Genre Moves: Organizing an Argument

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SWBAT decode an argument writing prompt and organize their response through study of a model text.

Big Idea

When writing arguments based on prompts, it is important to enter the conversation with a unique viewpoint rather than summarize the topic of the prompt.


As a transition to writing arguments, today we will first look at the genre moves of arguments, particularly those based on prompts that ask for students to “defend, challenge, or qualify” an idea from a quote provided from another writer.  This is a common format on the AP Language and Composition exam, and one that the students had some trouble with when they practiced one a few weeks ago.  The majority of students misread the prompt and analyzed the quote itself rather than writing their own argument on the topic.  Given this, we will look at a sample question and accompanying student example in The Language of Composition 2e textbook on pg. 1119.  After learning to decode prompts and establishing the organization of ideas, students will write their first draft argument in a 40-minute essay format.

Decoding Prompts

10 minutes

First, I will focus on the sample question itself as a whole class (I will have the question on the SmartBoard, and also refer to the Virginia Woolf question they answered a few weeks ago when we talk about that one), walking through the language to determine what it is asking students to do, as shown here:  argument prompts decoding.mp4

Model Argument Essay

20 minutes

After decoding the prompt I will have student read the whole essay and ask them to note how the author builds her argument and what kinds of evidence she presents.  After they are done, I will ask the students for observations first, though I will ultimately hone in on a couple elements, as shown here:  Argument Model Essay Jan. 12-1.m4v

Writing Argument Draft

40 minutes

After we've finished analyzing the model, we will look again at their essay prompt (Popular Culture Argument Prompt.docx) and apply their knowledge of decoding questions by discussing what the question is asking and how the parts should be organized, based on our model.  This gives me a chance to see if they understand the lesson earlier for decoding questions, and also makes sure they are all on equal footing as they get into the writing process (understanding the prompt is critical; if I am not sure they all get what the prompt is asking, I can't really be sure I'm assessing their ability to write an argument, since errors may be due to issues decoding the prompt rather than their ability to write).  For the remainder of the period, students will write a draft of their essay .  Although this is a draft, I am having students do it in a 40-minute format to practice timed essays, and also to put some pressure on them to finish it (its amazing what a clock can do!).

Next Steps:  tomorrow students will learn how essays build information from one sentence to the next as a revision tool.