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Teaching Persuasion and Argumentation


The article: “For the Sake of Argument: An Approach to Teaching Evidence-Based Writing” by Linda Friedrich, Rachel Bear, and Tom Fox in >American Educator, Spring 2018 (Vol. 42, #1, p. 18-22, 40), Link
In this article in American Educator>, Linda Friedrich, Rachel Bear, and Tom Fox (National Writing Project) share their program for developing persuasive writing, which they sum up as dialogue, not debate. “Participating in a conversation is central to our understanding of argument,” say Friedrich, Bear, and Fox. “Before students develop a solid claim for an argument, they need to get a good sense of what the range of credible voices are saying and what a variety of positions are around the topic… Readers recognize a thoughtful argument when it’s clear that the writer deeply understands the conversation around the issue, carefully engages a range of viewpoints, and skillfully handles the evidence with commentary that advances the claim.”
The National Writing Project’s 45-hour College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) for grade 4-12 teachers, implemented in schools in 41 states, is built on these principles:
• Focus on a specific set of skills or practices in argument writing that build over the course of an academic year. These include organizing evidence and responding to opposing viewpoints.
• Provide text sets that represent multiple perspectives on a topic, beyond pro and con, with a range of positions, information modes, genres, and perspectives, using videos, images, written texts, infographics, data, and interviews.
• Use iterative reading and writing practices that build knowledge about a topic. These might include interviewing community members, doing detailed research, and beginning to craft their claims.
• Support the recursive development of claims that emerge through reading and writing. These are manifest as students gather information from text, consider multiple angles on a topic, develop and revise a claim, and write a full draft.
• Help students organize and structure their writing to advance an argument. Have students read exemplary op-ed articles, thinking through the decisions the writers made and how they organized their sources. A key takeaway: there isn’t one right way to write a persuasive piece.
• Embed formative assessments to identify areas of strength and inform next steps for teaching and learning. Especially important are one-on-one conferences with students to focus, encourage, tweak, and if necessary redirect their efforts.

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