In my previous two posts, I outlined the activities that were our first points of inquiry into argumentative writing and essays.  In the last post, I shared how I organized a gallery walk (via tables instead of walls) for students to explore a variety of “texts” and to identify the argument.  Students posted their thinking on Post-It notes for each station.

For two of my classes, students formed trios or pairs of their choice to analyze a specific text from the gallery walk.  In my other two classes, I organized trios by interest based on their ticket out the door reflections completed on an index card (see previous blog post).

Once groups were formed, they were charged with the following tasks:

Students worked for about 12-15 minutes to do their analysis.

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Groups then shared out their 3-2-1 reflections to the entire class.  Many groups worked well and completed the thinking tasks with relative ease, but other groups struggled.   I was struck by the some of the connections some students made between texts whether they were identifying some common threads by topic or format.  However, this whole group share out and 3-2-1 thinking exercise revealed that individual students (Post-It note work from the first part of the activity) as well as students working in collaborative groups either:

  1.  Focused on writing summaries of the text and not actually identifying the argument.
  2.  Did not recognize their peers were writing summaries rather arguments.

Although this pattern was definitely concerning to me this week, it also gave me some important insights.  This activity revealed we needed more work distinguishing between summarizing a text and actually identifying the argument, so we will continue to tackle that skill and to make that distinction.  For two of my classes where this issue was especially prevalent,  we actually stopped and had a conversation about this point as we went through each of the texts.   Not only is this skill important for writing a claim, but it will also be important for the upcoming state test in April as students are often presented with a text and asked to analyze the argument.

Do your middle or high school students struggle with distinguishing between a summary and an argument?  If so, how do you help them to understand the difference?