Reinventing the Persuasive Essay for the Edtech Friendly Classroom

Reinventing the Persuasive Essay for the Edtech Friendly Classroom

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Guest blogger and instructional coach Jamey Boelhower teaches us how to get our students to engage with writing in a relevant and exciting way. 

Persuasive research essays are tough to write.  Word choice, proper referencing, search skills, and analyzing validity of the sources can weigh on students’ motivation. One of my favorite assignments that is creative, but still asks students to use the skills listed, my Persuasive Commercial assignment. Even though I use it for my persuasive writing unit, this assignment can be used for any subject.

Following are the instructions I provide for students on Moodle.


persuasive commercial instructions

Persuasive Commercial:

You will produce a 30 second commercial for TV or radio that clearly highlights your persuasive topic and one argument (Logical or Emotional). Argument material must be properly referenced (EX: The Omaha World Herald article “….” revealed…).

The TV commercial must be in movie format (mov or mp4 or m4v). The radio version must be in MP3.

Or you can use an online site and paste the link in the text box.

Online Audio Options


Vocaroo Saves as an mp3 or provides a link to share.

voice recorder online

Online Voice Recorder Saves as a mp3 on your computer.

Online Video Options


App: Tellagami This is an app that creates an animated video.  It is free (but has in-app purchases).  The free content is enough to create the commercial. You can save it as a video file or the app will provide a link to share. is a website on the fun side. You share your finished project with a link.

1 is a free site like that features talking characters. You can customize the features, clothing, and voice.  You will share your project with a link. This is what I used for the instructions.

The commercial will be graded on the six-trait writing rubric.

I use the six-trait system:

  • Ideas—the main message
  • Organization—the internal structure of the piece
  • Voice—the personal tone and flavor of the author’s message
  • Word Choice—the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning
  • Sentence Fluency—the rhythm and flow of the language
  • Conventions—the mechanical correctness
  • Presentation—how the writing actually looks on the page

For me this assignment comes late in the semester after we have completed a number of other creative assignments.  Students have already used video software like iMovie or filmed with their smartphones. So, that option is a given. This assignment introduces new options that I spend a few minutes showing the students the basics of each tool.

I have used each of the tools so that I am prepared for any hurdles students might have. I also plan for students to complete the assignment in class. This year I have an hour and 15 minute classes. In the past I would plan for two days when I had 50 minute classes.

If you need two days for this assignment this is how I would break it down:

Day 1:  is for research and going over how to use the tools.

Day 2: is devoted to making the commercial.  You can customize how many options students have to complete the assignment. You can customize the criteria you want expressed in the commercial. For this assignment the students have been researching for their persuasive topic and learning how to in-text referencing the material.

Here are links to the students’ commercials that used the Voki option:

       Sleep Commercial



 ADHD Medication


   Reducing Stress through Activities


Creating a commercial will allow students to be creative while also reinforcing writing with the parameters for your lesson.  The online tools, like Voki, allow students to express themselves without being in front of the group or camera.  Online tools also allow students to share their projects on social media.  What a great way to highlight the cool things you are doing in your school.

Jamey Boelhower is a husband and a father of six. He is currently an Instructional Coach IMG_4965for Central Community College Nebraska. He has been in the educational field for 17 years.  You can follow him on Twitter at @jdog90

Introducing Voki Classroom – Part 3

Introducing Voki Classroom – Part 3

We hope that you’re having a great summer, and you’re probably starting to think about the start of the upcoming school year ? Below is the final, and most informative post of our 3-part announcement about Voki Classroom.

In Part 1 of the Voki Classroom announcement, we introduced you to Voki’s new classroom management system. In Part 2, we told you more about some of the features you’ll have access to with Voki Classroom. In this final post, Part 3, we’re going to discuss some additional features included in Voki Classroom, as well as the pricing and schedule.

