Whether you are working on a persuasive unit or preparing your students for assessment, these writing prompts can serve as a starting point for building persuasive (argument) essays. Encourage students to use the PAST strategy to analyze the prompts, and share six strategies for writing arguments to help them do their best work.
Beginning Persuasive Prompts (Grades 4–5)
Share these prompts with students who are beginning to write essays.
1. What Season Is Best?
Some people love hot summers at the beach or pool. Others love cold winters with sleds and snowmen. Maybe you like crackling fall leaves or tender spring flowers. Write an essay that names your favorite season and gives reasons why it is best.
2. My Pet of Choice
If you could have any pet, what pet would you choose? Dog? Cat? Snake? Tarantula? Write a letter to your parent or guardian naming the pet you would most like to have and giving reasons why you should get to have this pet.
3. Time for a Vacation
What vacation would you like most? Hiking in a state park? Visiting Grandma? Going to an amusement park? Write an essay to your parent or guardian naming what would be a perfect vacation and giving reasons you would like to take it.
4. A Change I'd Make
Think of a problem at your school. What causes the problem? What bad things happen because of it? What should be done to fix the problem? As a concerned student, write a persuasive essay noting the problem, suggesting a solution, and convincing your principal to take action.
5. Valuing a Second Language
Many schools require students to take foreign language courses. Does your school? Do you think it's a good idea for students to learn a second language? Why or why not? In an essay, make a case why it is (or is not) important to learn a foreign language.
Intermediate Persuasive Prompts (Grades 6–8)
Share these prompts with students who regularly write essays.
6. What's My Age Again?
Is it better to be a child, a teenager, or an adult? What are the benefits of each age? What are the drawbacks? Choose the period of life that you think is best and write an essay arguing why it is the best time of life. Support your position with anecdotes from your own life as well as facts and details drawn from the lives of others.
7. Preparedness vs. Overplanning
John Lennon once observed, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” If that is true, is it better to live life without a plan, to carefully follow a precise plan, or to somehow balance planning and spontaneity? Write an essay arguing for how a person should plan (or not plan) life. Support your claim using examples from your life and the lives of other students.
8. Future President
Some day, you and your classmates will be the adults in charge of running the world. Is that thought exciting or terrifying? Which of your classmates would make the best president of the United States? Write an editorial announcing a presidential bid by a classmate of yours (or yourself). Tell why the person would make an excellent president, provide the person’s qualifications, and urge readers to vote for the candidate.
9. What Is Music For?
Archeologists have uncovered ancient flutes carved from bird bones and mammoth ivory, showing that music has been with us for a very long time. Even so, what is music for? It doesn’t provide food or shelter. It doesn’t cure disease or solve problems. What does music do? Write an essay that tells what music does for human beings and argues for its value in our lives.
10. New Class Offerings
Think about a class not currently available that you would like your school to offer. Now write an editorial to your school newspaper that identifies the new class and provides strong reasons for including it in your school’s curriculum.
Advanced Persuasive Prompts (Grades 9–12)
Share these prompts with high-school level writers. Refer them to the 7 C's for Building a Rock-Solid Argument infographic to review the key parts of an effective argument.
11. Drug Testing for All?
The Supreme Court ruled that random drug testing is constitutional for high school students involved in athletics and other extracurricular activities. Write an essay that argues for or against random drug testing of all students.
12. Would You Eat Test Tube Meat?
Some 9 billion animals are killed and used for food each year in the United States. The animal waste produced by factory farms causes water and air pollution. Yet the demand for meat grows stronger. In an attempt to curb the use of factory farms while satisfying the population’s demand for meat, food scientists have begun producing in vitro meat—muscle tissue that’s cultured from animal cells and grown in a laboratory. How comfortable would you be eating test-tube meat? Write an essay that argues for or against in vitro meat.
13. Tests, Tests, Tests
Standardized tests are used as a measuring stick for student performance. Your test scores decide, in part, whether you are admitted to certain colleges. They are also used to measure readiness for certain careers, such as law and medicine. Test scores impact the funding that public schools receive from the federal government. Write an essay that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of standardized tests. In your essay, decide if standardized tests are the proper measuring stick for student performance. If, in your opinion, they are not, describe alternatives that could be used to measure achievement.
14. Should the Internet be Copyright Free?
In 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill was introduced to the United States House of Representatives. Among other things, SOPA would expand criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted movies, music, and television. Many free-content sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit boycotted the bill as a threat to free speech. A draft of the bill was postponed in 2012, and it remains tabled today. Write an essay that weighs the interests of copyright holders such as recording artists and movie producers against the rights of users of the free Web. Should sites be able to host copyrighted material free of charge? Is it ethically right to stream pirated music and movies? Provide reasons for your response.
15. Tackling National Debt
In last 40 years the United States federal government has accumulated unprecedented debt, meaning that it has spent more money than it has collected in revenue. In fact, the national debt is approaching $20 trillion and rising by the day. The debt crisis is a complex problem that could eventually cost citizens and weaken the U.S.'s standing in the global community. In a problem-solution essay, explore the causes and effects of the national debt problem. Then outline possible solutions and recommend how the federal government should act to solve the crisis.