Developing students’ ability to write an argument has become a focus for preparing students for college and career readiness. Writing logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence is a cornerstone of the Common Core writing standards. Argument writing is also being viewed as a vehicle to generate and demonstrate students’ knowledge and understanding in all content areas.
In response to the anticipated need to provide teachers with effective approaches and strategies to teach argument writing, the Gateway Writing Project, the National Writing Project affiliate at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has developed the Teaching Argument Writing in Grades 6-12 program that will help lay the foundation for teaching argument writing.
The program stresses the positive implications of the word “argument”, so that students learn and experience the qualities of civil discourse while examining and presenting issues that are complex and timely. Instructors, all experienced secondary teachers, will present information and share ideas and strategies they have used with their students. Teachers should leave the summer program with essential strategies for teaching argument writing and a plan for a future lesson of study. Teaching Argument Writing is scheduled to start as a two-day summer program with a follow up date in October for up to 30 area language arts, content area, and career education teachers.
David Coleman, the co-author of the Common Core Literacy Standards, has asserted that we need to teach students to “read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter.” Taking this assertion to heart, the Gateway Writing Project focus is to demonstrate ways to teach students how to read text carefully and then to write clearly about it.
The Common Core Standards, especially those focusing on writing, have been developed in response to a demonstrated need to prepare students to think more critically. Past reform efforts have also called for writing in the curriculum. The response, however, has often been to look to formulaic approaches to writing instruction that neither result in critical thinking nor good writing.
There is no magic wand or silver bullet that can cure the problem of poor literacy skills, especially in schools that have long been deemed as “failing.” The goal of Teaching Argument Writing is to prepare teachers to teach the first levels of argument. For those participating in this program, the Gateway Writing Project will also offer more advanced writing instruction, which will include other approaches to writing about information.