We have engaged in three, major, multi-day argument and discussion sessions, including the Hotseat, Fishbowl, and Panel. All have contained some manner of controversy, and now it is time to leverage all of that good work, and all of that good reading, into strong inquiries contained in structured argument.
I typically offer the students a range of choices of topics, and this year, two of the topics that emerged in the fishbowl discussion seemed to garner the most interest for the students:
1.) Is Gordy a good BFF (best friend forever) for Junior, or is Rowdy better?
2.) Are Juinior and Penelope a perfect couple?
Really, any of the prompts from the fishbowl or from other class discussions are fair game, and the occasional student will want to cut his or her own path, but for the most part, the students will write about friendship. The goal here is to have students write strong argument (W9-10.1) by selecting evidence, arranging it in a logical fashion, and exploring each piece of evidence with reasoned explanations. Typically, freshman writers are asked to fill out a boilerplate graphic organizer or some way of corralling their ideas, but I am hoping to avoid that in favor of giving them a platform to extend their reasoning.
The Argument by Austin Wright. Part of the collection of The Hepworth, on Wikimedia Commons.
Again, the writing of argument here is influenced heavily by my mentor and teacher, George Hillocks (see his 2011 book for a great treatment of this topic) as well as the by the READi project: PROJECT READI is a multidisciplinary, multi-institution collaboration aimed at research and development to improve complex comprehension of multiple forms of text in literature, history and science. READI is a project supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305F100007 to University of Illinois at Chicago. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.
I begin this activity by using google docs to model a think-aloud writing of a body paragraph. The students will write their argument paragraphs along with me, and some will go quicker and begin their full essays. I also expect that I will need to add additional supports for five students, and I will do this in the next section, the writer's workshop.
The purpose of the writer's workshop is to allow students the chance to progress with their writing at their own paces. During this differentiated session, it is my goal to interface with 12-14 students, roughly half of the class, while my class t.a., a senior from my high school, will help by interfacing with 8 or so of the students.
We have several goals:
1.) To identify students who may need to have extra support outside of class (i.e in study hall or before/after school).
2.) To monitor the student progress with writing argument, making sure that there is both evidence and extended elaboration on each piece of textual evidence.
3.) To help students to set goals for homework so that they can complete additional writing and complete a solid 5-paragraph essay on time.