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Argument Writing At the Elementary Level     Alicia  M.    Sabers   University  of  Nevada  Reno  


Rationale:     As  the  Common  Core  State  Standards  shift  from  opinion  based  persuasive   writing  to  argumentative  writing  that  convinces  the  audience  through  proof.  How   do  I  teach  opinion  based  persuasive  writing  so  that  when  students  reach  middle   school  they  are  able  to  write  papers  that  convince  the  reader  through  proof  of  their   claim  and  showing  different  points  of  view?     My  experience  as  an  educator  is  as  follows:  8  years  of  experience  teaching   second  grade.  I  have  a  bachelor’s  degree  in  Fine  Arts  and  a  Masters  Degree  in   Education.    This  coming  school  year  I  will  be  teaching  the  fourth  grade.     I  started  my  inquiry  question  based  on  this  new  shift  from  persuasive  writing   to  argumentative  writing  in  the  elementary  school.    I  had  scored  the  state  writing   test  for  7  years  prior  to  the  state  changing  to  the  computer  based  writing   assessment  and  also  changing  to  holistic  scoring.  My  son  was  entering  the  eighth   grade  and  I  was  concerned  about  him  having  to  write  an  argument  for  his  writing   test.  Luckily  he  passed.  I  could  ever  remember  him  having  practiced  in  elementary   school  writing  these  types  of  essays.       So  knowing  that  all  kids  will  be  expected  to  write  an  argument  based  with   evidence  I  wanted  to  know  how  to  teach  this  complex  concept  to  kids  at  the   elementary  school  level.  I  was  also  concerned  that  argument  writing  would  not  be   developmentally  appropriate  for  the  age  of  kids  that  I  teach.       Essential  Question:   • How  do  I  teach  opinion  based  argumentative  writing  so  that  when  students   reach  middle  school  they  are  able  to  write  papers  that  convince  the  reader   through  proof  of  their  claim  and  showing  different  points  of  view?         Standard:     The  CCSS  have  determined  that  in  order  for  students  to  be  ready  for  College   or  Careers  beyond  high  school  they  need  to  be  able  to:  write  logical  arguments   based  on  substantive  claims,  sound  reasoning,  and  relevant  evidence  is  a   cornerstone  of  the  writing  standards,  with  opinion  writing—a  basic  form  of   argument—extending  down  into  the  earliest  grades.  This  standard  is  part  of  Text   Types  and  Purposes.  Anchor  standard  number  1.  Each  year  in  their  writing,  students   should  demonstrate  increasing  sophistication  in  all  aspects  of  language  use,  from   vocabulary  and  syntax  to  the  development  and  organization  of  ideas,  and  they   should  address  increasingly  demanding  content  and  sources.        