Last time, we discussed:

This time, we’ll talk about:
  • Student View
  • Assignment Showcase
  • Voki Classroom Support
  • Voki Classroom Pricing
Student view. After logging in to Voki Classroom, students can easily view all of their Vokis by Assignments, and by complete or incomplete Assignments. Under each Assignments, they will see the instructions that the teacher has provided. Clicking the Edit button will open the Voki editor (the same editor you’ve always used in and let them create (or edit) their Vokis. With Voki Classroom, students will create their Vokis in a secure and ad-free environment.

Bonus: As an added feature, when students create their Vokis in Voki Classroom, they will be able to create audio messages that are 50% longer than the current limit! The longer 90-second audio limit will enable students to prepare more detailed Voki messages.

Assignment Showcase. Each of your Assignment automatically generates its own Web page (an Assignment Page), where you can showcase your students’ work. You can easily configure each Assignment Page – select a layout and font. You can also set the Assignment to Private and add password protection to the Assignment Page. TIP: you can also set the Assignment Page as “hidden” so it not viewable while students are working on their Vokis.

Unlimited Support. Voki Classroom also includes unlimited email support from our dedicated support team. While logged in, simply click on Contact Support, choose your topic, and send us a note! Our support team is here to help you with any questions you might have.

Voki Classroom Pricing. We know all too well that teachers don’t usually have much of a budget to work with for technology. With that in mind, we’ve made every effort to reduce the price of Voki Classroom down to a very manageable amount. Below is the pricing of Voki Classroom. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Currently, the pricing is based on an annual or bi-annual plan. The 1-year and 2-year plans help reduce the monthly cost.
  • We’re very confident that educators who use Voki will Love Voki Classroom, and we’re backing it up with a full 30-day money-back guarantee. Here’s what that means: If you’re not satisfied for any reason within, 30 days of purchasing Voki Classroom, simply contact support and ask for a refund. You’ll receive a Full (100%) refund of your purchase price.

Without further ado, here is the pricing for Voki Classroom:

  • 1 Year Subscription: $29.95/year ($2.50/month)
  • 2 Year Subscription: $44.95/2 years ($22.48/year, or $1.87/month) – a 25% discount
Additional Discounts. In addition to the 2-Year discount of 25%, schools can get an further discounts when they purchase multiple accounts (Multiple-Account Discounts):
  • 10% Discount when purchasing 5 to 9 accounts
  • 15% Discount when purchasing 10 or more accounts
Note: The 2-Year account discount and multiple-account discounts are separate from each other. You don’t need one to get the other, but you can get both!
So, when is this happening?
All this talk about Voki Classroom – but we haven’t told you when Voki Classroom will be Live! Well, we can now tell you that Voki Classroom will be ready and live around Mid August, just in time for the upcoming school year.
That’s it, you’re officially schooled on Voki Classroom. Don’t worry, since school is out, there won’t be a quiz.
Let us know what you think in the comments area below. We’d love to hear your thoughts/ questions/ concerns about Voki Classroom.
Until next time,
The Voki Team
Introducing Voki Classroom – Part 2

Introducing Voki Classroom – Part 2

In Part 1 of the Voki Classroom announcement, we introduced you to Voki’s classroom management system. We received some great feedback and we’d like to share more about Voki Classroom. In Part 2, we’re going to tell you more about some of the additional features you’ll have access to with Voki Classroom.

Last time, we discussed:

This time, we’ll discuss:
  • Managing Classes and Assignments
  • Reviewing Student Work
Just a quick note – we wanted to let you know that we’re very close to the launch of Voki Classroom – it’s only a matter of weeks now. We want to make sure that we polish every edge, and end up with a product that is completely intuitive, easy to use, and foolproof for even the least tech-savvy user! In short, using Voki Classroom will be even easier than using Voki itself. And now, more about Voki Classroom:

