I have decided to face the daunting task of teaching my students how to write an argumentative essay. I am breaking it down into really tiny parts in hopes that this makes the process manageable for my sixth graders. Earlier in their education and with our former standards, most of my students have written a research paper and a persuasive, not argumentative essay.
I will start this process by having my students brainstorm some issues that students might feel strongly about in one way or the other. We have been writing claims and support in class, so they already have some ideas. I'll have students record their ideas in a circle map in their writing notebooks.
Next, I'll introduce them to a web site called middle school debate. This website introduces them to some more global issues. If they see one that they like, they will add it to the circle map.
We'll also make a chart of ideas that we come up with together.
I've asked students to spend a few days thinking about it, and come to class today with a topic in mind.
The guidelines are:
1. Students must be able to take a position on the topic
2. Research on the topic must be available
One of my students was set on writing about why trampolines should be in restaurants. As fantastic as this sounds, she soon realized that no research was available on her topic, and she changed it.
I decided to keep things simple, so I am asking my students to find 2 credible resources that support their opinion. Before we venture over to the computer lab, I want to teach my students some tricks for finding a good resource.
I am going to start with a bad resource...I recently saw an article posted on facebook by one of my friends about a 160 foot squid washing up on the Santa Monica shore. It seemed like a hoax to me, so I checked it out. Sure enough, it was published by an online "newspaper" called the Lightly Braised Turnip that writes embellished or fictional news stories. The funny thing was that everything looked authentic, and plenty of people were buying into it! I chose to use this article to show my students how to identify a bad source online.
I found a cool checklist for online sources called CARS. It stands for credibility, accuracy, reliability, and support. I will give each of my students a copy of the CARS checklist as well as the squid article.
I'll pull the article up on my SmartBoard so that they could see some of the rest of the page that was cut out of the printable form of the article. In addition, I copied the author's bio and attached it to the article.
I plan on basically going through the checklist and referencing the article. We will spent some time looking at the source of information (have we heard of this site?), the author's credentials (is he qualified to write about this topic?), and the actual text (does anything seem far fetched?). There is also a disclaimer on the article stating that the source acknowledges that the writers embellish their work.
We will arrive at the point where we want to figure out if this is a true story, so I will model how to searching for the story which will confirm that it is not true.
I know that this is an extreme example of a bad source, but I want the students to remember it while they are searching on their own topic.
Finally, I will introduce my students to some credible news sites like New York Times, NPR, CNN, and the many search options in EBSCO. I linked these sites to my own webpage. I will also model and walk them through a google search on a sample topic. I will model how I think through my choices. I share that I click on this site because this seems like an educational site, but I'll stay away from this one because it says blogspot which indicates more of an open forum.
Unfortunately, even after prepping them, I know that most of the learning will happen as they search in the computer lab. I will encourage them to use the CARS tool to evaluate the websites that they find them on our research day.
As tech savvy as our students are today, they still struggle to search for reliable, credible information, so as they search I will help them make decisions about sources.