Assessments tied to the Common Core Standards will require students to write open‐ended responses
to a text passage or multiple text passages in which they develop a claim and support their claim with
evidence. In informational writing, students are to make claims based on what they see in the text and
support an analysis of what is there with evidence from the text. For argumentative writing, students
are to make claims, cite evidence from multiple texts, and infuse their own interpretations of the
topic(s) covered by the text(s).
‐ Pre‐Writing Work for Argumentative Essay
There are some steps that need to be done prior to actually starting any writing on a research‐ based argumentative essay.
o Aspect 1: Deciding the level or type(s) of “research” to focus on for an Argumentative Essay
Two types of research
1st type of research – reading and interpreting multiple texts on a topic to research for factual information included, information excluded, opinion, ideas, bias, and credibility.
2nd type of research – searching for and locating appropriate texts on a topic
Until a student is proficient with the 1st type of research, the 2nd type of research is nearly impossible.
Students unable to interpret texts with some degree of accuracy are unlikely to locate the number and quality of texts needed to form an appropriate source‐base for a Research‐Based Argumentative Essay.
o Aspect 2: Nature of Topics for Argumentative Essay
Topic must have available texts that students can read. These should be at or just above the complexity level
Topic must be one for which credible counter‐arguments can be made
Topic has to be appropriate
o Aspect 3: Deciding on Topics for Argumentative Essay
The teacher must decide on the balance between student choice and teacher‐ selection of topics for any given Argumentative Essay
3 Possible Frameworks
Student Driven: Each student is free to choose a topic based on something he/she thinks is “right or wrong” or can put into the phrase, “Some people think…, but I think…”
o Pros: Promotes student interest and provides opportunities to practice 2nd type of research.
o Cons: Possible student indecision on a topic can delay progress. Risk of students (especially those struggling with interpretive reading skills) not being able to identify enough appropriate texts for their source‐base. Additional class time needed to locate texts.
Limited Choice: Teacher determination of a pre‐planned range of possible topics with pre‐selected text‐sets made for each topic.
o Pros: Some student choice still available. Allows students to focus on becoming proficient at the 1st type of research. Eliminates class time needed for locating texts.
o Cons: Time needed for teacher to build sets of texts at varying reading levels and with differing points of view on the topics.
Whole Class Topic: Teacher assigns one topic to the whole class and creates a text‐set for it.
o Pros: Less teacher prep time than Limited Choice. Can be beneficial for teachers who are handicapped by knowing very little about their subject matter. Focuses on 1st type of research.
o Cons: No student choice. Risks greater chance of copying during the claim development and the essay organizing and planning phases.
o Aspect 4: Text‐sets as a Source‐Base for Argumentative Essay
Whether located by students or put together by the teacher, students must have text‐sets on a topic that present different points of view or different angles on the topic in order to write an Argumentative Essay.
Objectively and blandly written textbooks typically do not work well as part of a text‐set.
o Aspect 5: Teach students the difference between informational writing and essay writing
Students should understand that the difference between informational writing and essay writing.
Consider immersing students in examples of both
o Consider giving students short examples of each and teach them how to identify.
o Consider giving students short examples to identify and sort on their own.