Saturday, June 15, 2013

Argumentative Writing: A Pre-write Activity

Pre-Writing  Activity 
Argument (although could work for Informational writing too!) 
CCS: W8.1; 8.4; SL 8.1

When students began to think about their first argumentative piece, convincing our Site-Based Council to allow cell phone use in the classroom, I knew that many students might struggle with three or more sound reasons for allowing cell phones in the classroom. We read many articles about how other schools were using cell phones as well as articles that listed pros and cons on the issue. I decided I wanted a more collaborative approach to developing possible points and here is what we did. 

Students were given about 4 post-its and on each were directed to list a possible use for cell phones and/or reasons for having a cell phone. Students worked independently to list at least 3 or 4- one per post-it. 

Once completed, students were put into groups of 4 or 5 and they were directed to share their ideas. 

The next step was then to come up with categories for these ideas (safety, tools, etc.) and to place their post-its in the appropriate category. Students had to come up with their own categories and while most did well, I moved about the room offering advice if needed. 

Students collaboratively organizing their ideas

Students Have organized their ideas into three categories or points

Here students have categorized many of their ideas into a "Tools" category

Students organizing their ideas into categories

Once finished, students shared out their categories and what "points" fell into each category.  

My hope was that students would understand that many ideas can fit into a category, which in turn will produce a "FAT" paragraph. Often times students end up creating points that are very similar and they repeat information. By using this technique I was hoping that students would have the opportunity to think critically about brainstorming ideas, categorizing those ideas, and organizing them from least to most important. All of these skills are needed to write a cohesive argumentative piece.