Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Students worked in a previous lesson on thinking through a few different ideas for argument writing using graphic organizers. While they were able to start formulating some initial ideas, they did not have enough time to think those ideas through to begin writing about them. Today's lesson gives students the time to write in class. It's important to give them this time so they can work on drafting different pieces and so, as a teacher, I can offer individual assistance when needed. I also noticed that many of them struggled with coming up with topics to write about so today's lesson also keeps that in mind. It's important to be reflective on each lesson to determine if anything needs to be clarified, retaught, or revised.
I begin the lesson by showing students the New York Times list of 200 Prompts For Argumentative Writing. Here is a screenshot: Argument Prompts Screenshot. I show them this web-site because I noticed that my students were not able to think of ideas on their own. I show them how this web-site can benefit their writing. It's great as it breaks down different topics and turns them into questions. When students answer these questions they have the beginning of a claim. This web-site is a great resource as it has many different topics that students can look at. I try and avoid giving students a topic. I want students to take ownership of what they write.
The rest of the class is devoted to students writing. I tell students they will use this class time to work on writing. We have spend many days throughout the year just writing, so this is nothing new for them. I tell them what their options are.
They can use the Claim Graphic Organizer to organize their thinking. This is an option if they only already have an idea that they would like to work on. Many students choose to complete a few different graphic organizers based on a few different topics so they a variety and can eventually narrow it down to one to take through the writing process. Here are two examples of student work for that graphic organizer:Claim Organizer Student Example and Claim Organizer Student Example 2.
Another option that I give students is to list ideas. Many students have quite a few different topics they want to explore and are not sure how to narrow it does. For those, I tell them to begin creating a list as a way of brainstorming. Having topics listed down helps them to get their ideas out of their minds and onto paper. Once they are done, they can choose one topic from that list. Here is an example of that student list: Argument Writing Ideas Student Example.
Students spend the rest of class writing, whether it is reading the topics from the web-site, working on the graphic organizer, or drafting. As a teacher I circulate around the classroom and offer assistance when needed. Much of the assistance is helping students work through their thinking. By this point, they know their topic they will want to write about but they need help formulating it into a claim. What I do, is simply ask them why. This helps them to think about their topic in an argumentative manner in which they need to make a claim.
This is a lesson that may take a few days as it may take time for students to fill out the graphic organizer and begin drafting.
This is a list the shows some of the major questions that came up during this workshop time: Argument Conferencing Notes
This video explains my conference notes: Conference Notes Video
This lesson is the last lesson in the formal unit of argument writing. The drafting students completed stayed in their notebooks. Due to time constraints and working on their research paper, I was not able to get through the unit as a whole. While completely dropping a unit is not wise, the skills the students would learned by the end of this unit, also went into their research unit and document based question essay unit.