All the Ways to Sway: Exploring and Creating More Complex Persuasive Texts

2. Creating Persuasive Sentences

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To understand how punctuation is used to support meaning in complex sentences
  • To understand how subordinate clauses are used to communicate in-depth information

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can use punctuation to create a complex sentence
  • I can write a complex sentence to communicate more in-depth information or ideas

In this stage of the sequence the focus is on modelling or deconstructing texts to focus explicitly on their text structures and language features. Students will examine how punctuation supports meaning in complex sentences, and how the density of information in a sentence can be increased by using embedded clauses.

Use an engaging persuasive text like the picture book ‘Azaria: a true history’ by Maree Coote to model the way that punctuation is used to create effective sentences. Clarify new or complex vocabulary with your class before commencing reading. 

Invite your students to sit in a circle on the floor or to find comfortable reading space before reading aloud to them. 

After the first reading, ask students to engage in a think, pair, share activity to discuss and record anything they noticed about the writing style in the selected text.

Modelled Reading: persuasive picture book

It is recommended that you have undertaken the ‘Get started’ section of this stage to introduce students to the selected text before completing the modelling activity below. Additionally, it would be beneficial to view the sample think aloud script and think aloud template before beginning the lesson (see 'Materials and texts').

The Literacy Teaching Toolkit offers suggestions about how to make modelled reading a rich and engaging experience.

Read the persuasive text from the ‘Get started’ section a second time, drawing students’ attention to the punctuation of prepositional phrases and embedded clauses via the think aloud strategy. A sample think aloud script for ‘Azaria: a true history’ and a sample think aloud template can be found in the Materials and texts section.

Adapted from Derewianka, B., 2011. A New Grammar Companion for Teachers. 2nd ed. Sydney: Primary English Teaching Association.

Check student understanding, and then ask students to create a sentence that contains a prepositional phrase and an embedded clause. Consider using a visual stimulus related to the theme of your persuasive text to prompt students’ responses. For example, the gallery of illustrations from ‘Azaria: a true history’.

E.g. “In the illustration ‘Innocence Outlined’, Azaria is drawn lying above the dingo, whose eyes are glancing sideways at her.”

Invite students to participate in a Quaker Share activity in small groups, which can be used to support students to share and edit their own writing, to build confidence about reading aloud, and to provide opportunities to explore the impact of their writing on others.

A traditional Quaker Share is loosely structured in the following ways:

  • Students read aloud a few of their sentences to the group.
  • The reading moves around the group, but no comments are made about what is read.
  • Students can be encouraged to record things they hear that they find enjoyable or particularly interesting.
  • Once each member of the group has shared some of their writing, they discuss how it felt to read to a group who is quiet and listening.

In this instance, students could also work together to form an opinion of the author’s stance and then examine the strategies the author uses to communicate their ideas. For example:

  • How has the author used prepositional phrases and embedded clauses to add additional/key/persuasive information or ideas?
  • How has punctuation been used in sentences to give ideas more clarity?


Enable students to access this activity by strategically constructing groups in which students can support each other’s learning. Provide students with a list of common prepositions to support experimentation with the text and consider creating/displaying an anchor chart that defines prepositions/prepositional phrases and embedded clauses. Work closely with small groups as required.

Extend students by inviting them to experiment more extensively with the prose in the chosen stimulus. Students could alter punctuation to affect meaning or identify and create more complex embedded clauses 

Deconstructing persuasive texts

It would be useful for students to be introduced to or reminded of the concept of noun groups before beginning the following modelled reading activity. This video provides a short and simple overview of noun groups.

In addition, the video ‘What is a subordinate clause?’ may be useful to build students’ understanding of this grammatical concept.

Select an extended or academic persuasive text to model how subordinate clauses can be used to increase the density of information being communicated (Click on the 'C' to open the tab for Clauses). For example, The Canberra Times’ article ‘Azaria Chamberlain case leaves lasting legacy' (Jensen, 2020). 

Read the text with students, using intonation and pausing to emphasise the subordinate clause in a selection of sentences.

For example:

“They tell a story of forensic scientists who stepped outside their areas of expertise, who did not test their assumptions and allowed themselves to get caught up in the drama of the case, losing their detachment and ability to remain critical and impartial.” (Jensen, 2020)

A subordinate clause is a clause that provides additional information to the main clause but cannot stand alone. For example:

‘The dingo ran (main) across the desert plain (dependent).’

Provide small groups of students with excerpts of the text you have used and ask them to work together to identify the subordinate clauses within the text.

Discuss student responses, clarifying concepts as appropriate.

Invite students to brainstorm a personal response to the Lindy Chamberlain case, or to an issue raised in the text you have used.  Once students have recorded their ideas, ask them to write 2-3 complex sentences expressing their opinion.


Enable students to participate in this activity by providing a scaffold such as the creating complex sentences activity, which can be found in the Materials and texts section.

Extend students by inviting them to make their opinion more persuasive by adjusting the force of their phrasing. Students could use graded vocabulary (‘devastating’ instead of ‘sad’; ‘enraged’ instead of ‘angry’), intensifiers (‘rather’ distressing, ‘very’ distressing, ‘extremely’ distressing) or repetition (‘The media were unjust. They were unjust in their treatment of the family and they were unjust in the opinions they expressed.’)  

Further activities to support student understanding of complex sentences can be found in 'Teaching Strategies: complex sentences'.

Some key principles around how to make meaningful connections between grammar and the text being used can be found in the Literacy Teaching Toolkit.

Consider employing the grammatical concepts explored in the class to reflect upon the lesson. Recap key concepts and then ask students if they can identify them in a sentence. 

For example:

Write the sentences on the board and review the grammatical concepts to ensure that students feel confident to complete a two-sentence exit ticket that incorporates:

  • A prepositional phrase
  • At least one dependent and one independent clause
  • An embedded clause

Students could pose a question about the topic as an alternative or additional exit task.

Areas for further exploration

Prepositional Pictionary

Invite students to form small groups of no more than four. Create a list of prepositions that are ‘drawable’. Provide students with a time frame in which they must guess the preposition illustrated by the drawer. The successful guesser selects a new card to draw while the rest of the group guesses.

Prepositional Poetry

Students write a prepositional phrase (one each on a strip of paper). These are grouped, corrected and rewritten if necessary to correct spelling, enrich vocabulary choices etc. They are then organised and added to in order to create the best poem using the following formula:

  • Line one: first prepositional phrase with the topic
  • Line two: where
  • Line three: where
  • Line four: where/what
  • Space
  • Line five: feelings concerning topic.

At the Beach

at the beach

amid many sunbathers

on my blanket

with my book

in the beautiful sunshine

is my favourite place to relax!

The ‘Prepositional Pictionary’ and ‘Prepositional Poetry’ activities, by the State of New South Wales (Department of Education), are licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Coote, M., 2020. Azaria: A True History. Melbourne: Melbournestyle Books.

Coote, M., n.d. Melbourne Style: Azaria Series. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022]., 2018. Common Prepositions : List of 100 Most Popular Prepositions. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Freepik, n.d. FlatIcon. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Jensen, S., 2020. The Canberra Times: Azaria Chamberlain case leaves lasting legacy. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 22 June 2022].

Landbeck, N., 2013. Noun Groups. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

NSW Department of Education, 2020. Identifying and using prepositions. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

NSW Department of Education, 2020. Sentence Work Games. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

NSW Department of Education, n.d. Prepositional phrases. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

State Government of Victoria (Department of Education and Training), 2020. Literacy Glossary. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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