Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community | Facing History & Ourselves
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Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community

Students write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper, which outlines the importance of considering the needs of others and suggests ways to create a more caring community.


This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

assessment copy


English — UK
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights


About this GCSE Supplement

This optional GCSE supplement gives students the opportunity to link the content of An Inspector Calls to modern society and current issues, whilst at the same time preparing students for the English Language GCSE. The activities and tasks outlined below, in which students craft a letter to a local newspaper, allow them to make connections across texts and to their own lives in order to develop their persuasive writing skills and voices. 

This GCSE supplement is not a lesson, and does not need to be taught as such. It is structured in such a way as to ensure that the various steps necessary for writing an effective persuasive letter are outlined in an appropriate order: 

  1. Engage with a stimulus (most of this step was completed in Lesson 21: What Lessons Can We Learn?)
  2. Develop claims and content
  3. Read a model letter
  4. Plan and write the letter
  5. Respond to feedback and redraft

You may decide that your class do not need to follow all of the steps, or that you want your students to do some of the steps in class and others at home. Engage with the supplement in the way that works for your classroom context, adapting it to your students’ needs as you see fit. 

This GCSE supplement builds on the work done in Lesson 21: What Lessons Can We Learn?, in which students discussed the unit’s essential question: What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others? Students considered the lessons that they learnt from reading the play, sharing their ideas in a people’s assembly. Now, students will be reflecting on these lessons and developing their ideas into a formal letter about how we can turn our society into a caring community, one in which people consider the needs of others. 

  • Clear and Coherent Writing (Lit-AO4, Lang-AO5/AO6)
  • Knowledge of Subject Terminology (Lit-AO2, Lang-AO2)
  • Writing for Impact (form, audience, purpose) (Lang-AO5)

Students generate ideas for their persuasive letter, in which they must write for impact, considering the form, audience and purpose. Before starting their letter, students have the opportunity to review subject terminology linked to persuasive literary devices, if needed. The model and planning aid helps students write clearly and coherently: they are given inspiration for sentence starters and see how to structure their piece. Finally, if teachers are using Marking Criteria Codes to give feedback and give students the opportunity to engage with this feedback and redraft their work, then students will make great progress as writers: they can improve the structure and content of their writing, whilst also enhancing their spelling, punctuation and grammar skills. 

Learn more about this unit’s Alignment with GCSE Specification

This GCSE Supplement includes:

  • 5 steps
  • 3 teaching strategies
  • 4 handouts

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this GCSE supplement, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

In this supplement, students are required to write a letter to a local newspaper to outline how we can turn our society into a caring community, one in which people consider the needs of others. To improve students’ engagement and to encourage them to take the letter seriously, it would be particularly powerful if they were then able to send these letters to their local newspaper. For these reasons and because it is important for students to engage in real-world writing tasks for audiences beyond their teachers and peers, you may wish to give students the addresses of one or more local newspapers. Not only is this an effective way for students to become local upstanders, it is also a means of them putting English skills into practice beyond the world of school. It will also encourage students to engage with the marking and redrafting of their work, which is a vital way of supporting their development as writers.

There are two examples of persuasive letters contained within the Persuasive Letter Examples handout. Please select the appropriate handout for your students so they can access the content at a level appropriate for them. Or you may choose to use both intermediate and advanced models in the same class so that your students can examine the ‘writing moves’ that each author makes when crafting their letters. Alternatively, you could group students according to level and have them read the models aloud or ask students to read the models independently.

We recommend that teachers use Marking Criteria Codes when reviewing students’ written work to help them develop the structure and content of their writing, and their written English. These marking criteria codes enable teachers to nurture their students as effective writers by giving them in-depth feedback, which requires proactive student engagement.

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Suggested Activities and Steps

Discuss Social Duty

  • Inform students that they will be reflecting on the notion of duty, looking at how it is described in the play and thinking about the notion of duty to society and to others. 
  • Project the following quotations concerning duty from the play on the board:

    ‘It’s my duty to ask questions’ (Inspector, p. 15)

    Well, it’s my duty to keep labour costs down’ (Mr Birling, p. 15)

  • Ask students to discuss the following questions in groups: 

