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Writer’s Workshop


Write an essay in which you state your position on an issue that is important to you and provide reasons supporting your position.


To persuade.


Your classmates, newspaper readers, or anyone affected by the issue. (You choose.)



In this collection you've been reading about people who take a stand to do the right thing. In this Writer's Workshop you'll have a chance to take and defend a stand on an issue you care about. You'll write a paper in which you

• discuss an issue about which people disagree

• talk about the pros and cons-the reasons for and against different positions on the issue

• tell where you stand on the issue

• give at least three reasons for supporting your position

Professional Model

Itzhak Perlman, a world-famous violinist, was disabled as a child by polio.

I've been in public buildings throughout the world, and it's clear that the people who design them have no idea what it feels like to use crutches or sit in a wheelchair. One of the great architectural catastrophes of all time, from the point of view of any concertgoer, much less one who is disabled, is the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. A design contest was held and the winner was an architect who had conceived a truly fantastic-looking place with about a hundred steps leading to the entrance. There is no elevator-not for the general public, not for the poor musicians who have to lug

The writer introduces the issue.

The writer gives a detailed example as support.

The writer states a fact as support.


instruments up all those stairs, and certainly not for the disabled. Why couldn't the prize have been given to the best design that was also barrier-free? Why, when it's possible to make everyone comfortable, is so little attention paid to accessibility? ...

If you want to be sensitive to the indignities and frustrations suffered by the disabled, spend a day or two in a wheelchair. Tell yourself that you cannot get up-then try to get into a car. Try to go shopping or use the toilet in a restaurant. See what it feels like to be all dressed up and have to ride to your appointment in a freight elevator with the garbage. I can tell you how that makes me feel-furious.

We don't need more equal-rights laws. What we need is an attitude that we're all human beings, and as such, we all care about each other.

-from "To Help the Handicapped, Talk to Them" by Itzhak Perlman

The writer restates the issue as a question.

The writer tries to convince readers by asking them to put; themselves in his place.

The writer cites personal experience as support.

The essay ends with a call to action.

Looking at the Good and bad on School Issues


Good: They'd save money Bad They're. boring!

Length of school day

Longer: Kids could do their home-work at school.

Shorter: Kids need fresh air!

Metal detectors

Good: safety

Bad: They'd make students feel like criminals!


1. Writer's Notebook

Look at your Writer's Notebook entries for this collection. Could you use any of your ideas as the basis for a paper supporting a position? For more ideas, try the brainstorming suggestion on the next page.


2. Brainstorming

Remember that you will have to come up with good reasons to support a particular course of action. To find a topic people disagree on, get together with a group of classmates and brainstorm issues in several areas-for instance, school, community, national, and world. Each group member should pick a category and write down the issues, along with opinions on them.

3. Choosing an Issue and Finding Reasons

You've got a lot of issues on the table. How do you choose one to work with? First, look for an issue that matters to you. Second, make sure you see reasons to support different sides.

Clustering is one way to walk around an issue and look at it from different sides. Here is how it works. State the issue in the form of a question. Write the question in the middle of a sheet of paper, and draw a circle around it. Around the circle, write down another position people might take on the issue, along with reasons to support that position. Then, write down evidence-facts, examples, personal experiences-supporting the reasons. The model on the left is an example of clustering.

Student Model


I strongly believe that kids should be paid for doing chores around the house. Kids all across the country constantly nag their parents for money to go to the movies, buy CDs, go to McDonalds, and do many other things. Many parents complain about kids' always asking for money.

Parents constantly complain that kids don't help out around the house enough. Lots of times parents nag kids until they clean up their rooms, put out the trash, cut the lawn, do the dishes, shovel the snow, and do many other chores.

Why can't kids and parents reach a compromise about money and chores? Parents would pay kids who remember to do their chores without

A strong statement of position on a problem is used to grab readers' attention

The writer gives examples to illustrate the problem.

The writer restates the issue as a question and

Language/Grammar Link


End marks: page 201. Commas in a series: page 215. Comma splice: page 225. Apostrophes: page 243. Punctuating dialogue: page 256


being reminded a small fee for the work done. Kids would no longer ask for money.

This compromise teaches kids responsibility. They would learn that you don't get anything for doing nothing. When their chores are completed, with no nagging, they'd be paid whatever the parents had agreed to pay them. Kids could spend the money on things they like. They'd learn to save money for the expensive items.

