Reflection: Checks for Understanding Argument Writing (Day 1 of 2) - Section 2: Modeling an Argumentative Paragraph


At this point, I was looking to see how the students are grappling with the standard (W9-10.1) of creating their own arguments.  This is not new in the class in the sense that our first unit of study focused on arguments of policy and fact, arguments that asked students to state their opinions about the world around us.  However, our focus here is on extended argument of interpretation, in which they are expected to explore a character's development (RL9-10.3) and hold that interpretation up to criteria that they develop (i.e. what makes a good friend).  

For the most part, the students were tracking well at the outset, and here is a sample paragraph:

We have engaged in three, major, multi-day argument and discussion sessions, including the Hotseat, Fishbowl, and Panel.  All have contained some manner of controversy, and now it is time to leverage all of that good work, and all of that good reading, into strong inquiries contained in structured argument.

I typically offer the students a range of choices of topics, and this year, two of the topics that emerged in the fishbowl discussion seemed to garner the most interest for the students:

1.) Is Gordy a good BFF (best friend forever) for Junior, or is Rowdy better?

2.) Are Juinior and Penelope a perfect couple?

Really, any of the prompts from the fishbowl or from other class discussions are fair game, and the occasional student will want to cut his or her own path, but for the most part, the students will write about friendship.  


Also in the beginning of the book when Junior went to the Powwow with Rowdy

got mad at Junior for laughing at him so he shoved Junior to the ground and almost

kicked him, well right there you can see that he is not a true best friend because best

friends do not beat on you everyday and make you feel unloved. When Junior said he

was leaving the Rez to go to a different school, to make his life better Rowdy didn’t

like that idea so Junior put his hand on Rowdy’s shoulder to comfort him but right

when that happened Rowdy had punched him in the face. “BANG my nose bled like a

firework. I stayed on the ground for a long time after Rowdy walked away.” (pg



As a first attempt, this paragraph is exciting because  the student is using a self-generated criterion by which to understand the character, namely that violence does not enter into good friendships.  As a sidenote, some students would take a more tolerant view of this, looking at the motive beneath the surface, and thus the same event can allow for extended reasoning leading to diverging conclusions from one student to the next. 

From the standpoint of argument per se (W9-10.1), the student generates a strong claim, but we need to work on the phrasing of it, in order to make it more polished, as in the interrupter, "...right there..."  In addition, the student wisely selects two important pieces of information that both relate to the criterion he has chosen, but the second piece of evidence requires his additional, overtly-stated reasoning. 




  Student Progress at First
  Checks for Understanding: Student Progress at First
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Argument Writing (Day 1 of 2)

Unit 2: Metacognition and The Absolutely-True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Lesson 17 of 19

Objective: SWBAT write convincing argument of interpretation about the novel by engaging in online written composition.

Big Idea: All of our verbal argument skills in this unit come together in writing arguments today.

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