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Before leaving this step, I would have students transfer their thoughts from the discussion they just had into something that looks like the opening paragraph of a written argument: A statement of their point of view, plus three reasons to support that point of view. Next I would show students their major assignment, the performance assessment that they will work on for the next few weeks. It’s generally a written prompt that describes the task, plus the rubric I will use to score their final product.Anytime I give students a major writing assignment, I let them see these documents very early on.
Ideally, this writing would come from real publications and not be fabricated by me in order to embody the form I’m looking for.
(Although most experts on writing instruction employ some kind of mentor text study, the person I learned it from best was Katie Wood Ray in her book Study Driven).
Once students have argued without the support of any kind of research or text, I would set up a second debate; this time with more structure and more time to research ahead of time.
I would pose a different question, supply students with a few articles that would provide ammunition for either side, then give them time to read the articles and find the evidence they need.
So let’s begin with argumentative writing, or persuasive writing, as many of us used to call it.
This overview will be most helpful to those who are new to teaching writing, or teachers who have not gotten good results with the approach you have taken up to now.
To help them make this connection, I would have them do some informal debate on easy, high-interest topics.
An activity like This or That (one of the classroom icebreakers I talked about last year) would be perfect here: I read a statement like “Women have the same opportunities in life as men.” Students who agree with the statement move to one side of the room, and those who disagree move to the other side.
But over the next year or so, I plan to also share more of what I know about teaching students to write.
Although I know many of the people who visit here are not strictly English language arts teachers, my hope is that these posts will provide tons of value to those who are, and to those who teach subjects, including writing.