Earlier this past week, we formally began our extended argumentative writing unit of study.  As I’m often wont to do, I wanted to find a different way to introduce the unit.  I wanted to get a sense of what students already knew while infusing inquiry into the first few days of learning activities.

We began our first day with a warm-up that asked students to brainstorm everything they knew or thought they knew about argumentative writing.

Students then discussed their answers with their table partners.  After this initial quick round of table talk, we did a whole class share out using a strategy called Everyone Up.  Here were our ground rules:

  1.  Everyone stands up.
  2.  Everyone shares out their thinking one at a time–to speak, raise your head, and I’ll call upon you.
  3.  You can only sit down when you have shared one of your responses.
  4.  You must listen carefully to your peers because you cannot repeat what someone else has shared!

We’ve used this strategy before, and I could easily see students felt more confident this time because they were eager to share their ideas and speaking with more authority!

Next, we moved back to some independent work and thinking with an anticipation guide I created.  The anticipation guide has nine statements about argumentative writing; students were asked to read each one and rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement; they then had to provide the reasons for their rating of agreement/disagreement.  This task took about 12-18 minutes for most students.

Next, students were asked to either form pairs or trios with anyone in the room of their choice.  They could also move chairs, move to a different part of the room, or sit on the carpets as well as cozy chairs.  Students then shared their thinking for each statement and their rationales behind those ratings with each other.  During this small group discussion, I walked around the room listening and making notes on conversation points I heard.  Students did a fantastic job choosing partners as the conversations were on point and rich in every one of my classes.

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The next and final part of this initial activity was to give students another chance to share out.  We shared our thinking with the whole class using a Pop Up Discussion/Share structure, a variation on Dave Stuart Jr.’s Pop Up Debate method.  I love this structure because students simply “pop up” and stand when they want to comment or talk about the current discussion point.  We did this for each of the nine statements simply sharing and getting our thinking out in front of the whole group.  As students shared, divergent points of rating and views came up, and I told students we would find out soon where our thinking was correct and where perhaps we had some misconceptions.  Again, students were eager to participate and share their ideas with the whole class.

Overall, this three part lesson generated active participation and an energy to each class session.  Depending on the length of your literacy block, you may be able to complete all parts in one class session, or you can split it over two days.  I will DEFINITELY do this again next year, and I’m really pleased with the interest and excitement it generated.   I was truly impressed with the depth of thinking and enthusiasm I saw from so many students, including many students who are normally quiet but who shared their thinking numerous times during the lesson!

In my next blog post, I’ll share our next point of inquiry:  our Arguments in the Wild Analysis Safari!