NAPLAN Tip 1 for Persuasion: Know Your Genre
October 6, 2010
The official NAPLAN website advises that the 2011 Writing Task genre will be persuasion and the sample task (http://www.naplan.edu.au/verve/_resources/persuasive_prompt.pdf).asks students to respond to the topic:
Books or TV.
Reading books is better than watching TV.
What do you think about this idea? Write to convince a reader of your opinions.
There are two points to make. Firstly, persuasion is not actually a genre – it’s a purpose. In fact, narratives (short stories, novels etc) can be persuasive which is why Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World as a novel and George Orwell wrote 1984. They believed that their arguments would reach a wider audience if presented as stories. What the NAPLAN sample task seems to be asking for is a hortatory exposition – in other words an argument with the following basic structure: Thesis and preview of arguments^Arguments elaborated and exemplified^Reinforcement of thesis.
The second point relates to a confusion in NAPLAN’s own instructions: they invite students to think about if they agree or disagree or see both sides of the argument. The last part of this invitation suggests that the discussion genre (Issue^Arguments for^Arguments against^Position) might also be acceptable. While this might seem reasonable, research demonstrates that students who do best in demand writing tasks write with authority, take a definite position. The discussion genre, on the other, encourages students to take a more neutral position – at least until the conclusion. This has the potential to result in a mid-range grade.
Consequently, teachers would be advised to encourage students to write expositions.
Note: ^ in the summary of genre stages means “followed by”.