Why teach argument writing?!
This afternoon I lead my department in a brief 30 minute introduction to NWP’s College, Career, & Community Writers Program. I started by posting the above explanation of C3WP and asking why we should teach our students argument writing. When we discussed, words and phrases like “read critically,” “multiple points of view,” and “respectful” came up repeatedly. We innately know as teachers that it is important for our students to be able to master these skills.
We also discussed the importance of the word finally. Most often we as arguerers take a stand first, then spend the remainder of our efforts reading and researching to support that opinion. However, C3WP’s approach encourages writers to get informed first, challenge their thinking, discuss and revise their opinions, and then finally take a stand. And it provides a wealth of resources to help us guide our students towards mastering this process multiple times throughout the school year.
As I am now entering my third year of offering professional development around the C3WP approach to teaching argument writing, I finally feel as though I have a handle on the suggested mini-units and available resources. Accordingly, I plan to post helpful lesson ideas that can be used throughout the school year to teach and reinforce these critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.
Mini-Unit 1 – Writing into the Day:
Early in the school year, you can begin to introduce the concept of formulating and solidifying an opinion by studying several conflicting resources through the Writing into the Day mini-unit. Next week, I plan to engage students in some of our classroom policy development by starting three class periods discussing and reading about cell phone use in school. However, this mini unit can easily be adapted to any currently relevant issue.
DAY 1: Ask students what their opinion is on the topic and WHY they have this opinion. Then share a resource – video, infographic, short article – and ask them to reflect on what their opinion is now. After a brief discussion, move on to the remainder of the class.
DAY 2: Share a new resource that espouses a different point of view. Then, ask students to add to their thinking from the previous day by considering new insights or opinions and whether their thinking has been strengthened or countered. Again, after some discussion move on to the remainder of the class.
DAY 3 – Share a third and final resource with students and ask them to visualize a connection between all three resources by creating a graphic organizer that links and explains each.
FINALLY – have them formulate and support a claim. The more real-world application for their writing the better. For example, my students will propose our class cell phone policy and I will use their short arguments to solidify our rules and expectations.
If you think you might like to engage your students in a similar conversation about the use of cell phones in the classroom, here is a link to the resources I plan to share with mine.
What other topics or issues could we engage students in debating early on in the school year? How else do you begin to introduce argument writing skills to your students?
Kelly Virgin teaches English for the Kennett Consolidated School District and has been a PAWLP teacher consultant since 2010. She is a proud bookworm and loves sharing her passion for reading and writing with her students.
Kelly — this seems like such a great model for critical thinking, and it seems that a key aspect is that their thinking and use of effective argument skills has an impact on classroom policy. I hope we’ll hear more about this process throughout the year, and how others are implementing it as well!