Friday, October 26, 2012

Argumentive Writing for Fourth Graders

In November, many fourth graders will be writing argumentative essays--both personal and persuasive. Writers will state a claim and give supportive evidence using transitional words and phrases to organize their work. For many students this will not be easy. The first few weeks of the month will be devoted to writing the personal essay. At this time they will not be concerned with research or collecting information. Student will choose something they know well and can write about well.

To begin this unit, students will need to develop a thesis statement from a list of possible topics. In their notebook, they will make a list of big topics. The goal is to find a big topic that can have supporting details. The list might be: "Getting along with a sibling", or "Getting a new bike", or "Chores/jobs at home", or "Too much  homework". After they have a list, they might start doing quick writes in the notebook to get a feel for  one that feels right to them. That topic then becomes their thesis statement. For example: "By  having chores to do at  home it helps me become a responsible person." It might take time to revise this statement so it works with their thinking.

When the students have their thesis statements, they will be ready to collect small moment stories to demonstrate or prove their idea. This is work that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. It might help for them to work with boxes and bullets to organize their thoughts. They would put the statement in a box at the top of a notebook page and then use bullets under it to list reasons for the claim. Those reasons will have stories to give evidence for the claim. In other words if we are using the idea of chores at  home, we might restate the claim over and over and add the word "because" followed by the reason:
  • "Having chores at home helps me become a responsible person because it showed me how to be reliable."
  • "Having chores at home helps me become a responsible person because it gives me a way to support my family."
For each one of these supporting statements, the students will need to collect as many small moment stories as possible.

In order to keep all this work organized, you might want to try something I saw teachers in New York City doing. They made a set of folders for each student to use. The student would take their thesis statement and write it on the outside of the folder. They would then make a smaller internal folder for each of their bullets or supporting statements. As they wrote their stories for evidence they would place them in the appropriate folder. After collecting and revising those stories they would select the best ones for the paragraph and rewrite the selected material. This method helps with organization and gives students smaller chunks for revision instead of waiting until the whole paper is written and little revision is done.

As students are collecting evidence, they could also use quotes, statistics or other students' stories. The main thing is that their evidence closely supports their claim. After they have selected the most powerful supportive material, they can tape or recopy the information into paragraphs that support each bulleted idea. Using those along with a beginning introduction paragraph and closing paragraph, they will then have constructed a rough draft of an essay.

They will soon be ready to polish up these essays with editing and celebrating. This essay will take about three weeks of the month. Next will come the persuasive essay!!!

No comments: