literacy, Uncategorized

Resource Spotlight: Argument of the Week

Photo by geralt from Pixabay

As an English teacher, I’ve been profoundly influenced by the work of Kelly Gallagher. Although I’ve heard him speak many times and read most of his books, I was recently inspired by his keynote talk on fostering literacy in the classroom at the California Teachers of English Conference (CATE) in Los Angeles. I think it’s his combination of simplicity of method, depth of ideas, and authenticity of message that has me and so many others so deeply engaged in his work.

But before I even knew his name, I knew of his Article of the Week resource. Each week Gallagher updates this resource on his website, posting articles that are meant to engage and guide students in the practice of close reading while simultaneously building their background knowledge, which we know is such an important part of being a good reader. These articles are fairly short (usually two pages) and are at a reading level that allow most high school students can read independently.

I continue to use these articles in my classroom on occasion–especially when I’m teaching summary and explanatory writing. But as an 11th grade teacher of both college preparatory and Advanced Placement (AP) students, I teach multiple standards related to argumentative writing and rhetorical analysis. Because of this, I often find myself in need of argumentative articles for my students to analyze and emulate.

This was the motivation for my Argument of the Week resource.

Here are the goals of this new resource:

  1. Generate student interest through the selection of recent publications and high-interest topics.
  2. Foster student background knowledge through the selection of rich articles from various categories, including literature, current events, history, science, social studies, the arts, politics, and psychology.
  3. Help students practice close reading for comprehension.
  4. Helps students practice analytical reading.
  5. Guide students’ study of key writing moves used in the arguments to emulate in students’ own arguments.

So here’s how I’m using the resource:

  1. Students begin with a “zero read,” or prereading, by taking 30 seconds to a minute to make as many inferences as possible about the title, author, source, date, text features, and key words that jump out at them. The purpose is to discover as much about the rhetorical situation as possible in a short amount of time to make the 1st and 2nd reads easier.
  2. Next is the first read, the comprehension read, in which students use close reading strategies (circling key words, underlining key phrases, boxing unknown words, annotating key ideas, and identifying the thesis) to read for comprehension. I emphasize that students must read with a pen, pencil, or highlighter in their hand to show evidence of their read and to aid in their comprehension. The goal is for students’ to have a thorough understanding of the meaning of the text after five to ten minutes. Student papers should be significantly marked after this period.
  3. The second read, the analytical read, is the toughest. But if students have been thorough in the zero and first reads, they should already be focused in on the argument, making the task much easier. Here, I ask students to chose one analysis task from the list below.
    • Identify important claims, evidence, and reasoning/commentary that the author uses.
    • Identify the six parts of the rhetorical situation (exigence, purpose, audience, writer, context, and message).
    • Identify three important rhetorical strategies.
    • Identify the author’s tone and five words or phrases that help to establish that tone.
    • Identify three important structural elements the author used to create the argument.
  4. In the final step, students write a one-page reflection, making a connection between the argument and their own experiences, observations, or reading. The purpose here is to continue to increase student engagement while helping students to make connections to what they’re reading. Making these connections is an important part of students developing strong evidence and reasoning in their own arguments.

Let me know if these resources are helpful or if you already do something like this!

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