The Next Generation Learning Standards for Writing in the 8th grade identify five different types and purposes for writing. The first is argumentative writing.
8W1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
8W1a: Introduce a precise claim, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from a counterclaim, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
8W1b: Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using credible sources while demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
8W1c: Use precise language and content-specific vocabulary to argue a claim.
8Wd: Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
8W1e: Provide a concluding statement or section that explains the significance of the argument presented.
8W1f: Maintain a style and tone appropriate to the writing task.
After reading To Kill a Mockingbird I wanted to provide my students with an argumentative essay prompt rather than the traditional literary essay. I modeled the essay from the New York State regents.
First students had five minutes to free write about the topic: Is To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to teach in 2020?
Then, working with a partner, students had to brainstorm reasons for supporting the topic and negating the topic. The challenge was to balance both sides of argument with sound reasons.
After students shared their reasons with the whole class, students were given an article to read and annotate. Students were provided with an evidence file to catalogue the evidence from the articles provided. The prompt, articles, and scaffolds are provided below:
To help students through the writing process, I wrote alongside of them.
When it came to writing the counter claim paragraph, students were given a “How-To” to help them draft their third body paragraph. A “How-To” is a scaffolding strategy that provides students with clear directions and step by step instructions to support learning.
My students have lots of opinions about reading To Kill a Mockingbird. During our classroom discussions during writing conferences, students have raised solid points about the heinous language in the book, the narrator’s perspectives and the stories that were not told (i.e. Tom Robinson and Calpurnia). Every book has its strengths and limitations, the key is for our students to be able to articulate their claims clearly and presenting valid reasoning.