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7.3: Improving Written Expression with STOP + DARE

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    Using STOP and DARE

    One SRSD mnemonic for teaching persuasive writing that has not been widely investigated with students with E/BD is STOP and DARE. STOP and DARE is an ideal mnemonic for use for students with E/BD for several reasons. To begin, STOP and DARE mirrors language that is common in mindfulness or anger management training commonly used with students with E/BD (i.e., encouraging students to stop and think, developing possible solutions for both sides in an argument). In addition, STOP and DARE includes elements of persuasive writing, such as including a counterargument that is not a component of the POW+TREE mnemonic. This is essential given that in many states the high school level writing competency tests focus solely on persuasive writing. Further, with the move to common core standards in academic content areas, the mnemonic STOP and DARE includes essential elements required for writing an argument, which is a standard element of the common core. Finally, as with POW+TREE there is research to suggest that STOP and DARE is effective for students with learning disabilities (e.g., Kiuhara, O’Neill, Hawken, & Graham, 2012), suggesting that investigations are needed with students with E/BD (Ennis, 2013, pp. 51-52).

    STOP + DARE Scripted Lesson

    The following is adapted from lesson 2, the modeling exercise, of STOP + DARE, (Harris, Graham, Mason, & Friedlander, 2008).

    Step 1 Present Cue Cards and Brainstorming Sheet (See Figure 11).

    (Approximately 5 minutes)

    (Give ‘teacher’ cue cards to eight-ish students. )

    SAY, “You’ll take turns placing cue cards on the wall as you start each step.” Step 2. Model It! ( Approximately 20 minutes)

    (Remember: You don’t have to copy what I say word-for-word, and it is important to be ENTHUSIASTIC!)

    ESSAY TOPIC: Should DC give up on making live action movies given how awful they are compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?

    SAY, “I’m gonna model for you how to use the STOP and DARE method to write an essay. I’m going to talk out loud while I go so you can witness, hand, the rat’s nest that is the inside of my brain. Also, I’m going to show how I work out my essays using STOP + DARE. All you gotta do is sit back and watch magic at work!”

    SAY, “First, I need to remember not to be too judge-y. Remember, ‘haters gonna hate’. So, I’m going to try and forget about the Green Lantern movie and brainstorm pros and cons of this question.”

    (Hold up brainstorm sheet. Come up with two ideas for each side – pro/con).

    SAY, “There are three cue cards for Step 1, that basically say, ‘Judge not, lest ye be Judge Dredd (the Stallone one)’. Card 1 says, ‘Did I list ideas for both sides? If not, do this?’ YES! I did it! This is so freaking easy! OK, what’s card 2 got for me? ‘Can I think of anything else? Try to write more.’ Right, come up with more juicy goodness”

    (Add another idea or two to each side of the brainstorming sheet. Let students help.)

    SAY, “Card 3 says, ‘Another point I haven’t yet considered is… Think of possible arguments.’ Can I argue? Yes I can! Arguing is, like, totally something I’m good at!” (Pause)

    SAY, “Is there anything I haven’t thought of? I’ve got so much already, what more could there possibly be? OK, need to chill and think of something, something a fanboy would say.”

    (Add something, preferably a ‘pro’.)

    SAY, “SWEET! Step 1 is done, and this is fun! Now, I gots to move on down the line to step number two. Only one card… #4. Says, ‘Take a side.’ So, I pick a side. Which side, which side, which side? Duh, they should stop! Mr. Cue-Card says, ‘Place a “+” at the top of one box to show the side you will take in your essay.’ I should be able to remember this, cause it’s on the brainstorming sheet… OK, Step 3… ‘Organize Ideas.’ I need to figure out which ideas are solid, and which ones have holes in them... So, let’s examine these ideas...”

    (Read the pros and decide if they’re any good. Find at least one that isn’t and decide to skip it.)

    SAY, “OK, all of my stuff is solid. So, what can I argue? OK, so I need to find something I can easily poke holes in.”

    (Pick something from the con side of the brainstorming sheet and come up with one more con.)

    SAY, “OK, gotta choose something good… It’s gotta be something that makes it crystal clear why DC should throw in the towel… I’m rocking on this thing! My ideas RULE! OK, Let’s look at the cards for step 3… Card five says, ‘Put a star next to ideas you want to use.’ OK, rule of three… Pick three arguments I wanna use... “

    (place three stars next to ideas you like).

    SAY, “What’s card six say?, ‘Did I star ideas on both sides? Choose at least ___ argument(s) that you can dispute.’ OK, I’ve figured out two arguments...

    (place stars next to them).

    SAY, “Card seven, says, ‘Number your ideas in the order you will use them.’ OK, let’s think about this... How should I order things? I heard I should always put the weakest one in the middle, and finish with the best… But I could also work it like a map and do them in some type of order so…”

    (Go through a thought process on coming up with the best order).

    SAY, “This is gonna be awesome! Planning makes perfect… OK, last step, ‘Plan more as you write. Remember to use all four essay parts and continue planning. OK, I need to remember to not shut my brain off while I’m working… OK, step 4… Moving on to DARE… I remember this.”

    (Read the card, ‘Develop your topic sentence. Add supporting ideas. Reject possible arguments. End with a conclusion.’)

    SAY, “OK, let’s get to it! Gotta think of DARE while I’m writing… So, in the next lesson, we’ll work on writing the essay.”

    This is followed by a guided reflection and practice.

    Brainstorming Sheet

    Suspend Judgment. Brainstorm ideas for and against the topic.

    For (Pro) Against (Con)
    1. Batman v. Superman was not good. AT ALL. Too many story lines, Darkseid looked stupid. Batman was played by Ben Affleck. 1. Marvel didn’t always make good movies (see Daredevil with Ben Affleck, or rather, don’t!), so there’s the possibility of turning it around…
    2. Green Lantern was terrible. Just terrible. 2. Man of Steel wasn’t terrible, and set up the DCU for something good.
    3. Trying to include Cyborg is a very, very, very bad idea. It just looked so incredibly cheesy in the brief part of Batman v. Superman…. He wasn’t in all of the Justice Leagues so, they should have let it go. But they didn’t. 3. The casting of Aquaman is actually pretty awesome.
    4. Suicide Squad was pretty darn bad. Outside of the good casting, the story was just plain not developed and stupid. And Jared Leto’s Joker was ridiculously BAD. In a bad way, not a good way.

    Take a Side. Place a “+” at the top of the box that shows the side you will take.

    Organize Ideas. Decide which ideas are strong and which ideas you can dispute.

    Plan More as You Write. Remember to use all four essay parts and continue planning.

    Now write your essay on another piece of paper.


    Writing is a critical aspect of schooling, and one that students are continuously unprepared for. Indeed, with the proliferation of social media and texting, even “educated” students are finding it difficult to use key skills when necessary due to the continued use of slang, improper grammar, and limited/improper use of punctuation. Additionally, we have witnessed a reliance on technology to aide in the spelling and grammar of written materials, though technology can only do so much. Take for instance the increasing number of students in college level classes who interchangeably use the words their, there, and they’re. STOP+DARE won’t solve many of these issues, but research has continually shown that it will increase the student’s ability to organize their thoughts into cogent text.

    This page titled 7.3: Improving Written Expression with STOP + DARE is shared under a CC BY-ND license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mickey Losinski (New Prairie Press/Kansas State University Libraries) .

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