Literature Review:     According  to  John  Kendall  (2011).  He  defines  the  difference  between  the   previously  taught  persuasive  writing  in  most  state  standards  as  appealing  to  the   reader  through  emotions.  Argument  writing  convinces  the  reader  through  evidence   offered  by  several  different  claims.    As  an  elementary  teacher  I  wondered  how   appropriate  is  this  type  of  writing  for  elementary  students.  How  do  I  teach   argumentative  writing  to  kids  that  have  barely  learned  to  write  narrative  papers?       I  agree  that  nonfiction  writing  is  important  to  teach  in  the  elementary  grades.   According  to  (Flowers  &  Flowers  41-­‐43).  There  are  four  reasons  to  teach  non-­‐fiction   writing  in  the  early  grades.  It  provides  information  to  support  curriculum  in  all   subject  areas.  It  prepares  kids  for  standardized  tests  since  a  significant  percentage   of  the  questions  are  based  on  non-­‐fiction  material.  Teaching  non-­‐fiction  gives  kids   experience  with  different  text  structures  like  cause  and  effect  and  gives  children   access  to  different  literacy  experiences  and  prepares  students  to  understand   complex  concepts.       So  with  this  in  mind  I  think  of  how  I  am  going  to  implement  expository   reading  and  writing  into  my  elementary  classroom?    With  the  shifts  of  the  Common   Core,  persuasive  or  argumentative  writing  which  is  evidence  based  is  assessed  in   the  8th  grade.    Persuasive  writing  that  is  opinion  based  is  assessed  in  the  5th  grade.     “Persuasive  writing  is  a  demanding  task  that  requires  the  use  of  complex  language   to  analyze,  discuss,  and  resolve  controversies  in  a  way  that  is  clear,  convincing  and   considerate  of  diverse  points  of  view.”  (Nippold,  Ward-­‐Lonergan,  &  Fanning,  2005)   This  statement  makes  me  wonder  how  developmentally  appropriate  is   persuasive/argumentative  writing  for  kids  in  the  elementary  schools,  under  the  age   of  eleven.       A  study  of  11,  17  and  24  year  olds  was  completed  to  determine  how   developmentally  appropriate  persuasive  writing  was  for  these  age  groups.  They   found  that  as  age  increased  essay  length  increased,  as  did  the  use  of  adverbs,  nouns   and  verbs.  Older  writers  wrote  using  more  reasons  and  were  able  to  better  compare   different  viewpoints  while  attempting  to  convince  the  reader.    Writing   persuasive/argumentative  papers  are  crucial  to  adults  in  society.    Educated   individuals  need  to  be  able  to  form  opinions  and  support  them  while  working  with   fellow  colleagues.  (Nippold  et  al,  2005).  The  findings  of  this  study  suggest  that   individuals  quality  of  writing  won’t  increase  until  the  writer  enters  Piaget’s  stage  of   Formal  Operational  Reasoning.    (Pulaski  1980).  Which  states:  around  eleven  or   twelve  years  of  age  children  are  able  to  reason  logically  about  abstract  things  he  or   she  has  never  experienced.    Piaget  also  states  that  some  adults  may  never  reach  this   highest  stage  of  cognitive  development.     So  why  should  we  teach  such  a  complex  task  to  kids  in  the  elementary   school?  When  kids  write  persuasive  and  argumentative  essays  they  are  better   prepared  for  high  school,  college  and  the  work  force.  This  type  of  writing  allows  kids   to  voice  their  feelings  about  topics  that  they  either  agree  or  disagree  with.  They  are   motivated  to  take  writing  seriously  and  write  for  certain  audiences.  (King-­‐Dickman   2011).    

I believe  that  the  Common  Core  State  Standards  has  appropriately  placed   persuasive  and  argumentative  writing  into  the  standards  and  into  the  classrooms.   By  teaching  kids  under  the  age  of  eleven  to  write  persuasive  opinion  based  essays  is   raising  the  rigor  to  allow  kids  to  grow  as  writers.  These  students  having  practiced   writing  to  complex  concepts  will  be  prepared  to  write  and  enter  middle  school,  high   school,  college  and  the  work  force  more  prepared  as  writers  and  be  able  to   successfully  make  persuasive  arguments.       Future  Practice:   I  am  excited  to  have  learned  more  about  the  Common  Core  State  Standards  and  the   shift  that  have  been  made  in  the  area  of  writing.  I  plan  on  implementing  writing   topics  where  kids  can  write  on  all  three-­‐focus  areas  of  the  CCSS:  narrative,   informational  and  expository.  By  doing  this  I  hope  to  continue  to  build  on  kids   ability  to  write  narratives  and  help  kids  grow  as  writers  while  writing  informational   and  expository  papers.       Supporting  Materials:       Persuasive Essay Topics 1. Should students have to wear uniforms? 2. Should college athletes be paid for playing? 3. Should the elderly receive free bus rides? 4. Should state colleges be free to attend? 5. Should all American citizens have to complete a year of community service? 6. Should students be required to take Spanish classes? 7. Should the voting age be lowered to thirteen? 8. Should the driving age be raised to twenty-one? 9. Should students be paid for having good grades? 10.

