Presenting a persuasive stance on an issue

With many opportunities to express their voice, particularly in the domain of social media, students are more able than before to present their views in different forums, including editorials and community interest groups but also via memes and by 'liking' posts on social media (Best, 2012). Therefore, the relevance of supporting students to be able to articulate their viewpoint on social problems and issues has become particularly relevant. Teachers can try to instil in students a desire, and the ability, to become civically engaged and take an interest in action toward social justice and informed citizenship (Johnson, 2005).

Two strategies to explicitly teach students to present a persuasive stance on an issue are:

  • Making a stand on an opinion line
  • Explicit teaching of an analytical exposition.

Making a stand on an opinion line

In this strategy, students will have an opportunity to recognise that individuals have differing viewpoints on issues and to express their viewpoint in relation to others. This strategy demonstrates the importance of speaking and listening in the articulation and sharing of ideas.


Using masking tape or a piece of rope, create a line on the floor placing signs with the number 1 to 10 sequentially in order along the line. Ensure that the line is long enough for all students in the class to be able to move, and change positions along the line.

During the lesson

  1. Outline some expectations for engaging in this strategy. For instance, students should:
    • show respectful, considerate behaviour towards their peers as discussions on controversial issues take place
    • make up their own minds about their viewpoints rather than follow the example of their peers when deciding where they see themselves standing on the opinion line
    • not speak when positioning themselves along the opinion line to give their peers ample opportunity to think carefully about where they wish to stand on the line
    • be able to provide reasons with examples/evidence to support their position.
  2. If using the opinion line for the first time, model how it works to the class [HITS Strategy 4] using topics initially unrelated to Civics and Citizenship content. For example:
    • 'School days should start later and finish later.'
    • 'All students should do at least one school-based extracurricular activity until the end of Year 12.'
  3. Inform students that 1 represents strongly disagree and 10 represents strongly agree along the numbered opinion line and that they will position themselves physically on the opinion line according to their viewpoint.
  4. Present a contention that will be the basis for the opinion line activity. Ideally, the contention should be related to a topic that students have learned about so that they have a basis of Civic and Citizenship understanding to providing reasons, examples and evidence to support their viewpoint on the contention.
      • For instance: 'Australian citizens have the absolute freedom to participate in our democracy as they wish.'
  5. Instruct students to think about the contention provided. Provide time for students to think about, and refer to, work that they have learned about the topic recently to determine the degree to which they agree or disagree with the contention.
  6. Ask students to position themselves physically on the opinion line according to where they stand in relation to the contention.
  7. Once students have confirmed their positions on the opinion line, ask a representative sample of students to give their reasons for standing in the position that they are located in.
      • Sentence starters may assist students to articulate their views more clearly. For example:
        • I believe this because …
        • One reason I think this is …
        • I am unsure about this because …
  8. Allow students to respectfully ask questions of each other to elaborate on their ideas and opinions.

      • Sentence starters can be used to help frame questions. Some examples are:
        • I didn't understand what you meant when you said …. Can you rephrase that?
        • What I heard you say was …. Is that right?
        • Have you considered …?
  9. Give students an opportunity to change their physical position on the opinion line (if they wish to). Students can choose to remain in the same position that they occupied before peers share their reasons for their positions.
  10. Ask students to raise their hands if
    • they remained in the same position
    • changed their position.
    • Instruct students to count how many students are in each group and note this on the board, e.g. '19 students stayed in the same position and 6 students changed their position.'
  11. Pose reflection questions for students to answer in their books:
      • 'Why did you keep the same position on the opinion line/change your position on the opinion line? Provide a reason to justify your answer.'
      • 'Which reason, example or piece of evidence did you find the most convincing? Why?'
      • 'Which reason, example or piece of evidence did you find the least convincing? Why?'
      • 'What additional information would help you to understand different viewpoints on this topic?'
      • 'What have you learned about different viewpoints on the topic from participating in the opinion line activity?'

