Teaching Argument Writing: Three Steps to Improve Instruction

Teaching Argument Writing: Three Steps to Improve Instruction

Teaching students how to write argumentative papers can be a challenging task. From teaching students how to include and refute the counterclaim to ensure students find the most relevant evidence to support their claims, teachers have their work cut out for them.

When I teach students how to write argument essays, I like to introduce challenging concepts to my students using ideas and topics they are familiar with. By doing this, I help them understand more complex ideas in a simple and easy-to-understand way.

Teaching Argument Essay Writing Step 1: Develop the Claim

One of the first steps in helping students write an argument essay is developing the claim. Students need to understand that a claim is a debatable statement that they can back up and support using evidence and reasoning. Once students have a good idea about their essay's claim, they can start writing their essay.

To teach students what a claim is, I'll write a series of statements on the board, and we will have a quick discussion about fact vs. opinion. When I do this, I like to use topics that my students are interested in. Some topics I use frequently include food, Disney movies, and superheroes.

To illustrate this exercise, I might write these two statements on the board. I'll have students identify which one is a fact and which one is a statement. The ultimate goal of this exercise is to get my students talking.

Let's use superheroes as an example:
  • Captain Marvel is a superhero.
  • Captain Marvel is the most powerful superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Immediately, when I reveal these statements on the board, my students are engaged. Not only are they engaged, but they might even be debating in class about their favorite Avenger.

Once students see the debatable aspect of a claim versus a fact, they are ready to move on and find supporting evidence for their claim. With the Captain Marvel example above, students will either agree or disagree with that statement.
Teaching Argument Writing: Three Steps to Improve Instruction

Teaching Argument Essay Writing Step 2: Support the Claim

Once students understand what a debatable claim is, they are ready to support their claim with reasons and examples. This is where a quick four-corners type of classroom exercise comes into play. I divide my class up into the north side of the classroom and the south side of the classroom. If students agree with the claim, they must go to one side, and if they disagree, they go to the other side.

Once students stake their claim and choose a side, I give them a couple of moments to discuss their reasons with their like-minded peers. Students will then share their reasons either aloud or on the whiteboard or chart paper.

During this exercise, I teach students about the importance of why it is so important to have relevant supporting reasons and evidence.
Teaching Argument Writing: Three Steps to Improve Instruction

Teaching Argument Essay Writing Step 3: Use Relevant Evidence

After students learn how to find related and supporting reasons, it is time to incorporate supporting evidence. By scaffolding the instruction with topics in which students are familiar, they should have a pretty good understanding of finding evidence that is related. However, this is still a tricky concept for high school and middle school students to master.

To help students keep their evidence related to the prompt, claim, and topic sentence, I suggest these teaching strategies.
  • Write the prompt on the whiteboard and refer to it throughout the class period.
  • Have students write their claim at the top of the paper
  • Encourage students to get in the habit of rephrasing parts of the essay prompt and claim in their body paragraphs, especially their commentary.
Teaching Argument Writing: Three Steps to Improve Instruction


With these three teaching strategies and ideas, students will have an easier time writing their augment essays. You might also be interested in my blog post about 50 argumentative essay prompts.
Teaching Argument Writing: Three Steps to Improve Instruction

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