COMPETENCY 0003—WRITING ARGUMENTS
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) place a very heavy emphasis upon students' ability to read and to write strong arguments. Candidates taking the NYS Content Specialty Test (CST) in Secondary English, moreover, must show their mastery of this writing genre by writing an argument themselves as part of the Content Specialty certification exam. More about this will be discussed in the section below labeled Competency 00
As noted in many parts of the literature on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the new standards call for shifts in traditional instruction. One important shift is the ability to write from sources, particularly from published argumentative essays, both historical and contemporary. The greatest emphasis in writing instruction must be placed on the use of evidence-based writing to inform and/or construct an argument (rather than the previously-emphasized personal narratives or forms of decontextualized prompts). While the narrative still has an important role, students' writing instruction must primarily develop skills through written arguments that respond to the ideas, events, facts, and arguments presented in the texts they read. Thus, evidence-based arguments will, no doubt, receive a good share of attention in the CST.
Performance Expectations: Competent teachers of English Language Arts must demonstrate that they can:
- demonstrate knowledge of how to introduce a precise, knowledgeable claim, establish its significance, and distinguish it from alternate or opposing claims
- demonstrate knowledge of how to logically sequence claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence
- apply knowledge of how to develop claims and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both
- demonstrate knowledge of how to anticipate the knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases of an audience
- apply knowledge of how to create cohesion and clarify the relationships between claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence
- apply knowledge of how to develop a conclusion that follows from and supports an argument
- apply knowledge of how to develop and strenghten a written argument as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach
In thinking about how to teach skills of complex argumentation, the first thing that must be considered is the difference between argument and persuasion. See the explanation of these related, but different genres that follows.
Source: Davis, L. (2012). 5 things every teacher should be doing to meet the Common Core State Standards. Source: www.eyeoneducation.com.
Helpful Resource: Click here to see an example of both a persuasive essay and an argument on the same topic.
Source: http://odelleducation.com/literacy-curriculum (accessed through EngageNY.org)
ORGANIZATION OF INSTRUCTION for writing arguments
Part 1. Understanding the Nature of an Issue: Students apply their close reading skills to understand a societal issue as a context for various perspectives, positions, and arguments.
Part 2. Analyzing Arguments: Students delineate and analyze the position, premises, reasoning, evidence and perspective of arguments.
Part 3. Evaluating Arguments and Developing a Position: Students evaluate arguments, determine which arguments they find most compelling, and synthesize what they have learned so far to establish their own position.
Part 4. Organizing an Evidence-Based Argument: Students establish and sequence evidence-based claims as premises for a coherent, logical argument around a position related to the unit's issue.
Part 5. Developing and Strengthening Argumentative Writing: Students use a collaborative process to develop and strengthen their writing in which they use clear criteria and their close reading skills in text-centered discussions about their emerging drafts.
For a helpful handout that walks teachers and students through these steps with more explanation and self-questioning, see http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/argument/
Here, again, is a reminder that, just as readers of arguments must be aware of how appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos can influence an argument, so too do writers.