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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.
Since I want the writing to be high quality and the subject matter to be high interest, I might choose pieces like Jessica Lahey’s Students Who Lose Recess Are the Ones Who Need it Most and David Bulley’s School Suspensions Don’t Work.
I would have students read these texts, compare them, and find places where the authors used evidence to back up their assertions.
They then identify three reasons to support their argument, and three facts or examples to validate each reason.
The map graphic in the upper right-hand corner allows students to move around the map, instead of having to work in a linear fashion.
Next, we’d have a Philosophical Chairs debate (learn about this in my discussion strategies post), which is very similar to “This or That,” except students use textual evidence to back up their points, and there are a few more rules.
Here they are still doing verbal argument, but the experience should make them more likely to appreciate the value of evidence when trying to persuade.In my experience, I’ve found that students appreciate having a clear picture of what’s expected of them when beginning a writing assignment.At this time, I also show them a model of a piece of writing that meets the requirements of the assignment.Every class of students I have ever had, from middle school to college, has loved loved LOVED this activity.It’s so simple, it gets them out of their seats, and for a unit on argument, it’s an easy way to get them thinking about how the art of argument is something they practice all the time.I would ask students which author they feel did the best job of influencing the reader, and what suggestions they would make to improve the writing.I would also ask them to notice things like stories, facts and statistics, and other things the authors use to develop their ideas.It’s not exactly the 5-paragraph essay, but it definitely builds on that model.I strongly believe students should be shown how to move past those kinds of structures into a style of writing that’s more natural and fitting to the task and audience, but I also think they should start with something that’s pretty clearly organized. One of the most effective ways to improve student writing is to show them mentor texts, examples of excellent writing within the genre students are about to attempt themselves.Then they take turns explaining why they are standing in that position.This ultimately looks a little bit like a debate, as students from either side tend to defend their position to those on the other side.