Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing an Argument

Are you here for an argument?

Hi, it’s Marypat from Just Add Students ready to argue with you!  

Well, not really.  But I am here to give you a suggestion for getting your students fired up about a writing assignment:  Give them something to argue about!

There seems to be nothing middle school students like better than arguing.  And there are tons of juicy topics your students can sink their argumentative teeth into – cell phone usage in school, school uniforms, homework, video games as Olympic sports – the list goes on.

This is the perfect time of year to have students write an argument and then host a debate. 

The Steps to a Perfect Argument

Step 1:  Define what an argument is.  
This makes a great class or small group discussion.  For starters, you may want to share the Monty Python video with your class:  Are you here for an argument?

As your students come up with the qualities of an argument, have them create a class anchor chart that lists the elements of a good argument – and a chart of the elements of a bad argument.

Step 2:  Choose the topic.  
By this time in the school year, you probably know some (or many!) of your students’ passions, pet peeves, and tirades.  If your students are like mine, they share their feelings quite freely! 

Tap into the topics they’re interested in.  Focus on topics that are at their level.  Political and broad social issues are generally too complex for my students and often require research that would extend writing time you may have for the assignment.

You may want to give your students their choice of what to argue or you may want to assign the topic.  If students are going to choose their own topics, be sure to allow some time to “prime the pump” by having students brainstorm.  The topic “pet peeves” is a good place to start.

An alternative to allowing students to choose their own topic is to allow students to choose for a limited number of topics.  That way, students can work in groups to develop ideas and organize their logic.  Additionally, this makes it easy to hold a class debate after the students have written their arguments.

Step 3:  Choose sides.  
While your students may not be in favor of school uniforms or allowing video games to be an Olympic sport, it’s great critical-thinking practice to ask them to take a side they don’t personally agree with. 

If you want to host a class debate after students have written their arguments, be sure you have students working on both sides of an issue. 

Step 4:  Prewrite, argue, prewrite, argue, and prewrite some more!  
Use an evidence graphic organizer.
Before students even begin writing their argument, they need to figure out what and how they are going to argue.  Use prewriting position and evidence graphic organizers to help your students determine where they stand on the issue.

Once students have a basic foundation for their argument, don’t let them start writing.  Discuss the phrase, “Does it hold water?” Students should use this adage as they work with a partner to determine the validity of an argument. 

Pair up students and have them argue their position.  The job of the partner is to find holes in an argument.  Once that is done, send students back to their evidence and logic graphic organizers to strengthen their position.

Allow students to meet again with a different partner to argue their case.  Again, the partner’s job is to determine if the argument “holds water.”

Step 5:  You might decide that at this point your students are ready to hold a debate.  A simple debate with teams of two works great.  Hosting a debate at this point in the writing process really solidifies student understanding of the topic and the logic of the argument. 

Whether you choose to hold a debate now or after students have finished writing their papers, you’ll find the debate is a blast!  I’ll write more about how to host one in a future post.

Step 6:  Write the argument!  At this point, most students will feel like the argument writes itself! 

You can download the free evidence graphic organizer from myTpT store to help your students gather evidence.

Have fun “arguing”!

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this, Marypat! Thank you for sharing this with everyone - and what an easy-to-use graphic organizer! Thank you!