For the Sake of Argument: Another Common Core Shift
For Middle and Upper Elementary Students
Students in the middle elementary grades can benefit from writing persuasive essays and letters about causes they believe in and changes they would like to see take place in their community. Because they are more comfortable with using technology, you can make use of additional tools such as this online letter generator from Readwritethink.org. Prompts guide students to write effective friendly or business letters that can be printed and saved. This planning worksheet will help students organize their thoughts, and this interactive persuasion map is another useful way for students to develop reasoned arguments.
Writing across the curriculum is key to build writing fluency and experiencing the volume of writing outlined in the CCSS. Middle and upper elementary students can stretch their writing muscles and expand their argumentative skills to include more than essays and letters. Speech writing, editorials, and reviews are all formats to consider, along with the role of the writer, the audience, and the topic. The R.A.F.T. technique for developing writing assignments is explained here.
Proponents of the R.A.F.T. technique attest to the increased engagement of students when they write for an audience other than their teacher and from a perspective that isn't necessarily their own. More about the R.A.F.T. approach to writing across the content areas can be found at the section for persuasive writing on the Writing Fix site, sponsored by Northern Nevada Writing Project and maintained by Corbett Harrison. You will also find links to lessons, mentor texts, and ways to work on voice. Consider this lesson related to a nutrition unit in which students take on the role of a fruit or vegetable and write a campaign speech to advance an argument (directed at an audience of voters) about why they deserve the prestigious Fruit or Vegetable of the Year Award.
Upper elementary students might benefit from this tutorial at the iWrite website. It walks students through the parts of a persuasive essay and includes instruction about three different structures for persuasive essays—opinion, problem/solution, and pro/con. A clickable or printable tutorial for guiding students through the writing process for persuasive pieces is available from Scholastic. It includes links to planning sheets, useful transition words, a draft outline, editing checklist, ideas for revision, etc.
Older students are better able to anticipate and work counterarguments into their writing. This lesson from icivics.org clearly explains the difference between arguing and making an argument. Your upper elementary students should also be engaging in research-based argument writing. Look here for some ideas for contemporary topics that may appeal to some of your students. If you will require students to make a speech to advance an argument based upon research, Karen Finney and Lou Giansante have a speech-writing tutorial that is part of the Scholastic Writing with Writers series. Read the full TeachersFirst review here.
When it is time to assess students' writing, this collection has Excel-based rubrics for persuasive essays. You can choose from an assortment of grading scales (6,5,4) or a letter grade. The rubrics are based on the 6 Traits approach to effective writing.