The middle school animal is a breed of its own. Those who work with students in lower or higher grades look at middle-schoolers and shudder. One can almost hear the audible ‘Ughhhh’ accompanying that shudder. Middle-schoolers revel in being loud, verbal, and demonstrative in many shapes and forms. One often wonders if they are teachable at this age. After all, one queries, how could a screaming, pushing, fidgeting preteen sit still and be quiet long enough to take anything in? Well, that’s the in: the College, Career, and Community Writers Program encourages and relies on discourse. And believe you me, middle schoolers love to talk.
Routine argument writing, a continuous and informal C3WP element, begins with such short, carefully scaffolded lessons that it is accessible to students of all abilities. Students might participate in “writing sprints,” “loop writing,” or a “human continuum;” or they might identify the argument in an image or complete a checklist. And then, voila, they get to turn and talk! First with a partner, then with the whole group, where students raise and shake hands violently as they await their turn to verbalize their thinking. Using sentence stems like “I believe ….,” “I agree with so-and-so…” and “I see what so-and-so is saying, but I also think…,” they learn to participate in a civil discourse that even the adults in their lives are often unable to do successfully. Continue reading