Jeremy Hyler (@Jeremybballer) and Becky Schwartz (@Rschwartz702) kicked off our 2021-22 webinar series with a presentation about argument writing in their classrooms. Their unit was inspired by the book Crime and Puzzlement by Lawrence Treat. Jeremy has taught this unit in his middle school classroom and Becky has adapted it for use in her high school classroom. Jeremy and Becky discussed the importance of trying to get students to move from the idea that argument writing is less about “winning” or it being a fight, but argument can be a chance to have a discourse to come to a further understanding about a topic or an issue.
Jeremy discussed some of the ideas he’s gained about teaching argument writing from George Hillocks’ text Teaching Argument Writing. Then he invited participants to experience the beginning stages of an argument writing unit using Crime and Puzzlement in his classroom, inviting participants to a breakout room writing activity. After the writing activity, Jeremy guided us through the unit and how it’s centered on discourse and collaboration.
Becky then discussed how this writing unit unfolds in her high school classroom using the idea of making the mystery-solving process an authentic one by giving her students the chance to be a pair of detectives for a few days and solve a crime. Also, building on this idea of collaboration, Becky discussed how she uses this as an opportunity to teach counterargument in an uncomplicated and engaging way.
Both Becky and Jeremy have seen great increases in students’ confidence in their writing, skills, and engagement during this unit. Finally, Troy Hicks (@hickstro) brought in the resources from the NWP’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) and from They Say/I Say’s writing structures to help add some spice into student argument writing (with many of the templates available in this GDoc).
We hope that you, too, can find a way to use their session slides and additional resources in order to solve the mystery of argument writing in your classroom.