Lesson Plan: Understanding Persuasive Writing
Student Resource: "Violence
in the Media," by Elizabeth Thoman, Center for Media
Media Type: Persuasive Essay
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Give examples of how the media glamorize violence and
desensitize viewers to the horrors of real acts of violence.
- Identify factors in addition to the media that contribute
to the problem of violence in society.
- Apply the reading skill of understanding persuasive writing
to an article linking acts of real violence-to-violence
in the media.
Introducing the Lesson
Direct students to a Web site that contains TV and movie
listings for your locality for the current week. Alternatively,
bring to class listings from the local newspaper. Ask one
group of students to count the number of shows with violent
content; a second group is to count the total number of shows
broadcast during prime time (8:00 to 11:00 p.m.) for that
Have the two groups share their findings. Ask a volunteer
to state the number of shows with violent content as percentages
of the whole (i.e., by dividing the number of violent shows
by the total number of shows, then moving the decimal point
two places to the right; e.g., 12 violent shows ÷ 31
total shows = 0.387 = 38.7 percent). Ask for students' reactions
to the number and percentage of shows with violent content.
Initiate a discussion of whether students think there is a
correlation, or connection, between violence on TV and real-world
Note that every author has a purpose for writing. Mention
that one of these purposes is to persuade readers to
accept a certain viewpoint or set of ideas. Point out that
students come face-to-face almost daily with a form of persuasive
writing-the writing found in advertisements and TV commercials.
Explain that like other forms of persuasive writing, these
types use charged language, words and phrases that
trigger an emotional response in readers or viewers. Note
that two other techniques usually reserved for writers of
more serious prose, such as essays and editorials, are:
- Presenting hard facts and numerical statistics.
- Citing or quoting established authorities on the subject
To drive home these last two points, distribute copies of
the persuasive essay or direct students to the Web site where
the essay is found. Ask students to find the quote by an authority
and the numerical statistic.
After students have completed the reading, you may either
use the following as class discussion questions or assign
them as individual or group work.
- Critical Thinking. Give an example from the essay
that demonstrates how the media glamorize violence and desensitize
viewers to its horrors. What other examples can you think
of that support this view? What message does the writer
of the essay say these examples convey?
- Summarizing. Why, according to the essay, is media
violence so much more of a factor in real acts of violence
today than it was in the early twentieth century? What statistic
does the essay cite to help persuade the reader of this
- Extending. Many critics of the view expressed in
this essay have pointed to instances of violence shown on
the nightly news, claiming that these provide a model for
violence in society. Among these critics are producers of
programs portraying violence. Do you think this is a valid
argument? Does the argument, if valid, lessen the responsibility
on producers of violent programming? Explain your answers.
- Synthesizing. The final section of the article
mentions the rights of people under the First Amendment
to the Constitution. What does the First Amendment state?
Do you think the shows in question ought to be protected
by the First Amendment? Why or why not?
- Evaluating. The essay identifies other factors
besides media violence that contribute to the problem of
violence in society. In what way are all or many of these
problems related? Which of these factors do you consider
to be the single biggest problem on its own? Explain your
Critiquing Media Violence
Think about a film or show on TV you've seen that contains
graphic violence. If you haven't seen such a show recently
or can't remember the details, use one of the descriptions
from the TV and movie listings gathered at the beginning of
the lesson. For the show you choose, identify:
- The conflict that exists.
- The problem that fuels the conflict.
- Who the conflict is between.
Use this information to write a critique of the show in which
you discuss healthful, non-violent ways of solving the problem.
Think about communication and conflict resolution skills that
the parties involved in the conflict could have used to settle