All of my students (8th-12th grades) have been working on argumentation this semester. Many of them hate it. I do Articles of the Week (thanks, Kelly Gallagher), and the first seven AoW’s this semester required students to write an argument-based response (“just” one page). On the 8th AoW I changed the focus of their response to a reflection. A favorite student wrote, under the “FOCUS: Reflection” tag on the printed article (which they must annotate), “FINALLY!!!!!!!!!”
Today, though, a dreary November Monday, Halloween, actually, I decided to do something different for the AoW (I assign them on a Monday and they’re due the following Thursday; they have most of the class period on Monday to read, annotate, and write a response, but if they don’t finish it’s homework – about half of the students finish during class time on Monday; while they’re working on the AoW I have short, quiet 1-on-1 writing conferences with many of the students). Instead of giving them another news article, I had them write two detailed paragraphs: one was to focus on their two most memorable AoW’s so far, and the other was to describe what, if anything, they’ve learned from writing their responses to the AoW’s.
I had no idea what to expect. Here are some excerpts from 8th-, 9th-, and 10th-graders:
I like the way we’ve been writing this semester because we’ve wrote a lot of arguments which I honestly don’t really like but they’re helpful for writing skills. The arguments give us a chance to see the way certain things are in a different perspective that lets us explain our thoughts and learn while explaining our thoughts. The subjects in each argument were different they went from what others believe to political situations to what the class thought about one subject, so it was a good thing to learn so far this year.
I have learned some new things about writing. For example I learned that I need to put a topic sentence for the first sentence in every paragraph to show what the paragraph is about. I also learned where I should put commas, semicolon and, periods. But I still very strongly dislike Article of the weeks.
I have definitely learned quite a bit about how to write better, also I would like to thank auto correct so my sentences don’t look like this “I hade has a bads daye allot in the nethr lends for haloween”.
Honestly, I don’t like typing and I think it’s because in seventh grade we were forced into taking that class and the teacher that none of us liked would make us type a certain speed every week which made me fail the dumb class.
You can fix uninformed but you can’t fix ignorant. I feel like my writing is progressing. I enjoy writing about the more controversial subjects because I feel the need to write everything super clear and factual, since people twist words like hell.
Article of the weeks are a good way to practice writing to improve and when have the little meetings it helps us see what we did wrong and can help us improve for the next article. If I hadn’t done article of the weeks I probably wouldn’t be able to write a strong argument or a good reflection. I think that I can now write these pretty good because I have practiced many times with the article of the weeks.
I remember the Colin Kaepernick article really well. I enjoyed that one. I think a lot of people will talk about that article because it so easily sparked passion in people. Almost everyone in the class had a strong opinion on Colin Kaepernick. The debate in class also helped. We should have more of those. I don’t like being forced to write and I didn’t feel forced writing that. It was something I enjoyed doing.
I think the article of the weeks definitely has helped me voice my opinion better in my writing and real life. The arguments taught me how to argue while always respecting the other’s opinion.
At this point in the semester I think my writing can still use some work. Especially my counter-arguments. They are always just like a little awkward paragraph that makes sense but not to all people. I could really work on how to write them better.
I have learned a lot by doing Article of the Weeks. For example I have learned to be more careful when I write by proof-reading and writing slower so I get all of the words that I want to say on the paper. I have a tendency to not put in the little words that are necessary to have a sentence make sense.
I think there are a lot of ways writing articles of the week have improved my writing. One being that I am able to look up different information siding with both sides of an argument. It helps when you start writing arguments and you need to show evidence as well. Also when we do claims, and warrants. All of these help me become a better writer.
Other articles that help me are reflections. I get to reflect what the article was about. It lets me remember what happened in the article and I get to explain what I think about it. Also we get a better picture of what is happening around the world and we’re in English.
I have to say I was surprised by the depth of some of the reflections. I was more surprised by the fact that several of the students seemed genuinely to value argument writing and understand its purpose. In the four years I’ve been doing the AoW, this was the first time I ever had students reflect on the process. I will definitely do this again. The meta-cognitive value, having students begin to name elements of their writing process, to have them point out what they think they do well and what they believe they can improve on, seems like time well spent. Plus, it’s just fun to read their thoughts.