Using Newsela Articles as Mentor Texts to Learn Argumentative Writing Skills with Elementary Students

Students study mentor texts to determine how authors organize their writing to effectively persuade readers
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How to Use Newsela to Select Mentor Texts for Argumentative Writing
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About This Strategy

In this strategy, teachers and students study a mentor text together to determine its features and organization. Next, students work independently to identify these features in a second mentor text. Students then work collaboratively to synthesize their thoughts in a graphic organizer. At the end of the strategy, students reflect on how they will use what they've learned to inform their own writing.  

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Select Newsela articles to assign as mentor texts or review the example Newsela articles provided below.

  2. Provide copies of the Blank Argumentative Graphic Organizer and Mentor Texts for Argumentative Writing Closure Questions (in the resources section below).

 

Student Preparation:

  1. Connect to students' background knowledge by asking the class: What does it mean to persuade? When is a time that you tried to persuade your family members? What strategies did you use? Did it work?

  2. Explain that authors often like to persuade readers. This type of writing is called argumentative or persuasive writing because the author is arguing for one side and trying to persuade the reader. Explain that today students will be studying some mentor texts to figure out the answer to the question: How do authors organize their writing to effectively persuade readers?

  3. Use slides 2-9 in the Argumentative Writing Using Mentor Text Presentation (in the resources section below) to introduce the organizational structure of argumentative writing using the Newsela article "Opinion: "Minecraft" meets its match in Museum Day Live!" (lexile 530) as a mentor text.

    • Introduce the questions to consider (slide 2)

    • Model analyzing the structure of the article (slides 3-8), pointing out the claim (highlighted in red), the reasons (highlighted in yellow), the explanation/support for each reason (highlighted in purple), and the restated claim (highlighted in red).

    • Display the questions to consider (slide 9) and allow students to answer these questions first with a partner or in a small group and then as a whole class.

  4. Display and discuss slide 10, showing a graphic organizer that represents the format, and then display and discuss slide 11, showing the completed graphic organizer using the mentor text.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Instruct students to choose ONE of Newsela article to read and adjust the Lexile level as needed. Two example articles from students to choose from are:

    • Children's Movies Aren't All Simple

    • Yes, Pluto Is a Planet

  2. Assign the following directions on Newsela: Read the article. Then, go back and highlight using the following system:

    • RED- Claim at the beginning and end

    • YELLOW- Reasons backing up the claim

    • PURPLE- Explanations/support for each reason

  3. Display instructions for students as they work. (See slide 12 in the Argumentative Writing Using Mentor Texts Presentation in the resources section below). Circulate the room, providing additional support for students as needed.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Instruct students to meet in small groups with students who read the same article at the same Lexile level. Allow them to compare their highlighting and make changes as needed.

  2. Distribute the Blank Argumentative Graphic Organizer (in the resources section below) to students and allow them to complete the organizer as a small group.

  3. Allow a representative of each group to share their completed graphic organizer with the class.

  4. Distribute the Mentor Texts for Argumentative Writing Closure Questions (in the resources section below) and allow students to complete the questions independently.

  5. Assess student understanding.

    • Go over student responses as a class.

    • Collect the closure questions for review.

    • Meet individually or as a small group with any students who struggled with the closure questions.

    • Hand students back the closure questions and have students place this paper in an appropriate binder/folder to reference the next time they write an argumentative writing piece.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

"Minecraft" meets its match in Museum Day Live!

  • Essential Question: How are Minecraft and Museum Day Live! similar?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: ELA

Just because a movie is for kids doesn't mean it won't be good.

  • Essential Question: Why are children's movies valuable?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: ELA

Yes, Pluto is a planet

  • Essential Question: Why should Pluto be considered a planet?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: Sci/ELA

Extension: Students create their own argumentative writing piece

Have students use what they learned from studying mentor texts to create their own argumentative writing pieces.

 

Implementation Steps:

  • Provide students with the Blank Argumentative Graphic Organizer (see in the resources section below).

  • Allow students to research a topic of their choice and fill out the graphic organizer based on their findings.

  • Encourage students to go back to the Newsela mentor texts as reference as they create their writing piece.