No more nagging kids begging for money. No more nagging parents begging kids to clean up. Both kids and parents would be getting something that they want.

-T, J. Wilson

Atlantic Middle School

North Quincy, Massachusetts

gives two reasons to support his position

The writer elaborates by giving several More reasons to support his position

The writer ends with a strong statement citing the benefits of the recommended course of action.

Framework for an Essay Supporting a Position

Introduction (statement of the issue, the pros and cons of different positions on the issue, and your position): __________

Reason 1 and two items of support (support for your position, including facts, examples, and personal experiences): __________

Reason 2 and two items of support: __________

Reason 3 and two items of support: __________

Conclusion (restatement of your opinion and a call to action): __________

4. Targeting Your Audience

In persuasive writing, your goal is to convince your readers to agree with your position and, if possible, to take the actions you recommend. "Whom am I trying to persuade?" is an important question to answer. Here are other questions to think about:

• What does my audience know about the issue? What do I need to explain?

• What is my audience likely to agree with me about?

• What counterarguments, or arguments against my position, could my audience make? How could I answer these counterarguments?


1. Drafting a Strong Beginning

Grab your readers' attention right from the start. One way to do this is to make your first sentence short. Another way is to begin with a question like "Who has the right to tell us what to

Sentence Workshop


Run-on sentences: page 265.

Communications Handbook


See Proofreaders' Marks.


wear to school?" Let the first paragraph set the stage. Tell what the issue is, and explain why it's important and why it interests you. Then, briefly explain the pros and cons of the issue. Finally, tell which side of the issue you're on.

Strategies_for_Elaboration'>Strategies for Elaboration

To support your position, you can use

• facts (including surveys and statistics)

• examples

• opinions from experts, especially direct quotations

• definitions

• anecdotes (very brief stories, such as personal experiences; include dialogue if possible) appeals to emotion

• cause and effect (for example, the results of a particular course of action)

2. Laying Out the Evidence

In the next three paragraphs, you'll try to persuade your audience to agree with you. In each paragraph, give one convincing reason to support your position. Then, elaborate with two items of support-a fact, an example, a personal experience. Try to use several kinds of support. If your evidence is limited to personal experiences, for example, your audience may suspect that you can't find other kinds of support.

3. Organizing the Evidence

It's important to arrange your reasons and support in a logical way. Many writers use order of importance for this kind of paper, saving their strongest reason for last. You may want to put your best reason in your fourth paragraph.

4. Ending with a Bang

In your conclusion, present a strong statement of your position. Leave no doubt in your readers' minds. Drive your point home by telling what's wrong with the other side. End by urging readers to agree with you or to take the course of action you support. Use the Framework for an Essay Supporting a Position (page 263) to organize your ideas.

Evaluating and Revising

Trade drafts with a classmate, and read your partner's draft. Then, respond to the following questions:

• How does the writer interest me in the issue?

• Does the writer present the issue clearly?

• Does the writer present enough support to convince me?

• What support is strongest? weakest?

• What's the best thing I can say about the introduction and conclusion? What still needs work. in those parts of the essay?

Make all the changes that you think will improve your paper.

Evaluation Criteria

A good position paper

1. clearly states the issue

2 presents two or more positions on the issue or courses of action

3. clearly states the writer's position on the issue

4. gives sound, persuasive reasons to support this position

5. stays on track from beginning to end

6 is organized logically, with transitions connecting ideas



Sentence Workshop


A run-on sentence is two complete sentences punctuated as if they were one sentence. In a run-on the thoughts just run into each other. You can't tell where one idea ends and another one begins.

RUN-ON I was eighteen the next morning I was to start for the West to make my fortune.

CORRECT I was eighteen. The next morning I was to start for the West to make my fortune.

A comma does not mark the end of a sentence.

RUN-ON Fausto went to church, he put twenty dollars in the basket.

CORRECT Fausto went to church, and he put twenty dollars in the basket.

There are several ways to revise run-on sentences:

• You can make two sentences. In the first run-on above, adding the period after eighteen clears up the confusion.

• You can add a comma and the coordinating conjunction and, but, or or.

RUN-ON Fausto got an orange while he was eating, a dog walked up and sniffed his leg.

CORRECT Fausto got an orange, and while he was eating, a dog walked up and sniffed his leg.