    • What is meant by ‘duty’ in these two quotations?
    • When, if ever, can the idea of duty be problematic?
    • What duties do you think people have to others and to society? 
  • How has reading An Inspector Calls made you more aware of your social duties?
  • Inform students that they will be preparing to write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper that outlines how we can build a society in which people consider the needs of others. If it is useful for your students to recap their knowledge of persuasive writing techniques, give them the Persuasive Techniques Word Match handout.
  • Ask students to respond to the following questions in pairs, noting down their ideas to share with the class:
    • Why is having a society that considers the needs of everyone important? 
    • How can we build a society that gives all people the support they need? Make a list in your books of specific actions.
  • Invite students to share their ideas with the class, collecting what they say on the board or large paper so that all students have this to refer to. You may want to collect this in the form of a two column chart, titling one column ‘Importance of having a society that considers the needs of all’ and the other ‘Ideas on how to build a society that gives all people the support they need’.
  • Next, explain to students that to write an effective letter, they need to ensure that all of the claims that they use are well developed and link to the statement, which in this case is: We can turn our society into a caring community, in which people consider the needs of others. They should support this argument by thinking of relevant claims, and thinking about how they can develop these claims with supporting ideas. 
  • To help them with this process, give your students the Persuasive Writing Planning Chart – Claim Development handout and project the example on the board or model your own, explicitly outlining your thinking.
Persuasive Writing Planning Chart
Claim One We need to connect groups of people from all levels of society, giving them the chance to interact and communicate.
Supporting Idea Connecting people with those who are from different social backgrounds can help make people more aware of others’ needs.
Wealthy people with power might be more likely to campaign on behalf of those who have fewer opportunities.
Persuasive Device

Assertion: People are kind and like to help each other out.  

Rhetorical question: People will ask themselves how can I help? What can I do to improve their situation?

Supporting Idea Connecting people with different life experiences can help prevent future conflict as people will meet and learn from those who have different life experiences to their own.
Persuasive Device

Imperative & Repetition: Imagine what we can learn from each other. Imagine the barriers we can overcome.  

First-person plural pronouns (inclusive): We are members of society: our lives are and will always be interconnected.

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  • Encourage your students to generate ideas by thinking about what they learnt about the individual and society, and social responsibility from studying An Inspector Calls. It is also worth explaining to them that they can be creative with their ideas, providing their ideas are realistic and relevant to the central argument of the letter. They may also wish to outline ways that the newspaper could help, if relevant (e.g. the newspaper could set up a mentoring programme that pairs people from different walks of life as letter writing partners).
  • If helpful, you can give your students one or more of the following claims or brainstorm potential claims as a class on the board, but it is best if students first try to do the work of generating their own claims that are relevant to them and that they are interested in writing about:
    • Students should be taught about social responsibility in schools.
    • Empty buildings should be turned into hostels for the homeless.
    • People should knock on doors to meet their neighbours.
    • Schools should host community events.
  • Once your students have completed one or two claim rows on the Persuasive Writing Planning Chart – Claim Development, hand out one of the model Persuasive Letter Writing Examples, choosing the right model for your students’ level (see Notes to Teachers, above).
  • Depending on the models you use, you can read out the letter as a class using one of the read aloud strategies, group students together according to ability, or ask students to read the letter independently.
  • Once students have read the letter, give them time to reread it independently and annotate its content. You may wish to give them the following questions to focus their annotation: 
    • Circle or underline persuasive writing techniques
    • Circle or underline claims the author uses
    • Circle or underline the evidence the author uses to support their claims
    • What do you notice about the supporting ideas? How many are there?
    • How does the writer link their ideas together? 
    • Put a question mark by ideas you don’t understand or find puzzling
  • Give the students ten minutes to discuss their annotations with a partner using the Think, Pair, Share strategy and then invite some students to share their ideas or any queries they have with the class.
  • Invite students to revisit their Persuasive Writing Planning Chart – Claim Development and add any additional ideas that have come to mind since reading the letter example.
  • Finally, give students the Persuasive Letter Planning Aid handout and ask them to use it to first plan, and then write a letter to the local newspaper outlining how we can turn our society into a caring community, in which people consider the needs of others. 
  • To help them with the planning process, you may wish to project this structure on the board: 
    • Opening paragraph: outline why you are writing – refer to the topic statement
    • Paragraph one: claim one + two supporting ideas (each with two persuasive devices)
    • Paragraph two: claim two + two supporting ideas (each with two persuasive devices)
    • Paragraph three: claim three + two supporting ideas (each with two persuasive devices)
    • Closing paragraph: summary of message and call to action
  • When students give you back their letters, consider using the Marking Criteria Codes teaching strategy to give in-depth feedback and to boost student engagement with marking.
  • Then, give students an opportunity to redraft their work, taking on board the suggested improvements. To make this GCSE writing task a real-world assignment, have students revise their letters and submit them to a local newspaper to be considered for publication.

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