Should not wearing a seatbelt be illegal?


Should students’ textbooks be replaced by notebook computers?


Should students have to pass a basic skills test to graduate high school?


Should schools raise money by selling candy and sugary soft drinks to students?


Should schools serve french-fries and fried potato products to students at lunch?


Should students’ grades in gym affect their grade point averages?


Should girls be allowed to play on boys sports teams?


Should teens be able to buy violent video games?


Should boys and girls be in separate classes?


Should our country have a universal health care program?


Should immigration laws be reformed?


Should the federal government recognize civil unions?


Should people who download music and movies illegally be punished?


Should school athletes have to be on the honor roll to play in games?


Should music with curse words be allowed at school dances?


Should public schools begin the day with a silent prayer time?


Should students be able to listen to MP3 players on headphones during study hall?


Should schools offer fast food options like McDonalds or Taco Bell?


Should smoking be allowed at parks and other outdoor public venues?


Should cities offer free public Wi-Fi?


Should the government place a tax on junk food and fatty snacks?


Should the 2nd amendment give citizens the right to own assault weaponry?


Should people travelling in airplanes have to undergo intensive security screenings?


Should restaurants be allowed to sell genetically modified chickens under the name “chicken”?


Should teachers have to pass a basic skills test every ten years to renew their certification?


Should people be allowed to keep exotic animals like chimpanzees or tigers?


Should people be allowed to keep pit-bull dogs?


Should the city offer a bike sharing program?


Should there be an ordinance citing people who fail to recycle $50?


Should there be an ordinance citing people who play music too loudly $50?


Should celebrities who break the law face stricter penalties?


Should the government increase spending on the space program?


Should larger passengers have to pay for two plane or movie theater tickets?


Should children have to use booster seats in cars?


Should people have to get a license to become parents?


Should there be tougher federal restrictions for content on the internet?


Should people be allowed to curse on daytime television?


Should owners be legally accountable for clearing snow from sidewalks on their property?


Should sexual education be taught in public schools?


Should students be able to get free condoms at school?


Should students who commit cyber bullying be suspended from school?


Should corporations be allowed to advertise in schools?


Should students be allowed to eat during class?


Should more be done to protect and preserve endangered animals?


Is it appropriate for students and teachers to be friends on Facebook?


Should students have open campus lunch periods?


Should abortions be legal?


Should abortions be legal in cases of rape and incest?


Should the death penalty be used to punish violent criminals?


Should students learn about world religions in public schools?


Should schools start later in the morning?


Should the USA end overseas military operations?


Should politicians be allowed to accept campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists?


Should people with terminal illnesses have the right to doctor assisted suicides?


Should Puerto Rico become a state?


Should stem cell researchers be able to use the stem cells from aborted babies to cure diseases?


Should school athletes have to take drug tests?


Should professional athletes have to take drug tests?


Should America convert to the metric system?


Should high school students have to complete community service hours to graduate?


Should teens over 13 years be allowed into R rated movies?


Should state tests be given in other languages for ESL students?


Should scientists be allowed to test products intended for human use on animals?


Should unhealthy fast food products be sold with a warning label?


Should there be a tariff or tax on products manufactured outside of the country?


Should students or teachers receive money for scoring well on standardized tests?


Should everyone under the age of 17 have a 9:00 PM curfew?


Should schools with low scores on standardized tests be closed?


Should minors be allowed to drink alcoholic beverages in their homes with their parents’ consent?


Should students be allowed to drop out before they turn 18 years old?


Should alcohol manufacturers be allowed to advertise on television?


Should students as young as fourteen be allowed to hold jobs?


Should American families have a two child max rule to limit population growth?


Should children younger than thirteen be allowed to watch MTV or music videos?


Should people who are caught driving drunk lose their licenses for a year?


Should students who fail their classes be retained and have to repeat the grade?


Should large businesses and corporations be required to employee a number of minorities proportionate to the population?


Should female construction workers earn the same wages as males?