Writer's Workshop Follow-up:


Take out your essay supporting a position, and exchange papers with a classmate. To spot run-ons, try reading your partner's essay aloud. As you read, you will probably pause where one thought ends and another begins. If you pause at a place where there is no end punctuation, you may have found a run-on sentence. Underline any run-ons you find, and suggest a revision for each. Exchange essays again, and revise any run-ons your partner found in your writing.

language Handbook


See Revising Run-on Sentences, page 761.



See Language Workshop CD-ROM. Key word entry: run-on sentences.

Try It Out

Copy the following paragraph onto a separate sheet of paper, and revise it, correcting any run-on sentences.

Gary Soto's love of reading made him want to be a writer, he didn't start trying to be a writer, until he went to college. As a student in Catholic school, he wanted to be a priest when he went to public school he wanted to be a barber. He discovered poetry in college he says he was "hooked for good" on writing.


Reading for Life

Evaluating a Persuasive Message


In the paragraph on the right, students at juniper Academy tell why they think wearing school uniforms is the right thing to do. Do you find their message convincing? Use the following strategies to evaluate this and any other persuasive writing.


Identify the writer and the main idea.

• Who is the writer (or writers), and what special expertise or interest does he or she have in the topic?

• Does the writer clearly state a position on the issue? How much does the writer know about the subject? Can you believe what he or she says?

Analyze the writer's perspective, or point of view.

• Does the writer present more than one point of view, or is the writing slanted toward one side of the argument?

• Does the writer give convincing reasons to support his or her position?

Evaluate the writer's choice of words.

• Does the vocabulary fit the purpose and the audience?

• Does the writer use loaded words (words that call up strong feelings, like greatest or rotten) to make a point?

Using the Strategies

I . What is the subject of the paragraph by the students at juniper Academy? Describe how the writers' perspective, or point of view, affects what they have to say.

2. Give three reasons to support wearing uniforms.

3. Find two or three words or phrases in the last two sentences that could be considered loaded words.

4. Did the paragraph convince you? Why or why not?

Extending the Strategies

• Read an editorial in your school paper or local newspaper. Evaluate the message, using the strategies you've just learned.


Why have we chosen to wear uniforms at juniper Academy? Uniforms are a smart choice. In uniforms, kids come to school with a better attitude, ready to learn, which leads to higher attendance and better grades, By reducing socioeconomic barriers, uniforms "level the playing field." Kids can be proud of who they are instead of worrying about what they are wearing. As outward appearance becomes less of a factor, self-esteem is higher, giving a child courage to get involved with the school. Uniforms can give parents and teachers peace of mind. Finally, we feel that uniforms build unity and a strong sense of pride within the student body as a whole.

-from the Web page of Juniper Academy

Redding, California


Learning for Life

Using Multiple Sources to Conduct Research on Volunteering


You've read about people who made decisions to "do the right thing." For many people, volunteering to help others is "doing the right thing." What are the benefits of volunteering?


Find out about volunteer opportunities for middle school students in your community, and make the information available to other students.


I . Make a list of your interests and skills. Include your favorite activities in and out of school and the causes you feel strongly about.

2. In groups of four or five, brainstorm to come up with a list of places where you might volunteer, for example:

• an animal shelter

• a park

a hospital

• a library

• a senior citizens' center

3. Make a list of volunteer positions to investigate.


I Design a volunteers-needed card to record information about volunteer jobs. Include such items as the volunteer position, the agency it is with, the location, the name and phone number of the person to contact, how to apply, qualifications looked for in an applicant, the time commitment required, and any special comments.

2. Elect one classmate to call Volunteers of America and the office of the mayor. Find out if there is a government agency nearby that assigns volunteers. Then, call at least one place where you would like to volunteer. Fill in a volunteers-needed card for each place


Present your findings in one of the following ways:

1. Public-Service Announcement

Create an audio or a video public service announcement encouraging young people to volunteer in the community. Talk about the benefits of volunteering and the kinds of work available. Play your announcement for your school. You might ask if a local radio or TV station will broadcast your announcement.

2. "Volunteer Fair"

Organize a "volunteer fair" for your class or school. Set up tables with information about volunteer work. Use separate tables for different kinds of work-for example, work with animals or work in hospitals. "Volunteers" at each table can answer questions.

3. On-line Index

If you have access to a computer program that can make an index, enter your volunteers-needed information. Then, students can get information by searching under any of several categories-for example, they should be able to look under the specific position (animal-shelter helper) or the general category (outdoor work) or the part of town in which a job is located.


Finish this sentence: "I want to help my community by...".

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