the history of Mt. Rushmore with your students. You might want to use online resources such as the Oh, Ranger! Web page on the making of Mt. Rushmore.

As a class, discuss the qualities a president should posses to belong on Mt. Rushmore. You may want to begin with the qualities of the presidents who are already on the monument. Work together to develop a list of these qualities. Discuss which ones students think are most important and rank the qualities in order of importance. This will help students craft a strong argument.

Discuss with the students that they will research a president they feel has these qualities and should be added to Mt. Rushmore. This research will be used to write a persuasive argument for the addition of this president to Mt. Rushmore.

Give students some time to think about the president they think should be added. You may want to assign a bit of research about several lesser-known presidents before having them choose, or ask them to survey family and friends for their opinions.

Have students choose the president they think should be added to Mt. Rushmore. You might have them complete a KWL worksheet to help them identify what they already know about this president, as well as identify topics that they will need to research.


The goal of persuasive writing is to convince others to agree with our facts, share our values, accept our argument and conclusions, and adopt our way of thinking. Discuss the elements of persuasive writing with your students. Let each student know that when writing his or her argument, he or she should:

  1. Establish facts to support the argument for his or her president.
  2. Clarify relevant values for the audience. Why should this president be chosen? How has this president helped society? What are his accomplishments? This should include factual information about accomplishments while in office.
  3. Provide examples using pictures or other data.
  4. Prioritize, edit, and sequence the facts and values in importance to build the argument.
  5. Form and state conclusions to “persuade” the audience that their conclusions are based on agreed-upon facts and shared values.
  6. Provide an emotional appeal for the argument.
  7. Logically communicate the argument in the presentation.

Discuss the structure of the essay with your students. Explain that the topic sentence should be a position statement, such as “The New Mt. Rushmore should include President__________ because...”. The rest of the first paragraph should state the three main arguments. Each of argument should be clarified in a supporting paragraph. The final paragraph should restate the position and include the most compelling parts of the argument.

Have each student use his or her research to write a persuasive essay about why his or her president should be carved alongside the four existing presidents on Mt. Rushmore. Have students share their rough drafts with another classmate before editing and submitting their finished written arguments.

Once the essay is complete, students are ready to craft a persuasive presentation. To assist students in organizing the project, have them complete storyboards, highlighting the main ideas on each page. For example:

  • Page 1. Title Page
  • Page 2. Description
  • Page 3. Position Statement and Three Main arguments
  • Page 4. Argument 1
  • Page 5. Argument 2
  • Page 6. Argument 3
  • Page 7. Response to at Least One Counterargument
  • Page 8. Picture of This President Added to Mt. Rushmore
  • Page 9. Conclusion

Find related images at

Students can find pictures of Mt. Rushmore and each U.S. President in the Photos folder in the Library.


Have students share their persuasive presentations with the rest of the class. You might have one student record characteristics and qualities from each presentation so that as a class you can compare the presidents.


As you introduce this project to your students, the students will begin to brainstorm the qualities of a president who should be placed on Mt. Rushmore. You should be able to make an informal assessment on their knowledge about their ideas and realistic possibilities for additional choices for Mt. Rushmore.

During the Web-site-design portion of the lesson, you will evaluate their writing skills, creativity, design and planning skills, and more.


Bausum, Ann. Our Country’s Presidents. ISBN: 0792293304.

St. George, Judith, & Small, David. So You Want to Be President? ISBN: 0399251529.

Oh, Ranger! Mount Rushmore

American Presidents


Common Core Anchor Standards for English Language Arts - Grade 5-12

Writing Standards

Types and Purposes

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Production and Distribution of Writing

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

NCSS—Time, Continuity, and Change

Students compare and contrast different stories of accounts about past events, people, places, or situations, identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past.

ISTE NETS for Students 2016:

3. Knowledge Constructor
Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. Students:

a. plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

b. evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

c. curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

d. build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

6. Creative Communicator
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students:

a. choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

b. create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

d. publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

What can your students create?


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Lesson Plan

Vote for Me! Developing, Writing, and Evaluating Persuasive Speeches


Grades4 – 5
Lesson Plan TypeStandard Lesson
Estimated TimeFour 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author




To deliver an effective persuasive speech, students must formulate logical arguments and back them up with examples. In this lesson, students will study political campaign speeches to explore the characteristics of effective persuasive speechwriting and oral argument. While using an online tutorial and looking at examples, students learn what makes a strong speech. A second online tool helps them learn how to formulate a persuasive argument. Students then apply this information in two ways: by writing their own speeches and evaluating others'.

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ReadWriteThink Persuasion Map: Use this interactive tool for any lesson in which students need to create a piece of persuasive writing.

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Buss, K., & Karnowski, L. (2002). Teaching persuasive texts. In Reading and writing nonfiction genres (pp. 76–89). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Persuasive writing can take many forms including essays, letters to the editor, classified advertisements, and speeches.

