Organization and Audience: Evaluating Peer Argumentative Essays

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SWBAT delineate and evaluate the specific claims and reasoning in a text by examining a peer's argumentation essay.

Big Idea

Students closely examine the arguments of their peers. Will they be swayed?

Let's Get Started: Who's Your Audience?

5 minutes

 As the students walk in, I ask them to sit with their essay that they either completed during our last class or for homework. The students wrote on a variety of topics. They had to write an argumentative essay that developed both a claim and counterclaims.

I ask them to explain the organization of the argument, the content of their argument, and who their target audience is.  They need to make sure that the essay they wrote meets the criteria of the assignment and follows the organizational pattern of Dr. King's "The Ways of Meeting Oppression." Also this entire unit the students have been evaluating the purpose and audience of various informational texts. Now it is time to see if they can turn that critical lens on themselves. 

Next I go over the directions for completing the activity. The goal is for the students to delineate the argument of a peer's essay, explain how s/he uses rhetorical appeals, and write a rhetorical precis about that essay.  It is gonna be a fun filled morning!

Applying Knowledge: What is the Argument? Appeals?

20 minutes

The students already have a copy of the peer argument evaluation handout at their table.  Now they need to go through the process of breaking down the argument in the essay looking for the specific ways the writer uses evidence to support his/her claim and secondary claims (W 9-10. 8). Additionally, each student has to give an example of how the writer uses each of the rhetorical appeals and how these appeals connect to his/her audience (RI 9-10. 5). The expectation is that they can write about the appeals using the content language (L 9-10 6).  

Applying Knowledge: Rhetorical Precis, Advice and Success

20 minutes

After evaluating the reasoning of the argument, on the back of the peer argument evaluation, I ask each student to write a rhetorical precis using their peer's essay as the foundation of the objective summary (RI 9-10. 2).  This will serve as an assessment of two of this unit's goals: writing rhetorical precis and evaluating arguments!


In the rhetorical precis, like in our previous precis writing tasks in this unit, I am looking for the students to write four cohesive sentences using the formula that we have followed in previous lessons (see Introduction to Rhetorical Appeals lesson for specifics) .  While I am still not overly concerned with their voice, I hope by now, my students are beginning to develop their identity as a writer within the formula of the objective precis (W 9-10.4).

Next I ask my students to write a response paragraph that evaluates how well the writer used the appeals and language to connect with the audience.  

Finally, I ask each student to give the writer some advice. How can s/he make the essay better.  Now I tell them, "Don't say spell check!" I want them to give specific ideas on how the writer can improve his/her content, organization, or use of rhetorical appeals.


Wrap Up: What's Next?

3 minutes

As students put their essays and revision handouts in the tray.  I remind them that the expectation is that they will apply these skills to their writing and the language to their discussions about texts.

Next class, we start a new unit, and I hope that students will continue to apply the skills in writing objective summaries and evaluating an author's argument and claims in the next unit and beyond.