Today marks our first lesson of three lessons devoted to practicing argumentative writing and presentation skills. Last period we read excerpts from Emerson's "Self-Reliance" and Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" to model successful, well-organized arguments. We also briefly discussed the requirements of this project and began taking a deeper look at the argumentative terminology students will be required to know and apply during this and later units. The "Elements of Argument Terms to Know" notes will be reviewed and applied throughout this series of lessons to ensure students have time to completely understand and immediately apply the term.
Students should have arrived to this class with a link to two electronic newspaper articles from reputable publications and published within the last 30 days, and an idea for a possible claim and counterclaim which "sprouted" as a result of reading each article. I felt that it was important to base this project around current, relevant articles to give students practice in reading texts and considering them for more than just their face-value content. They could find an article about a food drive happening downtown, for example, and then develop claims or counterclaims on a variety of related topics, including homelessness, children of poverty, welfare benefits, volunteerism, food pantries, etc., depending on their interests. Additionally, structuring the project in this way ensures that students are choosing issues which are timely that they can argue about in a similar manner as the Thoreau text.
To start off today's class period, we will begin the hour by a quick "progress check" on student topics for the argumentative project. Students should have come in with two ideas for topics (with a claim and counterclaim outlined for each) based on current news articles, so we will go around the room for students to share their favorite of the two topics with the class. If students are unsure of which topic is better, other students will give them input to help them narrow their choices. This sharing time will also allow students to see if their topics are widely popular to allow them to alter their choices for a more original topic. In addition, if students have not framed topics in an argumentative manner or have chosen a topic that argues the maintenance of the "status quo," we will work as a class to practice correctly framing claims and counterclaims. While at first students might struggle with identifying status quo arguments (or why they are a poor thing to argue), using examples really helps them to frame the issue better. Students will often try to write about why concealed carry should be legal (though it recently passed in Illinois and is now in action), that smoking is dangerous, or other arguments that really aren't valid. Once they recognize them as status quo, I use examples (like setting the school zone speed limit to 20 miles an hour...as it currently is!) to show how it's really kind of wasted breath to argue something that already exists and is in practice.
Once all students have checked in with their topics, we will continue our study and application of the Elements of Argument Terms to Know notes. Last period we looked at the first six terms, and this period we will examine the next nine terms, from "warrant" through "credibility." In order to do this, I will share two article links with my students (which are attached to this section in PDF format to preserve them) and project a copy of my "Sample Outline for Class Modeling." Students will have approximately 5 minutes to read through the two short articles, and we will then evaluate the articles for credibility and add support and evidence for the claim and counterclaim, which further practices our skills from last time. Next, we will discuss each term and add its application to the sample outline, beginning with the warrant, then a rebuttal, refutation, and qualifier. Finally, we will identify the claim as one of fact, value, or policy. To illustrate the relationship between these types of claims, we will also rewrite the claim so that we have an example of each type of claim with the same topic. The result of our class collaboration is included in the resources and is entitled "Class Outline and Term Application Document."
In the remaining class period, students will have time to independently work on their projects, beginning with their outlines. The Common Core Standards stress process writing, which I have been adamant about for years, so I want to explicitly teach and model this process with this project and later projects. For an introduction (and admittedly dorky one, but one students enjoy), I will play for them "The Writing Process" video by Flocabulary. We will then reflect on the video. After our reflection, students will use the Argumentative Presentation Outline Template to help them organize their thoughts, and they will be encouraged to amend it to make it better fit their preferred argumentative structure. During this time, I will circulate throughout the room and assist students as they need it. Once they complete an outline, I will look over it to approve the structure before they move on to begin work personalizing, adjusting, and filling in the Argumentative PowerPoint Presentation.
In the final few minutes of class, I will gather students' attention to explain one of the requirements of the presentation, which is the 6x6 format. All slides on the presentation (with the exception of the Thesis, Claim, and Counterclaim slides) should be done in this format, which means no slide may have over 6 bullet points and each bullet point must contain 6 words or fewer. This requirement forces students to select main ideas appropriate to that portion of their presentation, and it helps them to keep the audience's needs in mind. Putting too much text on the screen can overwhelm an audience and dominate the presentation. Ideally, the presentation itself will function as a visual aid, with the narration (transcribed in the "Notes" section of the presentation) we will be completing through myBrainshark taking centerstage. If students struggle with abiding by the 6x6 rule, I will encourage them to put down what they want to for today and revise it later to fit the rules. This way, they can focus on getting all of their ideas out as a draft without worrying too much about restrictions that can inhibit flow.
During this time, I will also answer any other questions students have before they leave for the day and continue their work on their presentations. For next class period, students must have a completed outline and at least half of the slide portion of their presentations complete.
Next class period, students will continue working on their presentations and start writing up fluid, well-transitioned arguments to read into myBrainshark for their final presentations.