Should children in temporary living situations with 3.0 GPAs earn free college tuition?


Should gambling and sports betting be illegal or should the government regulate it?


Should children who commit violent crimes be tried as adults?


Should the government be allowed to detain suspected terrorists without trial?


Should the government censor internet content deemed inappropriate?


Should teachers have to wear uniforms or have a dress code?


Should teachers be allowed to have cell phones in the classroom? 100. Should the state execute dogs that have bitten someone? 101. Should talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving be illegal?

Peer Review Guidelines for Persuasive Letters Author Reviewer Directions: Read your letter aloud while reviewers listen carefully. When you finish reading, ask reviewers to write any questions or comments below. Reviewer’s Questions/Comments after Listening: After all group members have read their drafts aloud, the group will read each draft silently and answer the following questions. Identify the intended audience for the letter. How does the writer address the needs and interests of that particular audience? What does the author want the audience to do? (This should be the writer’s goal or thesis statement.) How does the writer convey this to the audience? What reasons does the writer use to persuade readers? How does the writer organize the content of the letter? Do reasons and examples seem to be sequenced in a logical order? Identify something the writer does particularly well. Identify something the writer can do to improve the letter.

Bullying and Teasing: No Laughing Matter Bullying: Know the facts about bullying, even if you don’t think bullying affects your child.

Unfortunately, teasing is often part of growing up — almost every child experiences it. But it isn't always as innocuous as it seems. Words can cause pain. Teasing becomes bullying when it is repetitive or when there is a conscious intent to hurt another child. It can be verbal bullying (making threats, name-calling), psychological bullying (excluding children, spreading rumors), or physical bullying (hitting, pushing, taking a child's possessions). How Bullying Starts Bullying behavior is prevalent throughout the world and it cuts across socio-economic, racial/ethnic, and cultural lines. Researchers estimate that 20 to 30 percent of school-age children are involved in bullying incidents, as either perpetrators or victims. Bullying can begin as early as preschool and intensify during transitional stages, such as starting school in 1st grade or going into middle school. Victims of bullying are often shy and tend to be physically weaker than their peers. They may also have low self-esteem and poor social skills, which makes it hard for them to stand up for themselves. Bullies consider these children safe targets because they usually don't retaliate.

Effects of Bullying If your child is the victim of bullying, he may suffer physically and emotionally, and his schoolwork will likely show it. Grades drop because, instead of listening to the teacher, kids are wondering what they did wrong and whether anyone will sit with them at lunch. If bullying persists, they may be afraid to go to school. Problems with low self-esteem and depression can last into adulthood and interfere with personal and professional lives. Bullies are affected too, even into adulthood; they may have difficulty forming positive relationships. They are more apt to use tobacco and alcohol, and to be abusive spouses. Some studies have even found a correlation with later criminal activities. Warning Signs If you're concerned that your child is a victim of teasing or bullying, look for these signs of stress: • Increased passivity or withdrawal • Frequent crying • Recurrent complaints of physical symptoms such as stomach-aches or headaches with no apparent cause • Unexplained bruises • Sudden drop in grades or other learning problems • Not wanting to go to school • Significant changes in social life — suddenly no one is calling or extending invitations • Sudden change in the way your child talks — calling herself a loser, or a former friend a jerk How to Help First, give your child space to talk. If she recounts incidences of teasing or bullying, be empathetic. If your child has trouble verbalizing her feelings, read a story about children being teased or bullied. You can also use puppets, dolls, or stuffed animals to encourage a young child to act out problems. Once you've opened the door, help your child begin to problem-solve. Role-play situations and teach your child ways to respond. You might also need to help your child find a way to move on by encouraging her to reach out and make new friends. She might join teams and school clubs to widen her circle. At home and on the playground:

Adults need to intervene to help children resolve bullying issues, but calling another parent directly can be tricky unless he or she is a close friend. It is easy to find yourself in a "he said/she said" argument. Try to find an intermediary: even if the bullying occurs outside of school, a teacher, counselor, coach, or after-school program director may be able to help mediate a productive discussion. If you do find yourself talking directly to the other parent, try to do it in person rather than over the phone. Don't begin with an angry recounting of the other child's offenses. Set the stage for a collaborative approach by suggesting going to the playground, or walking the children to school together, to observe interactions and jointly express disapproval for any unacceptable behavior. At school: Many schools (sometimes as part of a statewide effort) have programs especially designed to raise awareness of bullying behavior and to help parents and teachers deal effectively with it. Check with your local school district to see if it has such a program. Schools and parents can work effectively behind the scenes to help a child meet and make new friends via study groups or science-lab partnerships. If you are concerned about your child: • Share with the teacher what your child has told you; describe any teasing or bullying you may have witnessed. • Ask the teacher if she sees similar behavior at school, and enlist her help in finding ways to solve the problem. • If she hasn't seen any instances of teasing, ask that she keep an eye out for the behavior you described. • If the teacher says your child is being teased, find out whether there are any things he may be doing in class to attract teasing. Ask how he responds to the teasing, and discuss helping him develop a more effective response. • After the initial conversation, be sure to make a follow-up appointment to discuss how things are going. If the problem persists, or the teacher ignores your concerns, and your child starts to withdraw or not want to go to school, consider the possibility of "therapeutic intervention." Ask to meet with the school counselor or psychologist, or request a referral to the appropriate school professional.

Writing to Argue The most important aspect… Sometimes… On the other hand… Firstly… Secondly… However… Nevertheless… On balance… Moreover… Despite the view that… Notwithstanding… Research shows that… The evidence clearly shows that… Another factor to be considered is… Opponents declare…but… it can be reasoned... it can be contended... it can be debated... in can be indicated... it can be thought out... it can be concluded... it can be considered... it can be shown... A counter argument might be … I might be argued, however, that … One question that might need to be asked is … It is questionable whether … There is an inconsistency with … This would not be appropriate when … This could present difficulties when … This method is useful where … A drawback/disadvantage/limitation of this is… This has been criticized/challenged by … A more beneficial approach is …

Writing with Opinions Some people think… It would be really useful to consider… Do they really think that… In my experience… What would the consequences be… Common sense dictates that… What would happen if … All reasonable people think… By far the best solution would be… Do we really want… It is frightening to think that… We need to make sure that… I have no doubt at all that… Imagine what would happen if… I am sure you will agree that… There can be only one conclusion… Is it really worth it … I believe that … A friend of mine says … Do you really think… We can solve this by … It will ruin your life… Surely… Nobody believes that…­‐%20Critical%20writing%20-­‐%20useful%20phrases.pdf  

Argument Writing  Graphic  Organizer  

References Flowers, T. & Flowers, L. (2009) Nonfiction in the Early Grades: Making Reading and Writing Relevant for All Students. Journal for the Liberal Arts and Sciences, vol. 13(2) 40-50. Kendall, J. (2011) Understanding the Common Core State Standards. Alexandria: ASCD

King-Dickman, K. (2011) Writing that Changes the World: Persuasive Essays in Fourth through twelfth Grade. The California Reader, vol. 44(2), 27-33. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts & literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington D.C.: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. Nippold, M.A., Ward-Lonergan, J.M., & Fanning, J.L. (2005) Persuasive Writing in Children, Adolescents, and Adults: A Study of Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic Development. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, vol. 36, 125-138. Radcliffe, B., (2012) Narrative as a Springboard for Expository and Persuasive Writing: James Moffett Revisited. Voices form the Middle, vol. 19(3), 18-24. Spencer Pulaski, M.A., (1980) Understanding Piaget: An Introduction to Childrens Cognitive Development. New York: Harper and Row Traig, J. (Eds.). (2011). Don’t Forget to Write. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

References for handouts:


Argumentative Writing in Elementary School  
Argumentative Writing in Elementary School  

Demonstration Booklet