Simone Larson HAVEN MIDDLE SCHOOL, EVANSTON, IL
6th Grade ELA : Unit #3 - Pick a Side! Prove Your Point! : Lesson #6

Choice Arguments: Deciding on a Powerful Essay Topic.

Objective: SWBAT find relevant news articles to support their argument claims.
Standards: RI.6.1 RI.6.7 RI.6.10 W.6.1 W.6.1b W.6.7 W.6.8
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Entrance Ticket: Argument Writing Takeaways - 10 minutes

An entrance ticket starts off this lesson:

Please give two takeaways from yesterday’s discussion on argument writing. I want you two write two techniques of effective argument writing below. You can use your notes.

Students find their work from the previous day and review. What stood out as powerful argument writing? Which techniques did the author use that proved useful to the reader? These notes are available on the annotated sheet students worked on during class.

When students complete their tickets, I have them share out with the whole group as a verbal reminder of what was discussed the previous day in class.

2 Recap: Revision ideas for last sample. - 5 minutes

We look at the third student sample in more detail from the day prior. It was a very advanced writing sample, but I want to revisit this and dig deeper into what made it successful.

3. Violent video games should be banned for those under 17. Violence is violence is violence is violence, whether there is a shooting on the streets or soldiers fighting for our country, it is the same. Pick any violent video game and you will see it is the same violence as any other game. It is always bad, troubling, misleading, and will cause problems. Take Devin Moore for an example, after playing hours and hours of Grand Theft Auto for months, this led to murder. Shooting and killing is not a game that can be played on the Xbox, it is more than that, and that is what these kids don’t understand and aren’t able to an age younger than 17. This is because your brain fully develops at age 20, so while you play violent games at 17 or younger, you are teaching your brain the violent way to think. Whether you are a good student or not, it doesn’t matter. Violent games will literally rewire and transform your brain. Yes, you may think violently because of your past risk factors, but this game will take that last step in the decision of killing a cop or not.

Students take their time to compliment this section (see previous day pros). Then they spend time commenting on ways to improve.

Possible ways to improve:

  1. Find a synonym for the word violence. This word was repeated too many times.
  2. Possibly add a direct quote.
  3. Split this section up into two paragraphs.

After this suggestion, I paused to ask where can we split this giant paragraph into two? As a class, we agreed that the transition "take Devin Moore for an example," was a great place to start a new paragraph.

Students should keep this annotated sheet as a guide for their writing.

3 Introduce Argument Research - 10 minutes

Today is all about research! I tell the kids, you're so lucky! You get to choose your own argument writing topics. What matters to you? You decide. However, there is one caveat. Personal opinion and life experience is great, but it isn't enough to win your argument. You'll need to find articles that support your claims. Research is key.

This is really difficult for sixth graders to understand. They want to argue based on passion and background knowledge. However, I continue to stress that solid arguments need sources.

 I pass out this sheet that helps students decide on a topic

Argument Topics

How do I decide upon a writing topic?

Yes, interest is important in choosing a topic, however, before you make a final decision, make sure you can find at least two relevant internet sources. Think about the article we read in class, which spurred debate on video game violence. That was a news article, taken from a news source. Consider the following websites before you decide upon your topic.

We discuss that there are two ways to find great topics. The first is to try to choose an argument topic first and then find written sources. This website has a lengthy list of argument topic ideas. The problem with choosing an argument topic first, is that it can be difficult to find sources to match. I then introduce the strategy of going to news websites and then developing arguments.

Here is another great resource: debate.org

One student suggested that others use Newsela as a jumping off point, before claim writing. Here is a video: How and why to use Newsela.

I suggested the New York Times Educational Blog, as well. This is a way to guarantee a credible source that will support your claim.

After reading this Newsela article, one student decided to take a stance against football, saying that it should be banned to those under the age of eighteen.

They will also need to record their sources. Once they have about four possible topics, they can narrow these down to two that include claims and sources.

Choosing Your Topic

By the end of the block, students should have at least one topic that they would be interested in writing about, as well as two sources for each topic.

Student Sample: Topic Choice Sheet

Student Sample (2): Topic Choice Sheet

Opinions aren't enough.
Grappling with Complexity
4 Day'O'Research: Backing up claims with articles. - 45 minutes

Kids spend the remainder of the day trying to find either an appropriate topic with a resource, or an article to support a topic that could be turned into a claim. This is a complicated task. Students quickly realize that their topics sometimes lack internet resources. This forces them to regroup and start from scratch. I think this is a good thing. It shows students that they must think deeply about their topics and remain flexible. By the end of the day, they should understand that just because you have an interest in a topic, does not necessarily mean that you'll be able to write about it, because you may not have sources.

I ask that kids start initial research on two separate topics and make their final decision after their first day of research.

Here are two student samples:

Student Sample: Research Topic Form, Fast Food

Student Sample: Research Topic Form, College Athletes