For the Sake of Argument: Another Common Core Shift
Teaching Tips & Strategies
Try these tips as you incorporate argumentative and persuasive writing. You may want to return to them when you get “stuck.”
1. When you first introduce these argument/persuasive texts, share some read-alouds as examples of persuasion. (See list under “Additional Resources.”) Discuss as a group and evaluate the strength of a given character's argument.
2. Wherever possible, offer students choices of the topics for which they will write opinions and develop arguments. Choice ensures that they are truly invested in the topic and motivated to “grow” their writing.
3. Help students to choose argument topics that have two opposing sides. (Instead of “Babymouse is my favorite book” students might make the claim “Graphic novels make good choices for students to read.”)
4. Remind students that the intent of an argument is to change the reader's mind about a topic, to bring the reader to take some action, or to convince the reader to accept the writer's point of view on the topic. To succeed in this, the writer must use a strong, intentional voice. Select great examples from picture books, periodicals, and speeches to share and use as mentor texts. Help students locate the words and phrases that make the argument convincing. (Projecting on an interactive whiteboard and using a highlight tool would give them “hands-on” practice.)
5. Share a rubric for this type of writing and give students goals to work toward. Many sample rubrics are available, like the ones here from the Delaware Department of Education and here from Readwritethink.org.
6. Encourage topics that are relevant and contemporary. Writers want today's readers to care about the chosen topic.
Since one third of your writing time will be devoted to this type of writing, vary the formatfor opinion/argument writing. Rather than a steady diet of paragraphs and essays, teach students to write letters to express their views. Launch a letter writing assignment by first reading some books in which letters move the plot along. A helpful list is available here from Readwritethink.org. A lesson plan entitled “Write Letters that make Things Happen” can be found here as well. With support and explicit teaching from you, upper elementary students can try their hand at writing speeches or producing public service announcements to make their claims and offer reasons and evidence to support their argument. Writing reviews of books or movies, restaurants, toys, or video games can be engaging as well. Just be sure that the topic for the review has a narrow enough focus to keep the assignment manageable for students.