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.
To begin our introduction on argument, I want to see if students can identify a writer's argument and his/her reasons. This allows me some insight into their thinking skills and whether or not they can make judgment calls on what's important in a text. Most of my eighth graders can summarize a text, the challenge is to see if they can identify the major components that make up the argument of a writer.
I start the lesson by having the Introduction To Argument Powerpoint on the Smartboard. This has the directions for the first part of class. Students will follow along as I read The Pleasure Of Books Speech out loud to the class. This is a great speech to use with students. It definitely pushes students as readers due to some of the vocabulary but also has them think about what books mean. I personally enjoy this as it's about books! It's also a great speech because when students learn the historical context, book burning during World War II, the main claim takes on a completely different meaning.
We read through the piece once to get a general idea of the speech. I then have students read the speech a second time on their own answer the questions that follow. These questions focus on looking for the main argument and the supporting evidence of that argument. They also highlight/underline their answers. The last question asks students to think about why or when this was written.
I give students a few minutes to highlight/underline their findings and then they share with a partner. Here are students then discussing their findings:
We then discuss as a class. This helps me to see if students are able to find the main idea. If needed, I am able to take students through my thinking and show them what the main idea really is and why. It's more important to show students the why of a main idea. They may not remember what the main idea of a piece is once they leave the class but it's important if they are able to figure out why. We have a brief discussion on why the piece was written. Many students bring up it being a response to technology. This gives students a chance to think critically about a text.
I then show them the next slide on the Introduction To Argument Powerpoint, which gives background on the author and time period. Since it was written during World War II we discuss book burning and how this text can connect to this topic. This gives students the historical context and then they can see the piece as more of an argument for the power of books rather than just his love for books. A text like this is great because it is so layered not just in the writing but in the historical context. When students can see that, they can easily highlight the main argument.
Students have, at least in the past few years, been introduced to argument writing. While they are used to hearing the word persuasive and not argument, many of the ideas apply. Instead of spending days upon days of giving students notes on what they already know, I use this part of the lesson as a refresher of the key terms. This serves as a way for students to activate prior knowledge and bring some of these concepts of argument writing to the fore front of our discussion for the unit. It's important to bring this vocabulary into the lesson since we will be referring to it as we continue our work throughout the unit. It helps us all to be on the same page.
I pull up the Introduction To Argument Powerpoint on the Smartboard. I take students through each slide as they take notes in their notebooks. These notes will help them as they write argument pieces and analyze them throughout the unit. They can refer back to these notes to assist them throughout the unit. My students always want something tangible to refer back to and notes like this gives them that.
These notes focuses on the basics of argument writing. Slide #4 reviews the key terms, which are logical reasoning, claims, evidence, and evaluation. I remind students what each one means. Slide #4 reviews what counterarguments are and why they important to strengthen a writer's own argument. The next two slides gives examples of counter arguments and we discuss why the second one is a stronger counter argument as it refutes the opposing side in a stronger manner. Slide #8 reviews the importance of and how to properly use sources. While there are a lot of notes here, a lot of this is not new but it will help us begin to think about what goes in an argument writing piece.
This video explains how I use this Powerpoint and the importance behind the key terms: Argument Notes Explanation.
I am usually not one to give notes but I think as an introduction to a unit, it can be a great way to focus students' thinking and give the class a common vocabulary as the unit progresses.