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Every class of students I have ever had, from middle school to college, has loved loved LOVED this activity.It’s so simple, it gets them out of their seats, and for a unit on argument, it’s an easy way to get them thinking about how the art of argument is something they practice all the time.Then they take turns explaining why they are standing in that position.
I don’t claim to have the definitive answer on how to do this, but the method I share here worked pretty well for me, and it might do the same for you.
If you are an experienced English language arts teacher, you probably already have a system for teaching this skill that you like.
W.6.9.b Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not").
W.6.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Once students have argued without the support of any kind of research or text, I would set up a second debate; this time with more structure and more time to research ahead of time.
I would pose a different question, supply students with a few articles that would provide ammunition for either side, then give them time to read the articles and find the evidence they need. Yes, I was certified to teach the full spectrum of English language arts—literature, grammar and usage, speech, drama, and so on—but my absolute favorite, the thing I loved doing the most, was teaching students how to write.Most of the material on this site is directed at all teachers.To help them make this connection, I would have them do some informal debate on easy, high-interest topics.An activity like This or That (one of the classroom icebreakers I talked about last year) would be perfect here: I read a statement like “Women have the same opportunities in life as men.” Students who agree with the statement move to one side of the room, and those who disagree move to the other side.Then again, I’m always interested in how other people do the things I can already do; maybe you’re curious like that, too.Before I start, I should note that what I describe in this post is a fairly formulaic style of essay writing.So let’s begin with argumentative writing, or persuasive writing, as many of us used to call it.This overview will be most helpful to those who are new to teaching writing, or teachers who have not gotten good results with the approach you have taken up to now.It’s not exactly the 5-paragraph essay, but it definitely builds on that model.I strongly believe students should be shown how to move past those kinds of structures into a style of writing that’s more natural and fitting to the task and audience, but I also think they should start with something that’s pretty clearly organized. One of the most effective ways to improve student writing is to show them mentor texts, examples of excellent writing within the genre students are about to attempt themselves.