Teaching Argument Writing

Teaching Argument Writing by George Hillocks Jr. Is an insightful book that definitely serves as a golden resource for teachers. This book doesn’t bog the reader down with unnecessary information. The author gets straight to the point and gives teachers what they are seeking– practical strategies for teaching argumentative writing that they can implement with ease. There are step-by-step instructions for how to incorporate discussions and assignments into the curriculum. The book also provides vignettes that make the concepts understandable and relatable. The reader is able to see how the strategy would play out in an actual classroom context. The language of the book is simple, which adds to its practicality. For each chapter, I’ve listed a quote that I found helpful or interesting that I think will be beneficial to you as well

1. “Some teachers feel all the groping around students do is a waste of time, that simply telling students what to do is enough. But the students in my education classes and I know that the discussion and social construction of meaning that go on among our learners jump-start and empower learning” (28).

~ Student discussion is vital to the learning process. They must be able to analyze and churn information on their own so that they can develop a personal understanding of the subject matter.

2.  “I often introduce simple arguments to older students using by a portrait that includes details later from which students can infer characteristics” (49).

~Using a detailed image that the students can judge and draw conclusions about is a great way to begin the process of writing an argument for students who have learned inference.

3. “Mrs. Peterson, a teacher in Texas, knew her eighth graders would be most engaged in their learning if she allowed them to find and present evidence about something they cared about” (70).

~Making activities and using material that is relevant to the students is an absolute must! Writing an argument about a school-wide chewing gum ban is a great topic because students will feel that they can make a difference if they produce a sound argument.

4. “A judgment is the attribution of a quality or characteristic to a person, group, object, or concept” (102).

~This is a concise definition of judgment that would be great to use for younger students.

5. “Giraffe Award Activity” (116-121)

~Students read through the case studies and decide which person deserves to win the Giraffe Award which is given to someone who shows citizenship and “sticks their neck out for the common good” (giraffe.com). Students are able to make judgments based on a set of criteria given.

6. “Opinionnaire: What is Courage?” (156-160)

~This a worksheet that gives scenarios that the students must read. The students must then answer a yes or no about whether the act in the scenario was courageous. Then they have to supply the criterion for their choice. This is a great handout because it gets students accustomed to giving a rationale for their opinions. Also, it helps break stereotypes about courage. This could be used with other concepts to reach the same objectives

7. “The first step in developing an instructional unit is to select a concept to examine. When considering concepts, the following questions may be helpful.
• Does it have generative power?
• Can youngsters apply the concept to many reading and life experiences?
• Will students find it interesting?” (180).

~A concept that has generative power is able to be expounded on and grappled with. It is relevant and applicable in multiple contexts.

I definitely recommended this book and hope you will take the time to read it!


6 thoughts on “Teaching Argument Writing”

  1. Ketsia, we read very similar books on argumentative writing. I like how you said the language of the book was fairly simple, thus making it easier to comprehend and focus on the content of the book. I also agree with the third quote you listed, “Mrs. Peterson, a teacher in Texas, knew her eighth graders would be most engaged in their learning if she allowed them to find and present evidence about something they cared about”. I think it is vital that teachers work with their students in finding topics that interest them to incorporate into the lesson plans. This will not only increase student motivation, but produce higher quality work. Thank you for sharing!


  2. The ideas are great for teaching argument! We both read similar books, but completely different at the same time! I think you wrote down some great key points, and am going to have to read this book as well!


  3. Ketsia- your post inspired some readers! I love the giraffe award! I am going to start it! I love the idea! Good working honing on the key quotes and making your connection to them! It is wonderful to see what you brought to the text and what you gave your readers to take away from the text!


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