It’s important to know the values, beliefs, and attitudes that motivate behavior in order to write an effective persuasive speech or argumentative essay. It also is important to understand ways that speakers and authors reveal these motivators in their writing.
Tasks: Locate website for creating word clouds as a kick-off to a persuasive/argumentation writing or speaking unit. I use Wordle.net . See the Value Words to create a list of 30-40 value words. Distribute a list of value words and ask the students to circle their top ten, then collect and redistribute the lists so those on the left side of the classroom have lists of those on the right side and vice versa.
Next, invite a student with speed and accurate keyboarding skills to enter the words as classmates read the lists aloud. Each list is to be read and entered completely. Then, transfer the list to wordle.net and project the Word Cloud created there.
Benefits: students will have an opportunity consider their own values. Students reading aloud see what peers value. Hearing the lists read in their entirely, the students hear repeated values. But, even more important, when we all see the word cloud, we see a vivid representation of the values held most highly by those in our class.
Students then will be better prepared to write persuasive speeches designed to convince the members of the audience they have in their classroom audience. They will have a better sense of what kinds of appeals to use, at least, to open minds to new ideas about controversial issues, if the speakers do not go so far as to bring about lasting change in beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. See Developing Talks to Convince or Persuade . This can be adapted easily for writing essays and multi-modal presentations.
I can see a similar use for creating word clouds about characters students meet in their reading, whether in fiction or non-fiction. It is interesting for students to consider the ways that authors reveal the values, beliefs, and attitudes of characters or real people. What methods of characterization – direct and/or indirect are more effective, etc? What kinds of words, phrases, and images to authors use to show that motivation?