I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make standardized writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.
Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts. Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.
Practice writing persuasive paragraphs helps students with their reading skills as well as their writing skills. Students often face “author’s purpose” questions on standardized writings tests. When students write to persuade, they are more likely to recognize when an author is writing to persuade (as opposed to writing to inform or entertain.)
This is Paragraph POW! and not a formal essay, so the organizational requirements are not as stringent as they would be if students were writing to a prescribed formula. Nevertheless, students should abide by a few basic rules:
State your purpose: this works well in a topic sentence. That way, everything about the paragraph should support the purpose/
Give a few reasons: as with many things in life, three is a good number. One or two are not enough, four gets unwieldy.
Support your reasoning: this is where detail sentences come in. It’s not enough to just give a reason—state why it is important or offer a detail.
Close with a call to action: this is really just a fancy type of conclusion sentence.
Paragraph POW! works best when students know their writing will be published and assessed. Since I assign it so often, I don’t box myself in by promising to grade each paper, copyediting every single page. Instead, I choose the papers that best exemplify qualities that I know standardized test graders value. I put those papers under the document camera and read them aloud, giving many compliments. Students want to see their work spotlighted and they put in their best effort.
I always insist that students do these things:
- Write in the box (on standardized tests, only writing in the box is graded)
- Give your piece a title (test assessors love titles, apparently)
- Start with an attention-getter. This can be part of your topic sentence, or some fluff just before it.
- Give examples and description.
Here are the Paragraph POW! persuasive writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.
- Please explain why kids should be allowed to drive.
- Should your school assign homework? Why or why not?
- Write a letter to your parents. In the body, persuade them to let you get a pet.
- Explain how to improve lunch at your school.
- Write a letter to your principal. In the body of the letter, ask for longer recess.