Fill the Toolbox

Common Core is in love with argumentation. Thumb through the CCSS and you’ll see that wily little Argument knocked out Informative and Narrative to grab the writing top spot.

Really, though, a case can be made that all writing is argumentative. Writers write because they want to prove that they’re right, right? Informative writing tries to convince us that we really do need all of those screws to build the bookcase. And narrative can be viewed through an argumentative lens if we consider the writer is trying to convince us that his experience is worthy of our time, attention, and $17.99. (Heck, this blog is even written as an argument that I sometimes know what I’m talking about. How am I doing?)

Still, our administrators don’t want semantics or long, philosophical debates about the nature of the written word. They want us to teach argumentative writing. Specifically, they want claim, reasons, evidence, and counterclaim.

I say, let’s give ‘em what they want. voiceLet’s ruin the next generation’s appetite for cable news talking heads who scream at each other under the guise of “debate.” Let’s bring discourse back, baby!

It can be overwhelming for an English major who has spent an academic career crafting literary analysis to head into the Land of Argument. (FYI – the CCSS buried lit. analysis at the very bottom of the writing skills list. We can be sure our kids won’t be asked to write about the significance of Holden Caulfield’s red hunting cap on any upcoming state test, but you know my juniors will still be doing that very thing this May.)

I can help with those important argument skills. You’ll find a bundle of materials located here that can get your kids (and maybe even you, too) excited about Argumentative Writing. In the download, you’ll find interactive multimedia lessons, models of high-quality essays, a bunch of handouts, and compelling topics that appeal to our students.

Hope these materials save you some prep time and sharpen your students’ skills.

Teach on, everyone!


5 thoughts on “Fill the Toolbox

  1. Hi, Laura! It’s been so long since I’ve commented on one of your posts, haha. Anyway, when you have students write argumentative essays, which of the essay codes do you use for when a student commits a logical fallacy in an argumentative essay? Or if a student uses evidence that doesn’t really connect to their thesis? Thanks!

  2. Welcome back, Eng10Santos! I don’t have either of those listed on my content coding for argument papers because, I think, both cases require more of an explanation from me to help the student see the issue at hand. Instead of a code, I write, “Come see me,” on the paper and then visit with the student while everyone else is beginning to work on their essay corrections during in-class time. Big hairy problems like that deserve a bit more personal time with me to make sure the student fully understands the problem. Hope this helps!

  3. Oh alright, thanks! What about for when students don’t sound like they have a stance but they just sound like they’re explaining both sides of the argument?

    Or perhaps when fail to connect their evidence to their claim?

    Or has a missing part (like the counterclaims)?

    Do you use codes for these circumstances, or do you think that they, too, deserve more personal time with you?

    Thank you so much! 🙂

  4. I guess what I’m trying to say, too, is – do you have other codes that you use only specific assignments so that your feedback is more specific/focused?

  5. I see, Eng10Santos. For major assignments, I do tailor my code sheets to best reflect the skills I want to emphasize with students. Don’t feel locked into my generalized codes; personalization is always best. For the issues you’ve mentioned above with our argument writing, I don’t often see these things in the final drafts that I’m given to grade because these problems are identified and fixed earlier in the drafting and peer review process. If a paper is turned in with these sorts of significant problems, I’d set it aside and meet with the student privately during my prep period, explaining the problems and giving him/her a chance to revise and resubmit for a grade. It would look like a zero it the grade book until the resubmitted essay was graded for full points. That’d be my plan, anyway.

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