With the current shifts in English and implementing new standards, my colleagues and I try to find new ways to help our kids develop evidence-based arguments. This is a key point in the Common Core and Washington standards, so I was excited to see this great video in my ELA Fellows meeting. It is about using text-based evidence and student debate to move into position-based writing. The teacher leads a class of students through reading a piece of text (listening and note-taking), pausing to reflect on and write about that text, and then synthesizing their thoughts and evidence into a debate using specific evidence from the text, as well as rebuttals to their opponents’ first points. Finally, the students were asked to work with their partner to write an argument with evidence based on a claim they could agree on.
Why I Liked It
What I love about this video is that it shows an engaging way to have students look for evidence and talk about it. Trying to get students to express their thinking while using evidence is sometimes like pulling teeth, and I’m teaching middle school! This teacher managed to get elementary students to work their way through this process. I appreciated the teacher’s general teaching methods and encouragement. She did a good job of challenging students to pick the other side of the debate, when most ended up on the same side. She could have given the students argument/answer frames for structuring their responses, instead of interrupting them quite so much. She did, however, do a good job of leading the students to complete responses that included answer, evidence, and explanation.
The Importance of Text Copies
I also appreciated that the students had copies of the text to mark and highlight while they were planning and then discussing. They were able to take notes while they were listening to the story, but that just isn’t enough when they need to refer back to the evidence. During an observation, my V.P. wondered why I copied the text instead of just using the book (even after watching the kids mark on the paper), and, until I specifically referenced the importance of being able to highlight or underline key details, it didn’t click.
Suggestions for Improvement
The only real flaw that I saw in this activity was that the students were able to “meet in the middle” to write a conclusion (written out argument) after they finished the debate conversations. I would emphasize to my students that they need to have a clear claim for their argument. That claim could be based on a middle ground, but they need to make sure they focus on that claim and don’t have two claims that they ping pong between.
Implementation in a 7th Grade Class
The first element of this video that I like is that it gives me hope. If a teacher can get a group of elementary students to do this, I know I can get my middle-schoolers to do it too. One topic of discussion in the ELA Fellows meetings has been the importance of constructive student talk/discussion and how to teach them, train them, and help them stay on task. By focusing on evidence from the text, as well as prompting with sentence/answer frames, I believe this could be a useful tool leading into argumentative writing in my class. We tried something like this with our last essay (a joint project with history using the CBAs), but I feel that attempt just wasn’t structured enough. I hope to use elements from this video like the specific question, the use of evidence, and the structured debate forum to guide students to a more useful discussion experience.
@ejohnstonteach #corelaborate #WATeachLead
In my non-teacher consumed hours I love to spend time with my husband and son, play board games, sew/craft/quilt, and read (I DO teach ELA).I aspire to be more into fitness and outdoors more often, though I find a comfy chair and a good book/movie mightily appealing.