What I Want For Christmas in Five Paragraphs December 03 2009

 "What I Want For Christmas" is a high-interest, persuasive writing exercise for students. The point is for them to persuade their parental figures to give them presents they would like for Christmas, and the focus is helping students construct paragraphs, organize and support reasons, and craft opening and closing sentences.

 If you have younger kids, this might work better as a whole-class exercise, using sentence strips and a pocket chart. Small groups of students can come up with and write down reasons on the sentence strips, and you can model how to put those reasons together into a cohesive paragraph. Another mini-lesson idea with this format is to teach about opening and closing sentences.

The Reasons

 Before anyone starts writing, it would be a good idea to brainstorm with your students reasons why they should get what they want for Christmas. I have found over the years that this is a difficult concept for kids. I've had to supply a lot of direction to help them see things from the parents' perspective, and encourage them to choose reasons that will appeal to parents instead of the kids themselves.

After brainstorming a healthy list of these kinds of ideas, I try to help students group them together in three main categories: What Kids Want, Why They Want It, and Why Parents Should Give Them Those Gifts. The first two categories could make up the first paragraph of this persuasive piece. Then the three body paragraphs can each focus on a reason why students want a certain gift.

Another variation is to make this piece of writing less persuasive and more informative in nature, using those three categories - What Kids Want, Why They Want It, and Why Parents Should Give Them Those Gifts - to make up the three body paragraphs. This might be a better option for students who are starting persuasive writing - it's a tricky mode, and they would only have to deal with the actual persuasive part in the third paragraph.

Organization is Key!

The easiest way to organize a persuasive paragraph - or series of paragraphs - is the opening sentence, first reason, second reason, third reason, closing sentence. To help form this persuasive piece in particular, I've constructed two Graphic Organizers: the first is a Persuasive Graphic Organizer for Teachers with notes, and the second is a blank Persuasive Graphic Organizer for Students to use to organize their writing.

In order to transition from one reason - or paragraph - to another, students are going to have to have some idea of transitional words. Some of these transitional words are first, second, third, next, then, also, last, and finally. If you're working with younger kids and using this as a whole-group lesson with a pocket chart, you can put in the transition words using sentence strips, modeling how they work.

The Paragraph, or Sequence of Paragraphs

Before they start writing reasons and paragraphs, I like to do a mini-lesson or two - along with some practice - of opening and closing sentences and paragraphs. Closing paragraphs in particular can be difficult, and I direct students to focus a sentence or two in this paragraph on feelings or opinions; in this case, it might be, "It's important to me that you know why I think I should get x for Christmas. (Can repeat the three reasons here). If I got x gift, I would be the happiest kid around."

Instead of giving them this example, have them construct a variety of closing sentences and write them down on a piece of chart paper in a list. Then have the class pick their three to five favorites, and see if they can be combined at all into a closing paragraph with a little tweaking.

It would be entertaining for you to schedule a couple of sharing times for students to read all or portions of these pieces to their classmates. Plus, it will give you an idea of what kids out there want for Christmas!