One of the greatest ways to get students engaged in a lesson from the beginning is to activate their prior knowledge and use their own experience as a way to focus their thinking. This section will keep that in mind as the class and I collaboratively define argumentative writing and review the criteria of the genre.
To start, I pull up the Revising Argument Dialogues Smart Notebook file on the Smartboard (and here is Revising Argument Dialogues PDF version). The first graphic shows two people arguing. I ask students what is happening and why this will be relevant to class. Some students will bring up the idea of word choice as the two cartoons are focusing on certain words, while others will be able to jump into the concept of argument. If students are too vague in their answers, we can push the conversation towards writing and ask them what this picture has to do with writing.
The next step is to define argument. I ask students what argument is and ask for examples. I jot down these notes on the Smartboard. This allows students to activate their own understanding and their own lives so they can focus their thinking. We then move from argument as a general concept to argumentative writing. I ask students what this genre is and write that definition on the Smartboard.
We then move to the fourth slide, which reviews basic criteria of argumentative writing. Since students have had these concepts in previous assignments and previous grades, this more of a review. I read each one out loud as students jot down these criteria in their notebooks. These criteria will serve as a way for students to focus their thinking as they revise their argumentative dialogue pieces. The criteria listed below is very similar to wording listed in the Common Core. By referencing this skills specifically, students are able to see what they need to master.
The criteria is as follows:
As I read each one out loud, students copy it down into their notebooks. I explain what each one means and how it fits in context of the pieces they are working on. We do not spend time going in-depth on each as they have spent time previously throughout the year learning these skills.
One of the greatest strategies to improve student writing is to show models. It's not always about showing final products as models but also to show the process as a model. With this in mind, I show students my model of an argumentative dialogue between Mark Twain and L. Frank Baum so they can see how they can apply revision strategies to their own writing.
I pass out examples of Argumentative Dialogue Model: Where's My Passport? to the class. I read the piece out loud. As I am reading I have students follow along. They are looking at both the dialogue itself and the revision notes I have made on the side. These revision notes focus on the criteria discussed earlier that focus on the concepts of argumentative writing. By showing students my own example, it allows students to be more inclined to work on their own writing. It makes the process much less threatening.
After I read the piece, students read the piece again looking for other revision strategies and suggestions they can give me. I ask students to write these notes directly on the dialogue. This helps them to have something concrete to look at. They also have their notes so they can refer back to them. This step really helps with the idea of gradual release. A teacher shows students a skill with the hope that eventually students can use it on their own.
I then ask students for those revision suggestions. As students are giving them to me, I make changes on the Smartboard for my dialogue so they can so what the revisions will look like when they make their own. When students are able to see exactly what the process of revision looks like, they are much more able to master it on their own.
By this time in the lesson, students will be ready for revise on their own. We hope! They have drafted argumentative dialogues with their partner and are now ready to revise based on the criteria we have discussed earlier. When students revise, especially at the middle school level, they need to be given criteria so they can slowly internalize revision skills. They do not quite have the "can do" attitude for revision.
I pull up the Notes For Revising Argument Dialogues SmartNotebook file (and here is the Notes For Revising Argument Dialogues PDF version) on the Smartboard. I pull up the sixth slide, which reviews the directions for revising. Students will work with their partner to revise their dialogue. I tell students to make notes, whether highlighting or comment features in Word, to their pieces. This will show the students, and myself, what specific criteria they will work on revising.
I then instruct students to get with their partners so they can revise. They will use their computers to read their dialogues and look for moments they can revise. As students are doing this, the fourth slide that lists the criteria is on the Smartboard so students can refer back to it if they need specific strategies. They also have my model available to refer back to.
I circulate around the room to keep students on task as they are revising. I also am able to see how well students are able to refer to specific parts of their piece they need to revise. It's beneficial to ask students why they need to revise areas and see if they are able to determine how they can revise them. If they are not able to, the teacher can step up to offer this assistance.
The last step of the lesson is to have students make goals for self-assessment. When students make their own individual goals they are more engaged in learning. By this point in the year, students understand expectations in writing so they can determine what they need to work on and way.
The Notes For Revising Argument Dialogues SmartNotebook version is still on the Smartboard (and here is the Notes For Revising Argument Dialogues PDF version). The list slide explains the directions. Each group will be given an index card and will answer two questions. The first question asks student to write down which area they need to work on. The second question asks students to write down what area they need help with. I tell students to fill out this card. The first question is what students can do and the second is what I can do as a teacher. Together these goals can help students focus on ways to make their writing skills improve and it also allows me to determine what areas I can offer assistance.
Most of the assistance needed is focused on the criteria that was discussed earlier in class.
As students leave the class, I collect these cards. I can review these cards later to determine ways to plan lessons as I move forward based on student need. This video explains the use of these index cards: Index Card Explanation