Teaching 7th graders how to argue is somewhat redundant. Let’s face it, they argue in their sleep! I am finding that they are naturally drawn to this genre of writing so the enthusiasm helps them maintain engagement with my lessons.
My strategy has been to start small. I wanted my students to see a model of a professional writer building an argument. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen is a wonderful book about how we got to the point in society where we need professional advice to decide what to eat. There is a young readers’ edition as well, so it can be adapted to a number of grade levels. I had seen a Common Core lesson written using this young readers’ edition which got me thinking about using the book as a resource. As I reviewed both editions, I came to the decision that I wanted my students to struggle with the reading in the adult version. The writing is terrific and I was excited to share it with them.
I have included some examples of the excerpts that I turned into close reading work for my class. We read four portions of the introduction to the adult version of the book. I scaffolded it so that we started together and, by the last assignment, they were working independently. I mixed in some work on vocabulary as well. I was addressing a number of CCSS’s at once which worked out well! OmnivoreSelectionOne, OmnivoreSelectionTwo, OmnivoreSelectionThree, OmnivoreSelectionfour
Each day, after the close reading was done, we would review what the author had put forth as his argument so far. By the end of the fourth selection the students were very confident talking about what he meant, how he built his argument, how he supported what he was saying, and we even had discussions about his style of writing. It was fun! They felt so smart. I kept telling them what a tough book this was and they were very pleased with their ability to understand it, especially on the last day when they worked independently.
Give this a try – I’ll be doing it again next year. – Tracey
A great resource to find supplemental lessons for argument writing is Learn Zillion. If you aren’t already a member, sign up! Visit http://www.learnzillion.com (It’s free!) You might find it valuable in other subject areas too!
The biggest change for teachers is to understand the differences between persuasive and argument writing. In the past, many of us have only taught persuasive writing. It’s important for us to translate the specific differences to deepen student understanding. Up until 6th grade, it is called opinion writing. Emotion will always be part of forming an opinion, but we need to teach our students to emphasize fact. On the flipside, persuasive writing does not need to be fact-based. It relies on persuasive language to appeal to the reader. For example, you do a read aloud with the children in a second grade class and you ask, “What kind of a person is Cinderella?” In the upper graders, you may ask, “Why is it important to recycle?” and they must provide fact-based details. Beginning in seventh grade students are expected to provide not only an argument, but a counter-argument. This is the BIG change for our district.
-A tidbit that was discussed at a prior PD day, Corinne
Day 2- Today I divided the children into 6 groups of 4. It was easy to keep them in the same 6 groups that I use for science. I had a “mystery” envelope filled with topics. Each group picked one topic and just like what I had modeled on Day 1, they did the same. Some children had more background knowledge than others and they didn’t hesitate when sharing. One child was designated in their group to record opinions/thoughts/feelings. When all of the groups finished, each group took a turn sharing their topic and reasons why we needed to feel the same way. The class LOVED this! At the conclusion of the lesson I reiterated that persuasion was based on opinion, no research/facts needed. I told them that we were going to move from persuasion to argument. I briefly just mentioned that if I wanted to turn our discussion into “argument” I would have provided them with facts.
Day 3-This was such a FUN lesson! Today I used the activity that we had done using canned goods on PD day. Yes, I kept it 4th Grade-ified, I used sardines, Slim Jims, and kidney beans. I had 6 bags in total, one for each group. 2 bags had sardines, but only one of the sardine bags had a fact sheet. The sardine bag that DID NOT have the fact sheet also had ingredients and nutrition facts covered. Every bag contained a sheet with the prompt, “Explain why this item needs to be added to Halliwell School’s lunch menu”. Students worked for about 15 minutes coming up with reasons why we needed to add the items to the lunch menu. Every student was engaged! They were so excited to share. After the students had at least 6 reasons, each group shared. I called the groups with the same item to come up after one another. This resulted in the class clearly being able to identify that one group had a lot of facts, while the other did not. After everyone shared I explained that one group for each food item was also given a fact sheet. I asked them to determine which group showed an example of “persuasion” and which group had “argument”. A success!
Day 4- I wanted to see what students remembered and understood about argument vs. persuasion. At this point, I haven’t done any formal instruction on argument, but I was wondering what they had retained from the previous days. I posted a prompt and asked my class to use RAISE to respond. ‘In the few days that we have been learning about persuasion vs. argument, what is “argument”? Explain.’ Children were able to tell me that argument is based on fact. They also used examples of argument from the Day 3 lesson. Some even told me what argument was not. Day 5’s plan is to put the Venn Diagram up that we had given teachers at PD day to discuss. Until next time…
With my posts, my hope is to document my progression from the students’ previous knowledge and experiences with persuasion to an understanding of “Argument”. I decided to begin my first lesson in “Argument Writing” using persuasion as my spring board. I came up with a list of 15 topics (ex. School uniforms must be worn./The school day should be shorter./Seat belts should be on school buses. etc.) I cut them into strips and put them in a large envelope. I used a ‘fishbowl’ method. I sat in the center of the class with a volunteer. The rest of the class sat in a circle around us. Their purpose was to observe our discussion and take notes on what they saw. My student volunteer and I discussed our topic. We made a bulleted list and shared our feelings on the subject. I added in my own personal experiences with the topic. We then shared our feelings about the topic with the class to try and convince them to think the same way. At this point I briefly mentioned that we were trying to persuade them to feel the same way. We had no factual evidence. If we did, that would be an example of “Argument Writing”. The children then shared what they noticed about conversation. They mentioned that we had good eye contact, listened thoughtfully, and gave good reasons. At the conclusion of the lesson I informed the students that tomorrow they were going to try it out. The class will be in groups of 4 and will try to come up with a list of opinions to persuade us to agree with the topic that they randomly pick. Until next time…
Sending along a pdf copy of the graphic organizers that were in the argument writing folders. The pdf isn’t the best copy, if you would like a ‘clean copy’ see your argument writing rep from your building.ArgumentWritingGraphicOrganizers
Transitional Words/Expressions to Use in Writing
||Words/Expressions to Use
||also, in the same way, just as, likewise, similarly
||But, however, in spite of, on the one hand, on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still yet
||First, second, third…, next, then, finally
||After, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then
||For example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate
||Even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly, without question, clearly,
||Above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there
|Cause and Effect
||Accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus
|Additional Support or Evidence
||Additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then
||Finally, in a word, in brief, briefly, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, to sum up, in summary