  • In political speeches, writers use precision to make the speech more easily understood.

  • In a short persuasive speech, it's important to have an introduction that states the position of the speech clearly; this is followed by at least three pieces of evidence to support the position.


Tompkins, G.E. (2003). Teaching writing: Balancing process and product (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

  • Students should examine the various ways persuasion is used in everyday life before they begin writing their own persuasive pieces.

  • Persuasive writing is easily incorporated into content areas such as science and social studies.

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Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.



Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.



Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.



Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.



Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).


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Resources & Preparation


  • Computers with Internet access

  • LCD projector and screen

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Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Persuasion Map

The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.


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1.Visit Speechwriting and read over the online tutorial. Explore other areas of the site, as you may want to use them for extensions to this lesson. Bookmark this site on your school or classroom computers.

2.Print and review John F. Kennedy's Announcement of Candidacy 1/2/60. This speech is short and fits the format of the speeches students are being asked to write. Alternatively, you might select a different speech from either Miller Center - Presidential Speeches or American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States or write your own sample speech. Practice reading the speech you will use as an example in class out loud.

3.Bookmark the interactive Persuasion Map on your classroom or school computers, and make sure that it is working properly. This online graphic organizer is a prewriting exercise that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay. If you experience technical difficulties, you may need to download the newest version of the Flash plug-in, which is available for free on the Site Tools page of this website. You may want to create and print your own persuasion map (especially if you have written your own speech) to model how students will use the tool.

4.Review the Persuasive Speech Checklist and the Persuasive Speech Rubric. Print out two copies of the rubric and one copy of the checklist for each student.

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Instructional Plan


Students will

  • Develop critical thinking skills by learning about the characteristics of an effective speech, both how it is written and how it is delivered, and then applying these criteria to sample speeches

  • Formulate an argument, including the use of examples to support a thesis, using an online tool that helps them organize their ideas

  • Develop skills in persuasive writing and oral delivery by writing a one-minute persuasive speech and presenting it to a small group of their peers

  • Interpret and evaluate persuasive arguments using a rubric to assess their peers' speeches

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Session 1: The Characteristics of a Strong Speech

1.Introduce the concept of speechwriting to students. Ask them to brainstorm a time when they have heard someone give a speech (e.g., school assembly, presidential or political speeches) Talk about why people make speeches. Specifically discuss campaign speeches and their purpose (i.e., to try to convince or persuade people to vote for or support a particular candidate).

2.Tell students that they are going to do two things. Pretending that they are running for president, they will write a campaign speech. They will also listen to each other's speeches and evaluate them.

3.Using either individual computers, or one demonstration computer with a projection screen, go to Speechwriting. Read aloud (or play the audio for) the homepage and the "Write It" page. In addition, show students the "Tips From the Pros" page.

4.Discuss with students what you have read and talk about the characteristics of an effective speech.

5.Pass out the Persuasive Speech Rubric and explain that students will be using these characteristics to evaluate each other's speeches. Define the word rubric (in this case it is a chart that helps classify and evaluate information). Quickly review the five areas that they will evaluate and explain the four-point scale. You may want to go over some of the more complicated terms on the rubric, such as what is meant by expressive speech.

6.Tell students that you are going to read a speech and that they will then use the rubric together to evaluate the speech. Tell them that they should take notes on the rubric while you are giving the speech because they will be turning it in at the end of the session.

7.Read John F. Kennedy's Announcement of Candidacy 1/2/60 aloud (or, if you have chosen to write your own or selected another speech, read that aloud). When you are finished, go over each category on the rubric and discuss what students thought of it and what rating it should receive. Ask them to indicate their ratings on their sheets, along with a few short reasons why they selected that particular rating. Collect the rubrics at the end of the session.
Some things to consider pointing out
  • Kennedy's announcement wasn't a surprise-he was nearly nominated for vice-president in 1956. He had worked hard to make sure that he had national recognition although he was a senator from Massachusetts at the time.

  • There had not been a president from the Democratic Party since 1952. He is therefore making a case not only for himself as a candidate, but also for the Democratic Party as one that can win.

  • His speech is blunt and direct, especially at the beginning and end. You might ask students if they think this strategy is effective. (It is a somewhat different approach than the Speechwriting website tells them to use.)

  • He indicates very clearly what he plans to do if elected. You might see if students can remember any of these goals, using this information to discuss the importance of clarity and concision in their own speeches.

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Session 2: Persuasive Writing

1.Distribute the Persuasive Speech Checklist and briefly discuss it with students, telling them they should refer to it as they are writing their speeches to make sure they are on the right track.

