What mini-units/lessons have you used since we met at the beginning of December? How did it go? How are you observing growth in your students’ writing and understanding of argument? Based on your anecdotal observations, what aspects of argumentative writing do your students need to develop? What have you learned? What are you excited about? What are you grappling with?
What's happening in my class
We have been writing informal arguments and conducting research. Wednesday is writing workshop day in my class and since the beginning of December my students have used the Argument is Everywhere "playlist" in LRNG.org on Wednesdays to develop informal arguments. The playlist author, Casey Olsen, has adapted CWRP materials using the LRNG platform for the YouthVoices.live community. As technical and networked as that might sound, the resources are clear and student-friendly. (I invited students to engage by first sharing with them this Google slideshow.) My students have in their notebooks the seeds of arguments they've developed in response to the playlist's prompts.
On all the other days of the week, we have a more formal prompt that has driven the research and debate work which is our focus in the 3rd quarter:
After researching a contemporary issue, write an essay in which you identify a problem and propose a solution. Support your discussion with evidence from the text.
Debatable topics pulled from the New York Times Room for Debate provide my students with a host of contemporary issues to read and discuss, and the short arguments written by experts in that space provide practice for students with identifying claims, evidence, and reasoning in the wild. Students subsequently borrow the evidence they find in those short pieces and, more importantly, use what they read in the Times to generate questions to deepen the inquiry. We've experimented with the sentence frame below as a means of reflecting on reading in order to develop search terms to find relevant, credible sources.
After reading ________, (article title) I would like to find out more about _________ (something specific). I will search on ________ (author’s name), or ________, ________ and ________ (keywords) in my search for additional credible sources.All of this work culminated two days ago in a very busy Friday of writing rough drafts. The resulting papers I assessed at the advanced institute will still undergo peer review and will benefit from a few mini-lessons to support revision of arguments. This assessment work will provide me good formative information about of what students are doing independently. That information and the resources in the extended research materials we looked at in the CRWP today will inform daily planning in the coming week.
What we've been up to
Based on my observations, my students understand evidence and reasoning conceptually. I think they need practice looking at examples of effective paragraphs that present evidence clearly and connect claims with evidence. Developing nuanced claims is an elusive skill that student writers can do in some contexts, like on-demand writing in response to a single text, but struggle to do in other writing situations, like open-ended research. Some students still rely heavily on sentence frames and mentor texts to produce clear arguments (about which I say, Thank goodness for sentence frames and mentor texts!) I'm trusting that more guided practice and revision is the recipe for developing more student independence with this skill.
Since we've been reading about and debating both sides of controversial issues, we'll be working on crafting counterclaims next.