Writing a persuasive NAPLAN text

Writing a persuasive text is actually quite hard.

Indeed it is.

It’s hard because you have to work out what you want to say and then arrange it so that it is the most persuasive.

Not only do you have to blend style and structure, high school students also have to think about the implications for society and come up with solutions! You also have to acknowledge and rebut counter-arguments as well.

Has anyone done that lately?

I remember my daughter, in Year 9, had to write an opinion piece on the refugee crisis in Europe and she slaved over it. She got a decent mark but when she asked why she didn’t get a top mark, her teacher said, “You didn’t come up with solutions”. Um. Did anyone come up with a solution to that crisis?

1. Think and plan

Obvious yes  – but totally necessary. You have to take a position and then make a case – drawing on evidence. Include solutions and in the final body paragraph address counter-arguments. Finish with a bang.

2. Think about solutions

Again – this is a challenge. Start reading, watching and listening. One of the reasons why the War on Waste show was so effective was that Craig Reucassel used humour to disarm, he showed the scale of problems of waste and then presented solutions.

We have useful scaffolds in our book: Persuasive Writing.

3. Rebut counter arguments – the power of however

Think about what people who disagree with your position would say. What would you say then? Start your final body paragraph with: Now it has been argued…..However…

However is the most wonderful word – as soon as you use it – your argument instantly becomes more sophisticated.

Happy writing!

How to start a NAPLAN narrative

The first few lines of a story are crucial

This is a truth for all writers. JK Rowling. Year 12s – and for any young person writing narratives for the year 7 or 9 writing test this year for NAPLAN.

Create interest from the first line.

You only have a limited number of words, so use them judiciously and deploy them for the right moments. Use your words to focus on the central conflict of your story and the emotional reactions of your character.

Start your story quickly. Drop the reader into the action from the first line. Don’t wait!

Start in the middle

This week, one student defended the slow start to his story by saying, “I’m building up interest”.

To which I replied, “But it’s not interesting to read about packing for a cruise, driving to the cruise liner and boarding the boat”.

“JK Rowling takes her time,” he said.

So we had a look at the first lines of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Mmm. How interesting.

Chapter One is entitled: The Boy who lived

Well that piques the reader’s interest  – don’t you think? The reader is left to wonder – well who died?

Rowling continues:

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Mmm. They are not going to be normal, are they? Rowling crafts the opening line of her story, drops the reader in the middle and keeps the reader wanting to read.

It’s hard but spend some time thinking making sure that you start your story late in the piece, close to the action.

Start with a bang

In addition to starting in the middle of the story, make sure, from the first lines of a story, you hold back information and create anticipation. Knowing what your story is about and what is the best way of telling it are two different things.

A Year 12 student was working on a story that started off with a newspaper extract. Her teacher said she needed to show more rather than tell, so we had to put on our thinking caps and come up with a killer first line. So we came up with this:

My mother always thought I would be murdered.

That works! Intrigue from the first line. We have suggestions in our Creative Writing book.

Keep writing!




Five tips to pass the NAPLAN writing test

1. Think and plan your NAPLAN writing test before you write.

Boring – yes but completely necessary. Never forget that writing is a mixture of style and structure.

It’s actually quite hard to write a creative writing piece or a persuasive text, so take the time to think about what you are going to write.

2. Don’t start writing until you know how you are going to begin and end your piece.

Remember: With Creative Writing – Keep the reader guessing, create tension and a complication, hold information back. The character must want something and something else gets in the way. We have really helpful Creative Writing scaffolds in our book.

With a persuasive text you must also make sure that you follow a structure that makes sure you have the biggest impact. Make a claim, explain your arguments and draw on evidence. Refute opposing arguments and then end with an explosive statement. Simple? Well start practising – again we have really helpful scaffolds in our Persuasive Writing book.


3. Start and end your NAPLAN writing test with a bang!

Leap into your story or your persuasive piece from the first sentence. Grab the attention of the reader from the get go. Start in the middle of the action – don’t delay or dawdle. Get the story moving.  Start your creative writing piece with dialogue to get the story moving, “Brian, get out of the fire!” Start your persuasive with a bold claim – Plastic is not fantastic!

4. Focus on VCPs in your NAPLAN writing test.

Vocab. Connectives. Punctuation. All very, very, very, important because these mechanical parts of language create a cohesive piece of writing and help a reader understand.