2.Help students access the Persuasion Map and go over instructions for using the map. If you have created a sample map, pass it out to the students and review. Have students enter their names and topics on the opening screen. Complete the first section ("Goal or Thesis") as a class. The goal or thesis is the stance that students are taking on the issue. Everyone's goal or thesis should be "To persuade others in my class to vote for me for president." Students should then brainstorm three reasons to support their stance, and come up with facts and examples to support each reason.

Tell students that "Tips from the Pros" on the Speechwriting website suggested covering only one or two major ideas, so they may fill in only one or two reasons on their maps for each piece of evidence (there is space for three reasons).

3.Allow students time to complete their Persuasion Maps. You may want to have the Speechwriting site available on one computer for students to review if they need a refresher. Remind students to print their maps before exiting.

4.When students complete their maps, they should use the rest of the time to start writing their speeches using their maps and the Persuasive Speech Checklist as guides.

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Session 3: Effective Speech Delivery

1.Students should spend the first half of the session working on their speeches. After about 25 minutes, tell them that if they have not completed their speeches, they should do so during their free time or for homework.

2.Access Speechwriting. Read aloud (or play the audio) for the section entitled "Say It" and talk to students about the importance of rehearsing their speeches. Spend some time reviewing how to mark up a speech. You might want to mark up part of the speech you delivered, pass it out to the class, and then demonstrate how the marks show you how to read the speech.

3.Give students time to rehearse their speeches (even if they are not quite complete) and encourage them to mark it up as described on the Speechwriting website. Depending on the needs and abilities of your class, you may want to have students practice alone or with a partner. Inform students that they will be presenting their speeches to a small group and encourage them to practice at home that evening.

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Session 4 Convincing Their Classmates

1.Divide the class into small groups of four to five students. If this is a new activity for them, explain the expectations-they will speak quietly, demonstrate respect for other speakers by listening carefully, and not comment until the speaker is finished. Appoint one student to be the group manager; he or she will contact the teacher if there are any problems following these procedures.

2.While each group member is giving his or her speech, one other member will be assessing the speech using the Persuasive Speech Rubric. A different group member should complete the rubric for each speech. Make sure each student is clear on who will be completing the rubric for whom (you might want to prepare a list in advance). The other members of the group will be listening carefully and should be prepared to give verbal feedback.

3.Allow students time to present their speeches to their small group. Give the group a few minutes to discuss each speech before moving on to the next one.

4.When the speeches are complete, bring the class together to discuss them. Questions to consider include: What made a particular speech more effective than another? What did they learn? Who would they vote for from their group and why? Collect the rubrics at the end of the class.

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  • Explore the "Record It" section on the Speechwriting website. Listen to the student speeches and discuss and evaluate them using the Persuasive Speech Rubric. You can also have students record their speeches for the site.

  • View and discuss some actual campaign speeches and compare them to the students' speeches.
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    • Observe student participation in the initial discussions about what constitutes an effective speech. Collect the Persuasive Speech Rubrics from the first session's discussion and review them to make sure students are correctly applying the criteria to the sample speech. If you observe some consistent misconceptions, address these at the beginning of Session 2.

    • Review each student's Persuasion Map and speech and offer him or her feedback using the Persuasive Speech Rubric.

    • Observe students both when they are practicing their speeches and while they are working in their groups. Review the completed Persuasive Speech Rubrics to determine that they understand how to apply the criteria to evaluate a persuasive speech.

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    Related Resources


    Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

    Can You Convince Me? Developing Persuasive Writing

    Through a classroom game and resource handouts, students learn about the techniques used in persuasive oral arguments and apply them to independent persuasive writing activities.


    Grades   6 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

    Vote for Me! Making Presidential Commercials Using Avatars

    After researching political platforms of past presidents through primary sources and other resources, students create commercials for these presidents using Voki, an online web tool that produces speaking avatars.


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    Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

    Persuasion Map

    The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.


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    Grades   5 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  November 5

    Susan B. Anthony voted on this date in 1872, leading to her arrest.

    After assigning special privileges to an arbitrarily designated group, students write about how they felt during the simulation and consider what they might be willing to do to change an unjust law.


    Grades   3 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  November 7

    Today is Election Day.

    Election Day is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.


    Grades   5 – 8  |  Calendar Activity  |  August 26

    The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote in 1920.

    A representative from the local chapter of the League of Women Voters is invited to talk to students about voting rights and what they can do to be active in politics.


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    Grades   3 – 12  |  Printout  |  Graphic Organizer

    Persuasion Map

    Use this graphic organizer to develop a persuasive stance for an essay, speech, poster, or any type of assignment that incorporates persuasion.


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    Grades   K – 5  |  Strategy Guide

    Persuasive Writing

    This strategy guide focuses on persuasive writing and offers specific methods on how you can help your students use it to improve their critical writing and thinking skills.


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    Navendra Singh

    November 27, 2011

    Thank you, the resource is extremely helpful




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