Hero or Not? Using Multiple Print Sources to Make an Argument

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SWBAT use the information gained from close reading multiple print sources to decide whether a historical figure is a hero or not.

Big Idea

Would a knight show up to battle without a sword? Get ready to be armed with the power of words in order to prove an argument.


20 minutes

Today students will be writing an essay to identify the contributions of Sugihara  and argue  whether he should receive a "heroic citizen" award. Use the assignment PowerPoint. If you have a SMART board, you can copy and paste the slides right in. Otherwise, display the task, samples and organizer in a way that works for you. I've already taught some of the elements of opinion writing, so I will briefly review my expectations for organization. If your students haven't learned this yet, it's okay. The brief overview should be enough to support them for this purpose. Text dependent questions are something that students will be writing in the Smarter Balanced or PARCC assessments, so as much practice as they can get is best. This assignment not only wraps up our lesson, but gives the students some practice with the opinion writing standards. I've taught these skills, so I can use the writing assignment as a writing and reading grade, but you can do what works best for your kiddos.

Start by showing students their task for the lesson.

You all have received the Hero or Not? assignment sheet. You are in charge of writing essays to have Sugihara nominated for a heroic citizen award. I'll show you some of the examples of essays for a Principal's Leadership Award  and review the organization of the essays. The evidence that some of the essays include are exactly what I would like to see you include from the two resources we've read.

I only plan to use the first one listed on the page and I've included that in the powerpoint. I like to give the kids an idea of what I'd like to see either by modeling my expectations or by showing them some real world applications of the task.

After a brief discussion of the sample, pass out the Persuasive Writing Plan. I'll model this one quickly since we've used it before, but you can spend more time on it if your kiddos haven't used one or jump right in if they have. 

Writing Task

35 minutes

Students will begin working on their writing. At this time, I move around the room to assist my struggling readers and writers. I try to only provide assistance in the organization of the essay and using the graphic organizer. I also use this time to help keep some of my students on task, as some of my students haven't developed the stamina for writing yet. Students may need more than 35 minutes to complete this task, so you could extend the time, send it home for homework, use another writing day, etc. I have a writing block that is separate from my reading, so this lesson will carry over into that time. 

If time permits, students may want to type this. I will be grading this as a reading and writing grade. I will be using the Smarter Balanced ELARubrics for argument in 6-11 grades. This isn't assessed formally until 7th grade with these rubrics, but I want my students to understand how they will be graded. I do show them these before they start writing.  I white out the grade levels and footnotes for my students before giving them the rubrics. Wouldn't want them knowing it's not actually assessed until 7th grade!

Here are two samples of my students' writings. I've included an on level sample and a needs improvement sample. My students still struggle with bringing in the actual text evidence to prove their thoughts. Since this seems to be a new concept for them this year, I know it will take some time for them to master. Sometimes I think it's just an expectation that has never been placed on them. When I conference with my students they look at me like, "Wait? You actually want me to put MORE effort into my writing? I have to go back and pull in details AND write down my own thoughts?" 

Extension and Closure

5 minutes

My students love making wordle and taxedo creations. Students can create a Sugihara Tagxedo with as many words they can think of to support how Sugihara is hero or simply use all of the words that they think are relevant to the story. Here's a screencast of my expectations for this assignment. I usually assign this for homework and give them a week to complete one and print in color. Then we hang them in the room.

I prefer tagxedo because you can fill in a shape with the words you chose to use. If you're not familiar with this platform, check out my How to Create a Tagxedo video. You can even upload your own shapes, but they need to be a solid color otherwise the shape shows up distorted. Once you're familiar with the creation, play around with the uploads to make the activity more meaningful for the students. During our civics unit, my students found pictures of gavels, hand cuffs and the like to complete tagxedos for the Bill of Rights.

Also set aside some time for your students to share their writing. Students could share their favorite part  of their essay in front of the class, have an author's tea, or simply combine the essays in a book to be displayed in the hall, special area in the room, etc. I try to give my students a lot of time to feel pride in their work and to understand that their writing is so much more than a grade.