I begin class by asking the students to do a quick write, responding to the prompt: "Describe what you know about soda and its impact on human health."
I have the students do this quick write because it is something that certainly helps them to focus in on the day's topic as well as being something that the students cannot get "wrong" as it allows for them to express their opinion. It also helps them by activating their prior knowledge before diving into the day's task. The responses to this prompt vary greatly from student to student and class to class. Some students are wholeheartedly anti-soda, many of whom have specific facts and evidence to support their logic. Some students write about how soda has a bad reputation that it hasn't really "earned." Still others spend this time writing about how they don't have much thought on the topic, but know that soda is loaded with sugar, caffeine, and other chemicals. Regardless of what they write during this time, they are focused on the topic and have established a good foundation to build upon during the remainder of the lesson.
I then give the students a Balanced Argument Handout to glue into their ISN that describes one way of writing an argumentative essay. I give them a few minutes to do this and to read over the handout as well.
I then ask them to share some things in the handout that stood out to them. I focus their thinking by referring back to the Persuasive v. Argumentative Article we read that compared and contrasted Argument and Persuasion. Students point out the areas and points that focus on the balanced expression of the various sides of the issue, and they also point out frequently that the handout explicitly states that the approach, to truly be considered argument rather than persuasion, the author should make full effort to remain unbiased. If the students do not point these things out, I make it a point to add them in myself to make sure they are properly set up to analyze the article I have planned for them.
I then pass out an article called "Tax and Sip" I found in Time magazine in a box of back issues my school's Media Center Specialist was going to get rid of. I typed the article so it was easy to share with the students in class. I ask the students to take a few minutes to read the article independently and make any necessary notes/annotations directly on the page. Their task, once everyone in their group has finished the article, is to talk through a brief summary of the article's key points and details. I have the students do this in a round-robin fashion where each student in the group shares a detail or item, following the sequence of the article. I let the other group members interject if they feel a detail has been overlooked. I like this particular method of sharing because I have found that students still tend to struggle with appropriate summarizing, and students supporting one another is empowering. Once they have gone through this process and feel confident they have done a good job, they come to me to get the Team Article Analysis worksheet. They then have the remainder of the class period to complete the worksheet, using complete sentences.