Links to the curriculum: VCCCG019, VCCCG029

Explicit teaching of analytical expositions

Students' ability to write persuasively can help them to become more effective at actively participating in Australia's democratic process. Campaigning and advocating for a cause and taking well informed action to address a political, social or environmental issue, is key to effective citizenship. Crowhurst (1990, p. 349) argues that an educated, literate person should be able to clearly articulate a position on a matter that has importance so that they can persuade fellow citizens and governments.

An analytical exposition is a persuasive text type where a case for or against a particular viewpoint is presented (Humprey, Droga & Feez, 2012). Analytical expositions include appeal to ethos (building trust in the moral integrity of the author), logos (rationality, consideration of objective data and impersonal observations) and pathos (emotional appeals) (Kennedy, 2007  cited in Macken-Horarik, Love, Sandiford & Unsworth, 2018, pp. 146-7).  

The steps to explicitly teach students how to develop this genre are outlined below:

  1. Brainstorm with students an experience that they have had when someone has persuaded them to do something or act in a certain way and why they were persuaded. 
    • For example:
      • To buy something from a store because advertisements showed a sale or cheaper prices on products.
      • To finish homework because of a threat of a consequence, e.g. detention.
      • To go out with friends because everyone on social media was saying how much fun the party would be.
  2. Tell students the purpose of persuasion.
    • For example, to try to convince another person, organisation or government to behave or act in a certain way.
  3. Outline to students the structure of an analytical exposition:
      • Background introduces the issue and provides context
      • Thesis statement/ Statement of position outlines your position on the issue, often followed by a preview of the arguments to come
      • Series of arguments: a logical organisation of arguments that support your thesis statement and refute with counter arguments (optional): disproves or contradicts common counter arguments
      • Reinforcement of position reaffirms your thesis in light of the arguments (and the counter-arguments) presented (Adapted from Mills & Dooley, 2014, p. 35; Humphrey, Droga & Feez, 2012, p. 190
  4. Show students an example of a persuasive text on a political, social or environmental issue.
    • For example, for a persuasive piece encouraging the Australian Government to provide more foreign aid, the following sentence starters can help to illustrate the structure:
    • Background
      • Australia provides foreign aid to several countries…
      • Foreign aid is…
      • Examples of foreign aid we provide are
    • Thesis statement
      • Australia has not been proactive enough in supporting less fortunate countries through its foreign aid program…
    • Series of arguments
      • Australia has a moral obligation to provide more foreign aid… 
      • Australia can afford to provide more foreign aid as statistics show…
      • Foreign aid provided by Australia supports the region in which we live in and, as a result, Australia benefits in the longer term. A leading authority on...
    • Reinforcement of position
      • We have seen that…
      • Therefore, the evidence points strongly to the conclusion that we must increase our foreign aid to countries that need our support.
  5. Instruct students that there are different techniques and language features in persuasive texts that an author/writer can use to persuade others. Encourage students to engage with these techniques and language features by:
      • cutting up the table and having students match the technique/language feature with the correct description and example OR
      • asking students to come up with examples of persuasive techniques with a peer [HITS Strategy 5]

    A list of some common language features and techniques of persuasive texts can be found here.  See also 'Structuring persuasive language analysis'.

  6. Provide students with a contention
  7. Instruct students to use the techniques and language features handout and the structure of an analytical exposition to draft their own.
  8. Encourage students to collaborate with a peer by sharing ideas of what they can include making their analytical exposition more convincing.
  9. Students share examples of arguments from their analytical exposition draft as a class.
  10. Pose these questions to students:
    • 'Would your argument convince everyone who reads it?'
    • 'What types of people might be convinced about your argument?'
    • 'Who might not be convinced by your argument?'
    • Students do a think-pair-share of responses to the questions with a peer [HITS Strategy 5] before sharing with the class. Emphasise the importance of considering the audience and what might persuade them to agree with an argument.

Links to curriculum: VCCCG019, VCCCL022, VCCCL023, VCCCC025, VCCCC026, VCCCG028, VCCCL034, VCCCC037