So a few pointers here – the more sophisticated language you use, the higher mark you will score. So learn a few challenging words like litigious, longevity or luminescent. If you search for challenging words for NAPLAN you will find lists of words.

Connectives are important words such as because – when you write a sentence with because it immediately becomes more complex because you have to explain. Other connectives such as although and however also indicate complex ideas and others such as in addition indicate an ongoing argument to the reader.

Punctuation is also vital – use it! Not just faithful old full stops and commas. All the family – the speech marks, colons and ellipses – each one creates rhythm and music in your writing.

Our books Creative Writing and Persuasive Writing, explain all you need to know about VCPs and paragraphing…

5. Show don’t tell in your NAPLAN writing test – in all your writing.

Teachers always go on about this because it really is one of the foundation skills of good writing. It takes a while to develop this ability and when you do – your writing will lift up from the page and leap into the mind of the reader.

There are a few aspects of showing not telling.

It is always much better to show feelings rather than tell. If your character is angry, don’t say – he was angry – say  – he kicked the rubbish bin.

Don’t say – she was beautiful – try and really explain what beauty is – so the reader can understand. Ban all the following words – beautiful, gorgeous, great, fantastic, so cool, random. Work harder and use words to explain what it is you can see that is so enchanting.

The other part of showing not telling is a little harder but if you can pull it off – it really works well. If you want to argue that dogs are better than cats, for example, show the reader. Create a scene of an enthusiastic happy dog or a demure, soft puppy and contrast that with a scene of a feral cat. See how persuasive you can be.

Our books Creative Writing and Persuasive Writing, of course, go through how to show in detail.


As you can see, writing is actually very hard and takes a long time to master. It is something you can always improve on. There is lots of help out there on the internet and of course, we can help too.

Buy our books!

Another year, another opportunity for reinvention

Don’t you love a clean slate? That is what the New Year provides. A chance to say, “Bah humbug. I don’t care what happened last year – this year is a chance for a new beginning”.

Maybe this year will be the year, we all decide to take the time to reflect a little, take five minutes at the end of each day, and just write in an exercise book or a random piece of paper some thoughts. Draw a picture. Capture an observation. Make a note of something interesting you read today.

I saw some inspiring pics today. From Adam Liaw, a winner of Masterchef who is in Syria, working with UNICEF. He took pictures of children selling cobs of corn in a refugee camp. What a story? What a life? Innovation and wonder in a place of despair. Life continues. All the time. No matter what the circumstances. A man making beautiful bread – selling it. Life continues.

Take a look. Amazing. https://www.instagram.com/adamliaw/



Everyone needs to learn to write

For those of us in the Southern hemisphere, at this time of the year, our attention turns to holidays and taking some time off to reflect and revitalise for the coming new year. This is certainly the case for the Literary Giants team.

As the year has drawn to a close, we have had a number of opportunities to get out and meet our customers and stakeholders in the educational space. Having a book that has NAPLAN in the title certainly sparks conversations and for some, makes them want to keep on walking straight by.

We were at a school recently, and every person I asked, “Does your child need help with writing?” only a handful said, “No”. This is because learning to write, for most of us, is an incredibly difficult skill to master. So many different skills need to be drawn on to write a response. A knowledge of spelling. Grammar. Sentence structure. Metalanguage. Let alone – knowing what to write and drawing on all that has been learnt about history, philosophy and ideas.

Yes – we have branded the books to engage with a national conversation about literacy, but our books are so much more than helping young people learn to pass a writing test by Year 9. Like so many teachers around Australia, our books are trying to help young people leave school with the ability to make a speech in their workplace or wedding, write a persuasive social media post when they are working in the digital space or write a paper to present at a conference.

Writing is a life skill and we want all children to leave school with a sound ability to write.



How to become a successful speller

One of the concerns raised in having a nationally standardised test is that it can create anxiety for young people who struggle with literacy.  The problem, however, is that many children slip through the cracks and their difficulties with spelling are not picked up and assisted. NAPLAN can, in fact, identify students who struggle with spelling and hopefully lead schools to develop programs and activities to assist learning.

Isn’t that a good thing?

For the teenagers we work with for whom spelling is somewhat of a challenge – these pointers developed by Philomena Ott are very helpful.


C       Capitals

Check you have capitalised the first letter of a sentence and all proper nouns.

O      Omission

Read through your work and check you haven’t forgotten a word. Add the correct word.

