Countering Arguments and Analyzing Language in "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes

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SWBAT write arguments to support claims; SWBAT analyze a speaker's use of language in poem to determine the writer's beliefs and values.

Big Idea

Mixing it up in this lesson: Countering arguments in the on demand essay AND analyzing how a speaker's words reflect his/her values and beliefs in a poem.

Do Now: Gathering Materials

5 minutes

For the "Do Now" today, my students will gather materials for the "On Demand" argument paper they have been writing. They will retrieve their writing folder that houses all of their notes, organizers and argument cards, and they will retrieve the informational texts that they will use to support their arguments. It takes about 5 minutes for students to be ready to write. The question they are answering for this assignment is "Is killing ever justified? Was George justified in killing Lennie at the end of Of Mice and Men? Today will be our third day working on this, so students will will be well into their writing by now.

Building Knowledge: The Counterargument

10 minutes

Since we haven't spent much time developing counterarguments in the past, I am showing my students a sample counterargument that goes with the shared bug essay that we wrote and analyzed in a previous lesson.

I will have my students read the counterargument paragraph that I wrote and discuss the different parts of it. Then I will ask them where (in the bug essay) they think this paragraph might fit best. I am doing this because I want my students to be strategic about where they place the counterargument in their essays when the time comes. Today is a good day to do this because I know that most students have only written the introduction and maybe one of their body paragraphs. I don't want them to forget that they need to address opposing viewpoints (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1.b) in order to have an unbiased paper.

Application: Writing on Demand

45 minutes

As I mentioned earlier, this is the third day of their "on demand writing." I have spaced this out over 3 days because students need time to read informational texts that they can include in an argumentative essay, connect their ideas to the text we just read, Of Mice and Men, and write an entire essay during class. This is a suggested activity from I changed the topic and reading assignment, but the assessment is the same.

Today's goal is to ensure that they have written an introduction, body, counterargument, and conclusion of their argumentative essay. At this point, they should be finishing up their essay--or really close to finishing. For students that are still struggling, you can check out the graphic organizers in the first lesson for this writing activity.

For this 40 minute segment, my students will continue with their argument writing (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1). Now, they have a model of a counterargument to use as they counter the claims/arguments in their on demand piece. During the writing period, I will be careful not to answer questions about what to write or give any feedback because this is an assessment of what they have learned about argumentative writing. I WILL be monitoring my students' progress and taking note of anything that will help me teach this better in the future OR that will help me teach additional lessons to improve their writing.

Closure: What did I Accomplish Today

2 minutes

Just as we did in the last lesson, I will ask my students to reflect on their work today by using the checklist to indicate what they accomplished. I am having them do this as a a way of being reflective of their own writing stamina and pacing, but it will also give me data about their process. I will also know how much more time I will need to devote to the on demand writing assignment.

Building Knowledge: Theme for English B

10 minutes

As we transition to the reading part of the lesson today, I will remind my students of the title of this overarching unit, Making My Point, and the essential question: How are we compelled to act on our beliefs and values?

Today, we will read the poem, "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes to see how Hughes' beliefs and values are reflected in his work (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4) through his language choices. I will ask students to recall the beliefs and values of Dr. King in his "I have a Dream Speech" and of Malcolm X in his "The Black Revolution" speech.  I plan to have a couple of students refresh our memories of some of these values.

As we read Langston Hughes' poem, we'll be thinking about how his values might be similar/different from Dr. King and Malcolm X based on his word choices.

I am having my students listen/watch the following clips of the poem because they provide visual images that might help students understand the values and beliefs of the speaker. I'm showing two different clips because the first one shows the environment and the music better, but the second clip highlights more of the language in the poem more clearly.

After the clips, I will have students turn and talk to a classmate about Langston Hughes' values and beliefs and how they might be similar to or different from Dr. King and Malcolm X. I will also ask students to pick out language choices in Hughes' poem that help create a desired effect. 

Previewing the Mimic Poem Assignment

5 minutes

At the end of class, I will close out the lesson by previewing the next session. I will tell my students that we will be mimicking the poem, Theme for English B."  We will call our poem, "Theme for English CP (college prep). I'll pass out a handout that we will use to mimic the poem and tell students that they will write these poems during the next class session after they work on the "On Demand" writing assignment a bit more.  Their poems will follow the same structure as Langston Hughes' version, but they will need to make effective language choices that will reflect their values and beliefs (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3) and (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3).

I am previewing this writing assignment because I am hoping that my students will get excited about the prospect of doing a little creative writing next class. Most of our writing has been analytical or critical, so I want to see how students take to the idea of writing creatively again. Also, this is a great way for students to write a text that aligns with our current unit, Making My Point, because these poems will reflect their "points" about life.

Lesson Image Attribution

Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons