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TREE for Persuasive Writing


This activity helps students to organize the process of planning and writing a persuasive or opinion text. The mnemonic TREE (Harris & Graham, 1992) is an acronym that stands for: T: Topic sentence R: Reasons E: Examine reasons E: Ending Through the use of this mnemonic, students can gain confidence and success at composing opinion pieces

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Metacognition
  • Synthesizing

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Writing from Sources


Determine the scope and potentially the topic of the writing assignment. This activity is designed for persuasive pieces, in which students are writing their opinions Provide several models of short, well-structured persuasive texts. Create a graphic organizer with three sections: “Topic Sentence,” “Reasons,” and “Ending.”

Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher reviews the basic elements of a persuasive text, using several models to illustrate structure. Teacher introduces and explains the mnemonic TREE, as well as the general scope of the writing assignment.

    Initially students will need a lot of direct instruction and modeling in using this mnemonic, but after several uses they should require only a brief reminder. Students can develop their own topics, or they can respond to a prompt or a question that you provide.

  2. Students get into pairs and discuss the questions: · Who will read this? · Why am I writing this?

    This step is designed to help students to focus and refine their purpose in writing, and to plan their writing to reach their target audience.

  3. Teacher distributes graphic organizers and reviews their use and their sections.

    With enough practice students won’t need much review.

  4. T: Students think about their main opinion, and write a topic sentence that expresses it in their graphic organizers.

    You can cue students with questions such as: · What do you want people to know? · What do you think about this? · What do you believe?

  5. R: Students think of at least three reasons why they believe what they stated in their topic sentence. Students write these reasons in the spaces provided in their graphic organizers.

    As you circulate and confer with students, you can cue them with questions such as: · What makes this true? · Why do you believe this? · What if I don’t believe you? What evidence do you have? · What examples show this?

  6. E: Students read over their reasons, and ensure that they make sense. They provide additional elaboration or evidence as needed to support the reasons. They decide on the best order of the reasons.

    You can cue students with questions such as: · Does this make sense? · Is this enough to convince someone? · What might someone say who disagrees? · What could you say back to them?

  7. E: Students decide how they want to end their compositions, and write at least one concluding sentence on their graphic organizers.

    Lower-level students will probably restate their main topic, while more advanced students should be pushed to extend or expand their ideas in the conclusion.

  8. Using their completed graphic organizers as guides, students write their compositions. They use the self-statement “say more” periodically.

    Many students tend to be overly brief in their writing, so the cue “say more” is intended to remind them to be thorough and complete.

  9. Students get back into pairs and read their compositions to a partner. Students discuss how convincing each composition is, what counterargument(s) might be, and how to revise the pieces to make them even more convincing.

    Confer with pairs of students, listen to their pieces, and help them to develop solid and well-reasoned arguments.

  10. Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.

    Students respond to questions including: · How did this activity affect your ability to plan your persuasive composition? · How did this activity affect your ability to carry out your writing? · How might you use this strategy in your independent writing?

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