Gathering Evidence to Write Arguments on Demand

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SWBAT collect and synthesize information from multiple sources on a topic by using note-taking strategies to support claims and arguments

Big Idea

Students prepare to meet the demands of "on demand" argumentative writing

Do Now: Reviewing Arguments and Selecting Articles

10 minutes

When students enter the room today, I will ask them to take out the three argument cards with their notes on ethos, pathos, and logos. I will provide them with a list of articles that I have collected that relate to their arguments. From this list, I will ask them to write down the citation for 2-3 of the articles. I am having them do this to give them a choice of articles that they think they will need to write a synthesized argument to answer the question: Is killing ever justified? In this writing assignment, I will ask my students to argue whether George was justified in killing Lennie in Of Mice and Men

They can choose from the following articles:

  1. Arguments Against Euthanasia
  2. Killing in Self-Defense
  3. John du Pont Found Guilty, Mentally Ill
  4. Editorial: Cold-blooded murder is never justified
  5. Is  killing ever justified
  6. Is there every a justification for killing?
  7. Is killing ever right?


Not only does this activity give them some choice in how the go about the work of answering their question/proving their point, but also it will determine whether they are astute at selecting articles (based on their titles) for further research on a topic. This is a great way to see if they can already do a preliminary assessment of an article to determine its effectiveness in helping them answer the question (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8). Of course, my students will be able to do a better job of this once they have actually read the articles, but this preliminary first glance at the titles will also be useful. I chose these articles by doing my own internet search. I read the articles to see if my students would have any issues with word choice and to see if the articles included challenging technical language. I also thought about which articles students might read for each position on the topic and made sure that I selected several articles to support each potential argument.

At the end of 5 minutes, I will call on a few students to see why they selected the articles they chose and to see if they can already tell how it connects to the arguments they plan to make.

Application: Applying Knowledge of Elements of an Argumentative Paper

15 minutes

For this part of the lesson,  I will tell my students that today we will begin their "on demand" argument writing assignment. Applause please! When students write on demand, they do all of the writing in class by synthesizing information from multiple texts (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7).

But first, we will do a final review of the shared bug eating argumentative essay that we co-created when we collected evidence that people should incorporate bugs into their daily diet--just to make sure we've got it!.

As my students read, I will have them follow directions on a flipchart page to annotate the essay. I am having them do this because I want them to see all of the different parts of our essay so that they can be sure that their essay meets the minimum requirements for on-demand writing.

In this particular annotation activity, we are focusing on analyzing examples of ethos, pathos, and logos  and development of the counterargument (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6); introduction and thesis; evidence and explanations (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5); use of transitional expressions (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2c).

I am having them annotate for these elements because we have been working really hard over the last couple of weeks to understand how all of these elements work together to form a well-written article, and this is a quick assessment to see if they recognize them.

At the end of this activity, I will have them work with a partner to speculate on what's missing by going back over their cards, notes and any other information that we have gathered on argument writing so far.

I'll let you in on a secret--the answer is THE COUNTERARGUMENT. The essay we co-wrote is completely missing the counterargument. (We discussed the counter argument last class, so I feel confident that someone will notice.)

Building Knowledge: Providing Tools

8 minutes

For this section of the lesson, I will provide a choice of note-taking tools for my students to use as they collect evidence from each of their articles for the argumentative essay (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1). I will explain how each of the tools can be used as they collect their evidence.

Tool 1:

  • Cut up handmade index cards made of construction paper to collect and categorize supportive evidence and/or examples for each of the arguments.

Tool 2:

Tool 3:

  • Graphic Organizer with a space for each of the arguments, evidence, and explanations


I am suggesting these three tools from which my students may choose because I know that my students have different learning styles and they can select whichever tool they think will work best for them. I am also giving them these choices because students need choice to feel invested in their work.

Gathering Evidence for Writing on Demand Assignment

40 minutes

Okay, it's time to start the process of writing on demand to prove a claim and support arguments (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1 ). During this part of the lesson, my students will be given time to begin their reading of informational texts to support/counter their arguments in preparation for writing the argumentative essay (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1). They will engage in lots of reading and gathering evidence today so that they can start writing during the next class.

During this time, I will not be giving any feedback, BUT I will be conferring with students to ask questions about their process. This is a bit different from the traditional writing conference during which I might give suggestions or ideas. These conferences are strictly for fact-gathering purposes. I want to know how my students are approaching this on-demand writing task for three main reasons:

  1. I want to see if my students are annotating their reading while they work.
  2. I want to see which note-taking strategies they have chosen to use (and why)?
  3. I want to see which articles they are choosing to read (and why) so that I can evaluate whether they are good at selecting informational texts to support their claims and arguments.

In case you're still not convinced that there is a method to my madness,  it is not simply because I am a nosy, over-bearing teacher--well I hope I'm not. I am collecting data to see what kind of feedback I can give AFTER this first on-demand writing assignment. In the future, I am hoping to assign many more on-demand writing assignments, so I need to see what my students need before the next one without giving too much support on this one.

During their writing, I will be holding conferences to collect this data (without offering any specific feedback or suggestions). This will be hard for me, but I will resist the urge for the good of their future writing.


Closure: Reflecting on Progress

5 minutes

On the closure sheet for today, I am asking my students to check off a list of their accomplishments for today. I will have a prepared list of all of the tasks they could possibly accomplish and they will check off which ones they met. I will ask my students to do this at the end of each day of the on-demand writing. Right now, I speculate that there will be three days 40-45 minutes each of note-taking and writing time.

Today will be the first of a three day closure activity. I am giving the same closure assignment for each of the three days because it will help me understand their pacing for writing on demand, and it will show me where they are getting stuck in the writing process.