Monday, April 22, 2019

Argumentative Unit for Grades 6-8 with Teaching Resources

Do you know of any preteen or teen who doesn't like to argue? When I announced to my middle schoolers, I will be teaching a unit on argumentative writing, they were psyched about it, saying things like, "bring it on.. I live only for arguing!"  I thought their constant habit of arguing will make them an expert in writing a formal argumentative essay. Through call to adventure (or hook) activity, I learned that my students are actually good at giving their opinion not arguing. As we know about opinions, everyone has an opinion about everything and like feet other's opinion always stinks :-). I knew I had to dive through various mini-lessons to help them write a solid, evidence based formal argumentative essay! 

Like always, I design my lesson using  Ramsey Musallam's Hero's Journey (format that I learned in one of my MERIT'18 classes) 

1) Call to Adventure (Engage) Day 1  

Using visual literacy and Eduprotcol 8 Parts to get them even more ignited about this unit.  I also used this to pre-assess their understanding of argumentative writing. I showed them the image below to get them talking,  more like arguing :-) about what is going on in this image. This image is taken from New York Times, What's Going On in this Picture?




I created an argumentative writing 8 parts for this unit. Here is the link for you 8 Parts Argumentative Writing. When they are done writing, have them share their claim. Students who are able to come closer to the actual answer would have used the evidences to support their claim.  






2)  Explore (The Challenge) Day 2

Started the lesson  which is similar to math activity "Would You Rather". I asked the question- Would you rather have grades in school or not? Students moved to the YES and the NO side of the classroom. A YES student finds a NO student in the room, they argue. I gave them 10 minutes to argue. 

Followed by a whole class discussion about what made someone's argument more convincing. There is another activity called Alley Debate, where the teacher stands in the middle of the two sides. Two different sides have the students  present their argument  back and forth and the teacher moves slowly to the more convincing side. If the group gives opinion rather than facts, or ad hominem attack, the teacher moves slowly to the other side. After 10 minutes, the side that the teacher is closest to wins. This clarifies the difference between opinion writing and an argumentative writing. With my sixth grades there was a aha moment, because majority of them were giving their opinion and just attacking with no facts!  


3 a.) Meet the Mentor (Explain) Days 3- 6  Stage 1- Rough Draft

I had the students come up with a topic to argue about. Some students needed more support, my goal was to help them find what is something that is happening around them and that they would like to see it change.

This is where I blended Writer's Workshop and Eduprotocol to create this unit . I showed them an example of a good argumentative writing, and asked them to dissect the parts of the writing. Here is what we arrived at: 
  • Paragraph 1- Hook with Claim (Thesis Statement) 
  • Body Paragraph 2 and 3 - Reason with Evidences
  • Counterclaim with acknowledgement and rebuttal 
  • Conclusion 




During the rough draft stage, I modelled how to write each part of the argumentative writing. I created this digital graphic organizer to model each part. Each day was broken into 10-15 minutes mini lesson, 30 minutes independent writing and 5 minutes sharing. I modelled one part of the argumentative writing each day

I realized my students needed more focus and practice on writing counterclaim. I used my slide deck for teaching counterclaim. Noredink has a a fun game on practicing counterargument. When I used it, they had just launched so it was a free feature. But it is a very effective game, my students wrote incredible counterarguments. 



One lesson I created was on credible vs not credible sources. I used this quizizz and common sense media to teach a lesson on credible. My 8th graders had a hard time digesting the fact that Wikipedia is not a credible source! We had an argument about that :-)

3 b.) Meet the Mentor (Explain) Days 7-8  Stage 2- Revising and Editing 


For my 7 and 8th graders, I used revision strategies from The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison. I created a slide deck for the students to access and for me to model each strategy.  Here is the slide deck for you Revision Strategies




For my  6th graders, I used this revision check list, I modelled how to use this check list. I found this pdf form, which I am hoping to personalize to my unit for next year. I was out of time and this one comes close to my unit. Here it is Revision Check List for 6th grade


4) Extend (The Transformation) Day 9

Have students pick a topic and turn it into a class debate. I am currently working on building a Debate Unit for my students. This is where you can witness the transformation of our heroes, who can now argue with facts, acknowledge their opponent's claim, present their rebuttal without ad hominem attacks. 


So that's it! My goal was to create a fast, curious and engaging writing unit. If the approach outlined here is different from what you have been doing, give it a shot! Let's keep talking, please use the comment below to share your techniques or ask questions about the most effective and engaging way to teach argumentative writing.


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