Argumentative Essay Writing: A Two-Week Plan for Beginners

Teaching writing has been one of my biggest struggles as a secondary ELA teacher. Getting students to start from scratch and come out with a completed and polished argumentative essay seems like a monumental challenge! I learned with time and experience and a LOT of mistakes that it can be done IF the essay writing is scaffolded appropriately. For reference, I teach 8th grade ELA and I have class periods that are about 55-minutes long. With these parameters, I can get students to complete argumentative essays in two weeks!

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Suggested Calendar

Week 1, Day 1: Activating Prior Knowledge

Whether this is the first time students have written an argumentative essay, or the third or fourth time, it never hurts to do do a little review. Start with the General Argumentative Essay Structure Sorting Activity to see how much students know already and to give students a general idea of how a 5-paragraph argumentative essay should look like. 

You can print in color or black and white (the color version is easier for students that need more visual representation of the paragraphs). I usually print out one set per table group (for me it’s 3-4 students) and laminate them. Then I cut out all the pieces and store them in baggies, and pass them out to groups when it’s time to practice. Students work together to rearrange the pieces in the correct order. You can even make a competition out of it to see who can put the pieces in order the fastest!

Use the example sorting sets to have students practice with two actual argumentative essays. I would do Example #1 as a whole class activity, and Example #2 in small groups or partners. They also serve as proficient models for their own argumentative writing. 

Near the end of the lesson, have students sort the General Essay pieces again to see how much they know now!

Week 1, Day 2: Picking a Prompt and Researching Sources

Review the argumentative essay components with students by either printing the Components Worksheet or use the Components Slideshow.

Today, students should pick a possible prompt to focus on and research sources that discuss that prompt. If this is students’ first time doing an argumentative essay, I suggest narrowing down the number of prompts so there are fewer to choose from. You can also pick one prompt as a model for the class and walk students through how to complete a Google search and pick credible sources that would support their claims for their chosen prompts. 

The New York Times also has an extensive list to choose argumentative essay prompts from!

Week 1, Day 3: Writing the Introduction

Now that students have chosen a prompt and researched sources, they can begin drafting their essay. Use the Writing the Introduction Worksheets or the Components Slideshow to teach students the three parts of an introduction. Then students can start drafting their introduction on the Drafting Worksheets or with the Drafting Slideshow.

Definitely spend some time explaining to students how important a thesis statement is to an argumentative essay. It sets the tone for the entire essay! Use the Thesis Statement Graphic Organizer or the Components Slideshow to help students draft their thesis statements.

Week 1, Day 4: Writing the Body Paragraphs

Have students continue drafting their essay today. Use the Writing the Body Paragraphs Worksheets or the Components Slideshow to teach students the four parts of a body paragraphs. Then students can start drafting their body paragraph #1 and #2 on the Drafting Worksheets or with the Drafting Slideshow. You can also have students use the Transitions List on p. 30 as a quick reference. 

Week 1, Day 5: Writing the Counterargument Paragraph 

Have students continue drafting their essay today. Use the Writing the Counterargument Paragraph Worksheets or the Components Slideshow to teach students the four parts of a counterargument. 

Have students compare the original claim vs. the counterclaim. Ask them what the difference is and to note the wording used. Have them practice turning their claims into counterclaims!

Then students can start drafting their counterargument paragraph on the Drafting Worksheets or the Drafting Slideshow. Again, you can also have students use the Transitions List as a quick reference. 

Week 2, Day 1: Writing the Conclusion

Have students finish drafting their essay today. Use the Writing the Conclusion Worksheets or the Components Slideshow to teach students the three parts of a conclusion. 

For the third part, the Call to Action, students can practice drafting enthusiastic call to actions with the practice exercises.

Then students can start drafting their conclusion paragraph on the Drafting Worksheets or with the Drafting Slideshow. You can also have students use the Transitions List as a quick reference. 

Week 2, Day 2: Formatting and Citing Sources

Now that students have a completed draft, they can start transferring their writing to a blank Google doc. This is a great day for a mini-lesson on MLA Format and Works Cited. You can use or the MLA Format and Works Cited Slideshow to help them understand how to format their work. Even with seasoned writers, going over the nuances of MLA Format is still helpful to ensure consistency in formatting across the board.

Week 2, Day 3: Peer-Editing

Students should now have a completed draft on a Google doc. Today, you can go over the official rubric or use the digital version. Go over each piece of criteria so students are aware what they should look like. 

Peer-editing would be a great way for students to check each other’s work. Now that students have familiarity with the rubric, they can swap drafts and fill out the mini rubrics or do the digital Peer Rubrics. I usually have students trade essays with at least 3 students so that students can get as much feedback as possible and start to see any patterns in what they need to revise and/or improve. 

Week 2, Day 4: Self-Assessment and Teacher Conferencing 

Today, now that students have checked in with their peers, it’s time for them to take a closer look at revising their work. Have students fill out the Self-Assessment or do the digital version online. 

While students are working, you can conference with individual students who are struggling to make sure they’re on the right track. 

I usually requires students to complete the Self-Assessment before allowing them to submit their final draft, so I can be certain that they took a critical eye to their work. 

Week 2, Day 5: Final Drafts are Due!

Today, have students complete their final edits and revisions so they can turn in their final draft!

Happy writing!

Stacey

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