Argument Writing

One of today’s ELA sessions, “Argument Writing Introduction,” focused on experiencing and scaffolding the writing demands in Grade 9 Module 4 (“Module 9.4”).

Module 9.4 was designed so that students could build their skills in argument writing using tools to evaluate and synthesize the arguments made in the central and supplementary texts. The central text is Sugar Changed the World, an informational text about the history of the sugar industry. The students first closely read the texts to see strong examples of argument writing. Once they analyze the texts and understand the argumentative writing style, students will use that knowledge to form an argument based on new texts and write their own final performance task. For this performance task, students must present a claim and use evidence from the texts to back up the claim. In order to build the skills necessary to be successful on the final assessment, students are assessed throughout the module on the various skills that they learn from the model texts.

Participants in this session began by engaging in a performance task where they read an excerpt from the central text and an article called “How Your Addiction to Fashion Kills” in order to build an argument about how low cost fashion relies on harsh labor practices. They annotated for author’s claims and evidence and then used the Argument Outline Tool from the module to help plan their individual responses to the prompt: Who bears the most responsibility for ensuring that clothes are ethically manufactured? Participants had a discussion about the strategies they found themselves using to read and annotate the texts. They then shared their Argument Outline Tools to talk about claims and evidence and any possible counter-claims that could be found in the texts.

Participants were introduced to the concept of “bottlenecks” which are points where the learning of a significant number of students is interrupted. These are obstacles that students may face as they try to complete a task or acquire a new skill. As the session progresses, educators are thinking about the bottlenecks that their students may encounter on their way to academic success.

The remainder of the session focused on supports and adaptations for Module 9.4 at the lesson level. Groups examined relationships between text excerpts, standards, tools and the mid-unit assessment in order to analyze the scaffolding and sequencing of the first half of Unit 1. Participants then met a teacher who piloted these lessons in her own 9th grade classes this month. She brought samples of her students’ writing from the unit including the various tools and writing assessments. She also showed a video of her class using one of the tools from the module to form claims based on the same article participants had read earlier. Students encountered a bottleneck where they were not able to distinguish between central claims and supporting evidence. The teacher recognized this and talked her students through it so that they were able to understand what was being asked of them.

Participants had great discussions about the texts, tools and the student samples to help them think about how they will turnkey and implement this module in their own schools and classrooms.

The materials for this session are available here:
http://www.engageny.org/resource/may-2014-nti-grades-9-12-ela-turnkey-kit-for-teachers

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