P      Punctuation

Check you have added a full stop at the end of a sentence and that you have inserted quotation marks.

S       Spelling

Check your spelling.


Some common features of dyslexic writers

1. Omission: Omit a single letter

occuring for occurring

2. Insertion: Insert a single letter

off for of

3. Substitution: Replace a single letter with another single letter

definate for definite

4. Transposition: Misorder two adjacent letters

lable for label

A single letter is misplaced by more than one position in a word

litgh for light

5. Grapheme substitution: A plausible but incorrect choice of

their for there

thort for thought

5. Wrong use of a split vowel digraph

gole for goal

If you know a young person who makes these kinds of choices – he or she can be helped.

Please see: Information from ACARA on the adjustments available to young people with disabilities.


Information from ACARA on the adjustments available to young people with disabilities.

Support NAPLAN

Information from the Victorian Education Department on dyslexia

Learning Difficulties and Dyslexia

Information from the Yale Centre for Creativity and Dyslexia

Yale Centre for Creativity and Dyslexia

Make words work hard

Be specific, definite and concrete.

In both narrative and persuasive writing, you have to use words to create a visual feast of sights and sounds for the reader to fall into. Being specific creates engaging pictures in the mind of a reader.

Don’t say                     Say

Food                                 Seared steak and crunchy hot chips

The floods                       Mothers waded through the chest-high water

Drink                                Manhattan, Whisky sour

Dog                                   Cavoodle, Golden retriever

Flower                              Daffodil

Cat                                    Persian Blue

Painting                           Banksy’s Slave Labour


Which words create the better picture?

Go and have a look too – at a new section on our website  – some excellent tools for high school and university students.


Well – for someone that really likes everyone to just get on – wading into the NAPLAN debate can be quite scary. Clearly, I don’t want any child to be anxious about sitting a test and I don’t want teachers to feel that they have to only teach grammar and sentence structure in English lessons so their students pass NAPLAN.

However, we do seem to have something of a national problem. Mastering writing continues to be a challenge around Australia. I looked at the statistics myself today on ACARA’s website and they made interesting (and depressing) reading.

The year nine results across the country reveal that more or less only 40% of students met the Band 8 standard or above for writing. In the Northern Territory – it was 20%. This year – young people around Australia had to write a persuasive text of around about 500 words on the topic ‘Don’t waste it!’ and the visual prompts included water, food and time.

Now of course, writing is a difficult to master. It will take some children far longer than others. Children with learning difficulties may find it too big a mountain to climb by year 9. And yes, some young people resist, fall asleep in the test, don’t try and so on – so the figures may not be accurate. I realise school is for learning and it is a journey. A long journey. A lifelong journey.

But. We’ve got to try haven’t we? We’ve got to aim high, haven’t we?

Only 40% of students managed to score over and above 32 marks out of a possible 48 marks writing about whether or not time is precious or food should not be wasted.

Isn’t this something we should be concerned about?

A wonderful response

Thank you people of Australia and the world.

You have embraced our first book and we are so excited.

We have received some ringing endorsements from wonderful teachers and every teacher, librarian and parent we show the book to, says the same thing – ‘Yes please!’.

From Lara Bird – a wonderful teacher – Mandy Newman thank you for writing this book. Great layout and content for both student and teacher. A wonderful resource for planning creative writing lessons. A book to support students in developing skills when learning to write creatively. Thank you

And from Judy Reed – another inspirational teacher – this lovely testimonial accompanies the sale of the book at the Pymble newsagency.

Thanks so much for your support – it’s so satisfying to have created a product that people so obviously wanted. More to come…

What a great first day!

Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm for our first book. We’re thrilled with the wonderful, warm response we have received in the first 24 hours.

A couple of questions have come up that we would like to answer.

Is the book applicable to adult writers? 

Absolutely. The principles of good writing are the same whether you are 14 or 41. This book refers to a national test that all Australian students have to undertake but all writers need to learn how to emotionally engage an audience and to consider how they structure a story to keep the reader’s interest. All of these ideas are covered in the book.

Do you ship to the United States? 

Why yes we do – if you are from any country other than Australia and the USA – please let us know and we will provide you with shipping charges. We are working on this section of our website.

Have you heard of pobble365.com ? 

We had not until today and it’s a wonderful UK site that really encourages fantastic creative writing practice. Go have a look  – http://www.pobble365.com. It’s fab!