Thursday, January 22, 2015

Argument Writing

So.... it's been a while!! For most of December and the first two weeks of January, our house was riddled with germs!! And in a house with four small kiddos, this meant lots of children's Motrin, fever checks, tissues, sleepless nights, and filling humidifiers! It's been exhausting, but I am hoping healthier days are ahead!!

* * * * * * * * * *

Lots going on in my classroom!

My students have been working away on our argument unit, and I have to say, they LOVE it! Like, love it so much they want to talk about it the entire walk to specials! It KILLS me to have to "shh" them (I'm a stickler for quietly walking in the halls!) because they are just so spirited about this unit!

The kicker are these debate cards that I'm using. I spent the summer Googling like crazy trying to find some refreshing hot topics for the kids to argue over (I was just so over the school uniform and longer school day debate!!).

I came up with a GREAT list and created a set of task cards. Here's a sneak peak at a few (the full set of task cards are available in my complete argument writer's workshop available here):

Each day, I randomly distribute a few of the topics and give the students five minutes to jot down their gut reactions to the card. I also ask them to brainstorm some potential opposing arguments.

Then, I have them find everyone else in the room with the same card and together they discuss/debate.

I do have them use a "talking stick" (we use the super-fancy highlighter :) to keep the overly-enthusiastic voices from drowning out the students who are on the quieter side. Basically, I give one person in each group the highlighter and they "begin" the discussion (usually they will start by reading the gut reaction they had when they first saw their topic). If someone wants to respond, they can raise their hand for the stick. Otherwise, it just gets passed around the circle so each kid gets a chance to speak.

If a group is struggling, I will go over and raise my hand for the talking stick. Typically, when I throw my two-cents into the mix, it will get them going for at least another few minutes!

After 15-20 minutes of talking, students go back to their desks and draft their argument. Typically, I give them 25 minutes (there is absolutely NO TALKING during this time!), and believe me, their hands are FLYING across their notebook page!! Almost always, every single student finishes their essay in that time! It is absolutely amazing how the "talk time" prior to writing gives even the most reluctant writers plenty to say.

So far, we've completed this activity three times (students get a different prompt each time), therefore, every kid has three great first drafts in their notebook. And we will probably do this activity two or three more times over the next week. Then, students will be able to take the draft they are most excited about, do a little research on the topic, and turn their draft into a full essay.

These debates have just been so much fun. I am eager to see how the final drafts of their essays turn out!

Any tips and tricks for teaching argument writing? I'd love to hear about them!

Happy Teaching!!


  1. This sounds fabulous! Thank you for sharing. I have asked this question of you a couple of different places, but where can I find Bringing Argument Writing Alive? It looks like you are using drama with it, and I really want to try it. Thanks! -mo

    1. I read your reply on TpT, but in coming back to your blog, I can't find your link. Could you e-mail me?


  2. You must take a closer look at if you are interested in even more rhetorical essay tips and various prompts.