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

3. The Structure and Features of Persuasive Texts

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To understand how text structures and language features become more complex in persuasive texts
  • To understand that the coherence of more complex texts relies on devices that create structure

Sample Success Criteria

  • I understand how the sequencing of ideas can help to create a strong argument
  • I can write a topic sentence to introduce the main idea in a paragraph

 In this stage of the sequence attention is paid to modelling or deconstructing texts to focus explicitly on their text structures and language features. Students will examine how text structures and language features become more complex in persuasive texts and explore underlying structures such as taxonomies, cause and effect and extended metaphors.

Invite students to read two sentences on a similar or related topic that have variations in sentence complexity and density of information.

For example:

‘She swept her hand through the grass heads at Cuddie Springs. She glanced down at what she had gathered and walked back to her camp wondering. She looked around, selected two stones and ground the seeds into a powder. She probably tasted it and later that day she mixed it with a little water and cooked it by the fire. She made bread.’

Young Dark Emu: A truer history (Pascoe, 2019, p16)

The use of the word ‘agriculture’ in relation to Australian Aboriginal people is not something many Australians would have heard. However, if we go back to the country’s very first records of European occupation, we discover some extraordinary observations that provide a picture of what the Australian explorers and pioneers witnessed, and how it refutes the notion that Aboriginal people were only hunter-gatherers.

Dark Emu (Pascoe, 2014, p13)

Ask students to use a graphic organiser like a characteristics chart to record what they notice about the differences between the two excerpts. 

Invite students to share their thoughts, drawing attention to the differences in text structures and language features as you discuss responses.

For example:

  • complexity of sentence structure 
  • topic sentences
  • use of pronouns
  • use of abstract nouns (see entry for 'noun')
  • density of information
  • cause and effect (e.g. revisiting historical observations refutes misperceptions and inaccuracy)
  • text connectives that contribute to the cohesion of the text (e.g. however)
  • active and passive voice
  • coherence (e.g. text openers/opening sentences establishing a line of argument or theme)
  • vocabulary

Consider annotating each of the excerpts to highlight relevant language structures and features and invite students to add to their graphic organiser as the discussion advances.

Deconstructing persuasive texts

If you have used the ‘Get started’ section of this stage, provide students with an extended version of the extract that was used to illustrate text structures and features. Alternatively, provide students with an extended piece of formal persuasive writing on a theme of interest. In this instance a chapter from ‘Dark Emu’ or an article like ‘Why our kids should learn Aboriginal history’ (Westaway, 2014) would provide thematic continuity and useful content for further analysis. 

Use a combination of strategies such as sequencing and text marking to deconstruct and reconstruct the selected text with your students. 

Provide small groups of students with a printed copy of the text, cut into sections. 

Ask students to highlight key words that indicate sequencing and then to use those words to arrange the sections in an order that ‘makes sense’. Invite group members to stand in a line holding the excerpts that indicate their sequencing decisions; compare and discuss the decisions of each group. 

Display a digital or hard copy of the text. Examine the original sequencing and draw attention to key words that imply the sequencing of ideas. For example, before, therefore, however, next, subsequently or then. Introduce the idea of taxonomies, which classify information in order to strengthen an argument.

Annotate the same extended text in collaboration with students to highlight the use of complex text structures and language features to communicate information. For example:

  • overviews
  • topic sentences
  • introductory paragraphs
  • concluding paragraphs
  • complexity of sentence structure (embedded and subordinate clauses)
  • taxonomy – hierarchical ordering of information
  • use of abstract nouns
  • density of information
  • cause and effect 
  • vocabulary


Enable students to participate in this task by allowing time for one-on-one or guided small-group analysis of a concentrated extract from the larger text. Explicitly teach new or unfamiliar vocabulary to students prior to the commencement of the stage. Review understanding of concepts such as topic sentences, taxonomy and abstract nouns.

Extend students by offering the opportunity to consider how the text structures and language features of persuasive texts vary in spoken or visual texts. Alternatively, invite students to consider how the use of examples, quotations or the use of evidence strengthens the cohesiveness of an argument.

Students plan and write a formal sentence in response to a prompt or visual stimulus. Ask students to use more than one clause and to include an abstract noun in their sentence. Provide an example before asking students to begin.

For example:

‘The lack of historical accuracy about the agricultural practices of Aboriginal peoples in Australia /has caused /misperception about how the land was managed.’

Invite students to expand on and incorporate their sentence into a paragraph which includes: 

  • a plan outlining how ideas will be ordered 
  • a topic sentence
  • a range of sentence types
  • 2-3 text connectives, for example: also, furthermore, next, because

Ensure that students are allocated adequate time for planning their sentence/paragraph and consider offering a graphic organiser to support the generation and sequencing of ideas.


Enable students to complete this task by providing sample sentences and/or a template to support sentence construction.

Coote, M., 2020. Azaria: A True History. Melbourne: Melbournestyle Books., 2018. Common Prepositions : List of 100 Most Popular Prepositions. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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

NSW Department of Education, 2016. Connecting: Ideas for teaching and learning activities using graphic organisers and processes. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

NSW Education Standards Authority, n.d. English Glossary. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Pascoe, B., 2014. Dark Emu. Australia: Magabala Books.

Pascoe, B., 2019. Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. Australia: Magabala Books.

State Government of Victoria (Department of Education and Training), 2020. Literacy Teaching Toolkit: Paragraph and text level. [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].

Westaway, M., 2014. The Conversation: Why our kids should learn Aboriginal history. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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