We want our students to grapple more with content, to think historically, and solve problems. One of the ways we can support this behavior is by asking our kids to think and write to support a claim using evidence.
Here in the great state of Kansas basketball, we use the term argumentative writing to describe this process. That term makes it sound a little too much like the recent televised debates but asking kids to create an argument and to support that argument really is a good thing. We want them to be able to look at a problem, gather and organize evidence, and use that evidence to create a well-supported argument.
As many of us move from a content focused instructional model to one that instead asks students to use that content in authentic ways, it can sometimes be difficult knowing how to actually have them write argumentatively. But there are resources available to help with your lesson design. I’ve shared a few of these resources below. Pick and choose the ones that work best for you.
The very excellent website, Read more
Sarah Tantillo is the author of The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction. Several years ago, she wrote a useful MiddleWeb post based on her blog The Literacy Cookbook. On the Cookbook, Sarah shares a ton of great ideas about helping students meet the ELA Common Core Standards.
Her original post described a problem she noticed with many of her students:
“One of the things students struggle with the most — and it’s relevant to every grade and subject — is distinguishing between argument and evidence. This problem manifests itself in both reading and writing.
In reading, students often cannot pick topic sentences or thesis arguments out of a lineup; and when writing, they tend to construct paragraphs and essays that lack arguments.”
She went on to describe six steps we can use to move students from “What’s the difference between arguments and evidence?” to “How can I write an effective research paper?”
She outlines six steps that teachers can use to help students create quality, evidence-based arguments. And while the focus is on ELA rather than social studies, the process is one that all of our students need to master: Read more
I spent some some last week with a group sharing strategies around the blended learning concept. It was compelling conversation, I walked away smarter, and had the chance to meet some interesting people.
But one of my biggest walkaways was a strategy that the forum’s facilitator used to jumpstart the discussion.
He called it the Last Word. Others in the group used the term Final Word. No matter what it might be called, I thought it was a perfect fit for strengthen the speaking and listening skills of social studies students. So if you’ve used Last Word, post some comments on changes you’ve made or things you like about it.
New to Last Word? Read on, my friend. Read more
I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.
Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten posts of 2015. Enjoy the reruns. See you in January!
Several months ago, I was in beautiful Fremont, Washington, a community north of downtown Seattle. My son had just graduated from Seattle Pacific and we had the opportunity to spend a few days exploring the metro area. We had already done all of the typical Seattle touristy things – Pike’s Market, Space Needle, the icky wall of chewing gum.
While looking for lesser known attractions, Jake suggested Fremont. Every Sunday, Fremont hosts ahuge flea market / delicious food truck / arts and crafts extravaganza that attracts thousands. I went for the food and stayed for the old books and super cool old maps.
While browsing through one particular booth looking for artistic inspiration, my daughter ran across a box full of old photographs. No names. No dates. So we practiced our primary document sourcing skills, deducing that they must have been taken in the late 1940s / early 1950s by American soldiers and their families. Scenes of the Eiffel Tower, festivals complete with lederhosen, and celebrations with uniformed Americans were prominent.
Erin selected a pile of the most interesting images – picking quite a few that seemed to be from the same camera roll and photographer.
Okay. Your daughter found some old photos. And . . . so what?
If you aren’t familiar with Bruce Lesh, author of the very sweet book titled Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?, then . . . well, you need to be. The book highlights his experience as a classroom teacher struggling to find ways to get his kids to think historically. More importantly, how best to measure that type of thinking. His stuff is just incredibly practical and useful right away.
So I’m pumped to hear him share some ideas about quick, easy to use, writing assessments to gauge student thinking. Bruce started the session with an audio clip of a Scantron machine scoring multiple choice answer sheets. The more noise it makes, the “worse” teacher you are. Because that means students were missing lots of multiple choice questions. Like many teachers, he used to use that type of test to measure learning.
But at the same time that he was using MC and other traditional types of assessment, he was changing the way he designed his instruction to focus more on the processes of the discipline, on having kids think historically. Bruce continued by suggesting that quality instruction measured by poor assessment does more harm than good. We need to focus on both powerful learning activities with appropriately aligned assessments.
He’s preaching to the choir.
To set the stage for his Quick Write assessment idea, Bruce shared a bit about what he calls his History Lab idea. A History Lab has the following characteristics: Read more
It used to be called “writing across the curriculum.” Years ago, in Derby Middle School, I remember WAC being the latest educational buzzword. And it was a good idea. Literacy – reading, writing, communicating – is something that should be happening in all the content areas. But for a lot of reasons, WAC theory and actual practice never seem to align.
Of course, good teachers have been integrating literacy skills into their instruction both before and after WAC. That practice is now encouraged and supported with the latest trend – literacy standards embedded as part of historical thinking and social studies best practice.
It’s still a good idea.
Our students should be reading, writing, and communicating in the specific social studies disciplines. And I know you’re having kids do it. But finding the right tools to support literacy can be difficult. Using paper and pencil is always available . . . though without options for easy collaboration, editing, and sharing. Google Drive provides options for that sort of stuff but it’s still not available in some districts.
And even if it is available, using Drive and other online writing tools are not always the ideal writing environment. It’s easy to get distracted – Look! A squirrel / Facebook / Flipboard / Social Media / Texts – and lose focus. We know that these distractions make it more difficult to come back to the writing process. And even if we are able to resist the blackhole of YouTube Grumpy Cat videos, we can get distracted by the bells and whistles of word processors, focusing so much on format and editing and process that we have difficulty getting words out.
So today? Some tools to help you and students stay focused on the task of writing. Read more