Manage Classes & Assignments. Voki Classroom lets you add and manage your Classes, as well as Aassignments within each class. When you add a new class, a new row will appear (see below). You can then name your Class – i.e. “Spanish (first period)” and add Assignments to it.
To add an Assignment, simply click on the Notepad+ icon next tot he class name. Then, give your Assignment a name, and add a description. You can also customize the layout and coloring of each Assignment by clicking on the Configure icon. Each Assignment comes with an Assignment Page – a Web page where you can feature all of the approved Vokis created for that Assignment. Or, if you prefer, you can set the Assignment Page to Private and require a password to view it. If you have your own class site, you can still easily embed each Voki using the embed code.
Voki Classroom - Manage Classes and Lessons
Review Student Work. Review and approve your students’ Vokis within your Voki Classroom account, all in one page. You can view all students Vokis for a given Assignment (view “By Assignment”), or look up and review all Vokis created by an individual student (view “By Student”). You can also choose to view only incomplete, completed or un-reviewed Vokis.
Clicking the Preview icon (the little person button) will open a new window with the Voki scene. If approved, just click the Approve icon (green check mark), and the Voki will appear on the Assignment Page. To get the code, click on the Code icom (<>).
Voki Classroom - Review by Lesson
That’s all for Part 2 of our introduction to Voki Classroom.
Next time, we’ll discuss
  • Student View
  • Assignment Showcase
  • Voki Classroom Support
  • Voki Classroom Pricing
As always, we’re eager to get your thoughts – comments or questions – about Voki Classroom. Feel free to leave a comment below!
Introducing Voki Classroom – Part 1

Introducing Voki Classroom – Part 1

For the last several months, we at Voki have been working on an exciting and **top-secret** project, which we can officially introduce today. Very soon, we will be launching a major addition to Voki, something that will vastly improve the way teachers utilize Voki in the classroom.

Introducing: Voki Classroom! 

Voki Classroom logo

Voki Classroom is a classroom management system for Voki. We created Voki Classroom in response to numerous requests from teachers. Voki Classroom is designed to enhance the way you manage your students’ Voki assignments. In short, Voki Classroom helps students and teachers get more from Voki.

Without further ado, here are the main features of the new Voki Classroom. We’ve also included screen shots to help you visualize the new site:

Class Accounts. They are finally here! No longer will your students need to register with Voki to create their own accounts, using their own email addresses. Now you, the teacher, will be the one to assign each student’s Voki login information (created automatically). Since there is no need for students to register, you can spend more time on the lesson, and less time on creating accounts and helping students log in.

Added benefit: This feature will enable students of any age to use Voki without sharing contact information. If they can use a computer, they can use Voki.

Manage students. You can add and manage all of your students (up to 100) in Voki Classroom. Easily assign students to one or more classes, or review all of the Vokis created by a student. You can either add each student or upload a list of students.

Voki CLassroom - Manage Students

Tip: In this view, you can also print login instructions for the entire class, or separately for each student.

Voki Classroom - Print Class Login Information

Full disclosure: Voki Classroom is a paid service, and we know that teachers don’t have an unlimited budget. So, we are working hard to ensure that Voki Classroom will be very affordable. We can’t yet say exactly what the cost will be, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice more than one Small Skinny Macchiato, per month. In addition to low cost, we’re introducing a couple of extra discounts, such as:

  • Long-term discounts: choosing the longer term option (2 years vs. 1 year) will save teachers 25%.
  • Multiple Accounts: to make Voki Classroom even more affordable, we’re enabling a multiple account discount for schools wishing to use 5 or more accounts. This discount will range from 10% (5 to 9 accounts) to 15% (10 or more accounts). This is in addition to the 2-year discount.

Wait – what about Voki?
We are very excited about the launch of Voki Classroom and all of the benefits it offers teachers. At the same time, we’d like to reassure you that Voki, and all of its great features, will remain Free to use. We will not be removing or decreasing any Voki features that are currently available for Free. 🙂

In Part 2, we’ll discuss:

  • Manage Classes and Assignments
  • Review Student Work

So, what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts about Voki Classroom, the features we mentioned, and the features you’d like to see.