Argumentative writing may sound like a new concept or approach, but it is not. This term basically means to argue one’s opinion while understanding that there is an opposing side.
Brought to the forefront with the adoption of the new ELA Common Core Standards, middle and high school students alike need practice in developing argumentative writing. This allows them to increase their comfort level in choosing a side on a controversial issue and developing their opinion using persuasive language and techniques. From there, writers should be able to think about the arguments or counterclaims that the opposing side would make in response. Not only should the author seek to provide these counterclaims, but to add support that dismisses the opposition’s argument.
The argumentative graphic organizer is a strategic teaching tool that better equips students to develop this type of writing. This graphic organizer is designed to anticipate the needs of the readers, as well as have the author utilize a variety of detail types to develop their opinion with more than just fluffy, eloquent language.
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In this unit, students are introduced to the skills, practices, and routines of argument writing by working collaboratively with their peers to examine argument models, plan for their writing, and gather evidence. Students independently practice writing and revising and also engage in peer review to revise their work. Throughout the unit, the class will construct an Argument Writing Checklist, which students will use to guide their drafting, review, and finalization. By the end of the unit, students will have produced fully developed arguments.
Students begin the unit by reading two model argument texts, “Keep on Reading” and “We Need the League,” exploring how each writer organizes and expresses his ideas. Using the models as examples, students learn the purpose of argument writing, the key components of an argument, and the importance of considering one’s audience. Students then analyze the prompt for this unit’s argument writing assignment, which asks them to take a position on whether their school should participate in the national event “Shut Down Your Screen Week.”
In order to build their knowledge on the argument topic and practice the skill of gathering evidence to support claims, students read and analyze four articles that discuss the effects of digital media usage. After gathering evidence and deciding on a central claim, students learn how to plan their arguments and begin drafting. Students draft their arguments in a nonlinear process, focusing first on developing the supporting claims, evidence, and reasoning in their body paragraphs before composing a clear, engaging introduction and powerful, logical conclusion. To continue to strengthen their drafts, students engage in peer review and teacher conferences, incorporating constructive feedback into their revisions. Finally, students learn and apply the conventions of the editing process to finalize their arguments. To close the unit, students engage in a brief activity in which they reflect on the writing process, identifying strategies that helped them succeed as well as areas for improvement.
This unit contains a set of supplemental skills lessons, which provide direct instruction on discrete writing skills. Teachers can choose to implement all of these lessons or only those that address the needs of their students. Teachers also have the option of implementing activities from the module’s vocabulary lesson throughout the unit to support students’ comprehension. Student learning is assessed based on demonstrated planning, drafting, revising, and editing throughout the writing process. At the end of the unit, students are assessed on the effectiveness of their finalized drafts according to the class-generated Argument Writing Checklist.
Unit and/or Assessment Task Texts
“Keep on Reading” (argument model)
“We Need the League” (argument model)
“Kids Still Getting Too Much ‘Screen Time’: CDC” by Amy Norton
“Social Media as Community” by Keith Hampton
“Attached to Technology and Paying a Price” by Matt Richtel
“Education 2.0: Never Memorize Again?” by Sarah Perez