To begin this lesson I am going to read a cute children's book called Hey Little Ant to my students. This book is about a boy and his decision to squish or to not squish a bug. This reading will help set the stage for the question that I will initially pose to my students.
The purpose of this lesson is to introduce argumentative writing in a fun way, so I am using a fun question that most can relate to. After posing the question, I will ask each student to spend about 5 minutes writing their answer to the question.
Some students may only want to squish certain bugs or only save certain others. For the purpose of this lesson, I am asking them to choose one side or the other and take a stand.
At this point, students will physically choose a side. I will have all of the squishers on one side of the room and the nonsquishers move to the other. Here they will break into groups of 2 or 3 and find a place to sit down and work.
With their groups students will brainstorm an extensive list of reasons that support their point of view. They should think of everything and consult other groups sharing their view point as necessary.
I will be monitoring groups and keeping them focused. I may ask questions like, "How would the class react if a bug was in the room?" or "Can bugs harm us in any way?" to get them thinking.
I chose the squishing issue deliberately because we have already had conversations about it in class. It is not unusual for a cricket, or heaven forbid a cockroach, to show up in the classroom. When this happens, my students always break out into argument about what to do with the bug. I know from these experiences that my class is pretty split on the issue. That's why I chose it. I thought that there would be a pretty equal amount of students on each side. You might want to choose an issue that reflects your students and their personalities. It is also just fine if only a few students are on one side. As long as there are two or three to collaborate, it should work just fine. If this is the case, I usually work with these minority groups and make sure they have a really strong argument that they feel confident to present.
Now, students will meet up with a group from the opposing side of the argument. Each group will share their lists, and the opposing group will help them choose the best reason.
This is really tough for most sixth graders because they strongly believe that their group and only their group is correct, but I think that it is so important for students to begin considering other viewpoints when writing arguments.
I expect that there will be some arguing, but I will be monitoring them and redirecting the groups. I am not expecting them to write a counter argument or address any of the opposing issues. My only reason for organizing the lesson this way is to expose them to the other view points.
Finally, the original partners will write a short letter to me. They will address the issue of bugs being squashed in the classroom.
Should bugs be squished or saved when found in our room?
In the letter, they will address the question, support their view their strongest reasons.
The purpose of this activity is to promote the CSS transition to argumentative writing. This is a fun, low pressure way to practice stating and supporting a claim before we move on to more difficult writing.
The letters will be read to me, and I will make my decision!