One of the best ways to improve student writing is to use mentor texts: published works of writing that serve as models for students. Using mentor texts allows students to learn from the masters and replicate effective writing moves in their own work. Newsela offers a variety of mentor texts with solid instructional implications. When students and teachers analyze Newsela opinion and PRO/CON articles, they're able to analyze an author's choices specifically around text structure, writing style, and claims and/or counterclaims. Students can then practice the skills they identified in the author's craft in order to produce better argumentative writing themselves.
Teacher Preparation and Planning:
Select an appropriate Newsela text or Text Set to use as a mentor text for argumentative writing. For example, Newsela PRO/CON articles would work well as mentor texts as students can see two sides of an argument and analyze each author's structure, style, and claims.
Frame student thinking around the idea of argument by having students complete a Quick Write which presents an argument. Teachers may choose to provide a list of sample topics, as in the Resources section. Students can either pick their own topic, or teachers can assign one to the class.
Students should be given approximately 10 minutes to write.
After 10 minutes, teachers should distribute the Mentor Text Analysis chart and model its use with a volunteer Student Quick Write.
After modeling, students should complete the Mentor Text Analysis chart with their own Quick Write.
Teachers should begin a class discussion, and might consider using the following questions:
Based on the chart, what's missing from your argument?
Which piece of your argument is most effective?
How can we improve our argumentative writing?
Teachers should use this discussion as an opportunity to segue into the use of mentor texts to improve writing. Teachers may choose to say something like:
"A great way to improve our own writing is to study the writing of published authors. We are going to use Newsela's PRO/CON and Opinion pieces to learn from published authors and improve our own argumentative writing."
Assign the Newsela article or Text Set at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student.
Students should complete the Mentor Text Analysis chart (in resource section below) while reading.
Newsela PRO users can choose to have students complete the pieces of the chart using annotations.
The claim should be annotated in RED.
The counter-claim should be annotated in GREEN.
Convincing language should be annotated in YELLOW.
Evidences should be annotated in BLUE.
Non-PRO users can have students take notes on the Mentor Text Analysis chart.
After completing the Mentor Text Analysis chart or annotations, students should compare their responses to their original Quick Write.
Students should choose one idea from their Mentor Text that they'd like to add to their own writing.
For example, in the Quick Write, students probably drew largely from personal experience and anecdotes as their evidence. After reading a Mentor Text, they might notice that published authors use statistics as evidence; students could then complete an internet search or search on Newsela to find statistics that would support their claim.
For example, students might not have included a counterclaim in their Quick Write. After reading a Mentor Text and discovering that published authors address a counterclaim, they may choose to add one to their writing.
Students should revise their Quick Writes to include the piece selected in step 2.
Students should complete an exit ticket explaining how their revision made their argument more effective. Teachers can use the exit ticket template in the resources section.
Persuasive Writing: PRO/CON Articles
Rhetoric, Arguments & Speeches
Voices & Opinions