Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 2: Arguments in the Wild Analysis Safari

In my last post, I shared how we began to take an inquiry stance to explore what we thought we knew about argumentative writing.  For the next part of our inquiry, I set up a gallery walk of sorts with a variety of different texts that presented an explicit or implicit argument.  We reviewed our definition of argument and copied it onto an index card before reviewing the first set of instructions of our activity.


Individual Noticings in the Wild

At each table area, I set up a basket with a single color of Post-It notes and a large piece of chart paper with an argumentative text taped onto the paper.   To avoid chaos with the beginning of the activity, I had students place their belongings somewhere out of the way away from the tables and asked them to get a clipboard from our clipboard bin.  I also asked students to keep their notecard with their definition of argument on the clipboard as they prepared to visit stations in our gallery walk.  I called students to do these tasks by table group to help students do these transitional tasks calmly and without trampling each other.

Students were instructed to notice what argument the text–whether written, digital, or some combination of the two–presented.  Students were asked to write their responses on a Post-It note and include their name before taping it to the chart paper.    I reminded students to not only think about the actual argument presented, but I also encouraged them to think about what qualities contributed to crafting the argument.

Students started with the text at their regular table seating area; once they finished, they could move onto any station that was not already crowded with more than 3 people.  I reminded students this was the focused and quiet thinking time of our activity to be completed independently.

Each class had six texts; 4th period was the exception because they are my biggest class, and they had a 7th text affixed to an easel.  Every class had a different set of texts, so I had to be sure to prepare ahead of time to have all the texts ready to go for each class session.  Texts included:

  • Written argumentative pieces from Scholastic publications or NewsELA opinion pieces
  • Newspaper editorials from real world newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal Constitution
  • Data charts
  • Infographics
  • Photographs
  • Poems
  • Song lyrics
  • Artwork/art, including pieces from Mari Andrew
  • Political cartoons

I wanted to present students an opportunity to analyze and identify a variety of texts–not just traditional written ones–in the real world and to explore concept that argument is all around us before we delve into school-oriented written arguments and writing structures for doing so.   Please take time to watch the slideshow below–the pictures tell so much about our story of learning with this activity.

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When students finished visiting all six stations, I instructed them to sit in a cozy seat or on the carpets and respond to these questions (or some variation of it depending on the class period) on the back of the “argument notes” they had previously written on the index card as part of our warm-up.

This part of the activity gave students a chance to reflect individually on what they had seen in the gallery walk.

  • For two of my classes (Periods 5 and 6), I collected their index cards at the end of class and will use the responses to form small groups that will analyze each text next week as we ran out of time on Friday.
  • For my two other classes, I allowed students to form their own small groups of three to pick one of the texts to analyze collaboratively and eventually collected or will collect those responses next week when they finish 1st and 4th period are at slightly different points in the activity from Periods 5 and 6.

I want to share that my students were deeply engrossed in this learning activity and the task at hand.  I can say without a doubt it was one of the most engaging activities I’ve ever done with students in my 27 years of teaching, and I am so proud of how they upped their academic game as this was definitely a challenging task presented to them—and on Valentine’s Day for three of my classes!


Next Steps:

In my next post, I will share the collaborative 3-2-1 analysis/reflection structure for small groups and our share out process.


Notes and Inspiration

This particular lesson was inspired by a variety of sources; the text Everything’s an Argument (one that many of our colleges use here in Georgia in their English courses) and a post by English teacher Annie Stultz sparked my imagination for the lesson design and idea of expanding the idea of text and where we might find them in the “real” world.  Overall, I am thrilled with the student response and level of engagement and will definitely utilize this original lesson again.  I actually completed this lesson for the first time this past Thursday for my extended announced TKES observation; if you want to see the full lesson plan, you can view it here.

  • Ehrenworth, Mary, Cornelius Minor, and Julie Shepherd. Unit 3 Position Papers: Research and Argument. Ed. Lucy Calkins. Heinemann, 2014. Print.
  • Hicks ,Troy and Turner, Kristen Hawley. Argument in the Real World: Teaching Adolescents to Read and Write Digital Texts. Heinemann, 2016. Print.
  • Lunsford, Andrea A. , Ruszkiewicz, John J., et al. Everything’s an Argument. Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2016. Print.
  • Schooledbystultz. “Argument Practice with AP Lang.” Instagram, photographed by Annie Stultz, 31 January 2020. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8ASpp1hFge/

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