Lesson 2
Take Action - Making Films

Studying Documentaries
as a Writer Would


After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify various persuasive techniques in documentaries


Students build on their understanding of documentaries by focusing specifically on the persuasive techniques that are used in this genre.

Guiding Questions:

  • How is persuasion used in documentaries?
  • What makes a documentary compelling?

Recommended Time:

90 minutes

Common Core State Standards:


Technology Required:

Internet access

Lesson Design:

In small groups, students watch the same films as they did in the prior lesson, though this time with a much more specific focus on the techniques used to persuade the audience.

As they view the films, students ask themselves:

  1. Where do I see examples of persuasion?
  2. How is sound used as a persuasive technique?
  • Students track responses to these questions.
  • The class reconvenes to discuss and chart responses.
  • Some things worth noting:

1. Persuasion can be visually created through:

– Powerful images – video, photographs, artwork

– Expressions on people’s faces

– Use of color vs. black and white

– Use of celebrities

– Use of regular people

– Clear calls to action

2. Persuasion can be created through sound via:

– Play on words

– Repetition

– Humor

– Imperative commands

– Music to create tone

– Lyrics that add to meaning and/or tone

– Tone of actor/narrator’s voices

– Silence