CIVIC ENGAGEMENT FOR YOUTH: Mapping, Drafting & Celebrating Arguments (Lessons 30-40)

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT FOR YOUTH: Mapping, Drafting & Celebrating Arguments (Lessons 30-40)

SESSION 30: Making a Claim

After gathering source information, students are ready to refine their original claim and make a claim that is informed by source material

Writing into the Session:  Mini-Lesson on Writing Claims (10-15 minutes)

  • Teacher guides students through the “Writing Claims” slideshow, discussing key points and clarifying any questions.
  • Using a shared class topic and the source information, they teacher models for students the process of going from the first claim written earlier during topic choosing to a refined and d
  • For Example:
    • ORIGINAL CLAIM:  Testing is bad for students.
    • REFINED CLAIM:  With the rise in school testing and student stress levels, the amount of testing required by students should be reduced.

*Note: This step of the process will vary according to each student and may require more than one session or may require students to complete outside of class time.

Planning a Purposeful Argument (35-45 minutes)

Students are now ready to plan their Op-Ed to effectively argue their point of view.

  • The teacher hands out Planning a Purposeful Argument (also called the Line of Reasoning Tool) and the Instructions for Using the Planning a Purpose Argument Tool.  Teacher will guide the whole class through a reading of the planner, pausing to answer any questions about how to complete the planner.
  • The teacher provides students with the following instructions for completing the planner:
    • Today you are going to complete a planning chart that you will use when you write your Op-Ed.
    • As you select evidence, try to identify related evidence sets from a single text or from two different texts.  You might identify evidence to support your position, but you might also identify evidence to counter, so be sure to collect evidence that illustrates, authorizes, extends and counters.
    • Capture your thinking as you plan the order and relationship of the evidence.
    • List your evidence in the order you will write it.  State the relationship or the way the evidence set in a single paragraph seems to connect to the evidence sets in other paragraphs.
    • Pay close attention to placement and purpose for countering evidence.  Reflect on the process you used to make these decisions.
  • Students then use the provided instructions to complete the planner, selecting evidence from any of the sources to plan their argument.

*Teaching Tip:  Students often find it helpful to use Sentence Frames to add and use source material appropriately.  Providing this handout adapted from They Say/I Say: Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein may be useful for students.

SESSION 31: Writing the Rough Draft

Writing into the Session:  Review Your Plan

To rehearse their plan for writing one more time students find a partner to talk through their planning.  The teacher provides this structure for the conversation:

  • Explain the relationship that will be developed by use of sources, evidence sets and the order of your organization.
  • Listen for feedback and suggestions from your partner.

Writing an Argument (time varies)

  • The teacher makes sure each student has several pieces of paper to use in the drafting process.  Students then individually begin writing the first draft of their Op-Ed Argument, using the following process:
    • Draft one paragraph on each sheet of paper.
    • Consider how to engage a reader and establish the claim and key concepts in the first paragraph.
    • Pause and reread after writing 2 paragraphs to check on your organization and placements of claim and commentary statements and evidence sets.
    • Highlight and make marginal notes in your own writing to call out claim, commentary, and supporting, countering and refuting evidence.
  • As students draft, the teacher circulates the room, conferring with individual students who seem stuck in the drafting process.
  • The teacher identifies moments in the midst of the drafting process to pause the work of the whole class and ask students to 
    • Reread and check organization.  Often students get focused on the writing and forget to pause.  Slowing them down so they reread earlier writing will increase the relationships between the evidence sets and paragraphs.
  • Explain their plan and drafting process to a partner.  Possible questions:
    • How’s it going?
    • How is the plan working as your write?
    • What changes are you making?
    • What new thinking is emerging?
    • What steps in the planning and writing process is helping you the most??
    • What will you do next?
  • Students then continue writing individually and complete the full rough draft of their Op-Ed.
  • Students are now ready to type their rough draft in a Google document.  Be sure to review the submission requirements for Op-Eds for the local newspaper and account for any formatting requirements.


Understanding the Student Using Sources Tool

  • Students are introduced to the Student Using Sources Tool (Student UST) and provided an opportunity to clarify the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the tool.
  • The teacher begins by handing out a copy of the Student Using Sources Tool and a highlighter to each student.
  • As an introduction, the teacher can share some key talking points about the Student Using Sources Tool:
    • This tool will help improve your writing.
    • It will show your strengths and help you prioritize what to work on next.
    • It can be used to analyze your own writing and to peer review your classmates writing.
    • Students then independently read the Student UST and annotate the text using the following system.
    • Highlight, underline, or circle key words and phrases
    • *=something I know well
    • ?=something I have questions about or don’t understand.  The questions may be about the language of the tool or the process that is described.
  • The teacher then groups students in pairs or triads to discuss and compare their annotations.
  • Following the partner discussion, the teacher leads a whole group discussion — Ask students to share questions that are still unanswered.  Teacher should chart the questions/confusions on the board and address immediately. Explain to students that a lot of these terms will become clearer to them as they become more skilled at argument writing.

Practice Analyzing an Argument with the Student Using Sources Tool

To prepare for analyzing their own writing or the writing of a classmate, students will analyze a common sample of student argument writing.  It’s important to note that the purpose of analyzing the writing is not calibrate responses, but rather to engage students in the type of analysis of writing that will provide useful feedback to themselves or their peers.

  • For this lesson, the teacher will need to select a shared student sample for the whole class to practice. The teacher might select a student sample from another class or the teacher can select on the students samples below, all generated from the C3WP instructional resources.
    • Student Sample #1
    • Student Sample #2
    • NOTE:  Teachers can choose to create groups of 3 or 4 for peer review of the Op-Ed.  This process is more complex, but does provide students with the advantage of multiple perspectives.  This protocol for Peer Review Discussion provides a structure to ensure valuable feedback.
  • To begin, the teacher hands out a copy of a shared student sample, a copy of a blank Student Using Sources Tool, and highlighters to each student. Students should also take out their own annotated Student UST from the previous session..
  • The teacher then guides students through each item in the Student UST, beginning with reading the piece of writing through one full time.
  • For item #2, the teacher models highlighting the claim, source material, and commentary. If students struggle with using the tool, the teacher might model highlighting the entire piece. Using three different highlighter colors helps students to see clearly what is happening in the text.
  • Discuss as a class what was highlighted and why. This is an opportunity to discuss argument components. Consider:
    • Claim – Does the writer restate the claim later in the paper?
    • Source material – What techniques does the writer use to differentiate their own writing from the source material? For example, signal phrases, quotation marks, paraphrasing and citations.
  • The teacher and students then work together to analyze the piece of writing for the rest of the items. The teacher should use a combination of modeling, full class discussion, and partner discussion.
  • During this process, students might need frequent reminders  that the tool is not designed to be a rubric, so the goal is not necessarily to calibrate responses. The idea is to practice applying the tool and to identify possible next steps for this particular piece of writing.
  • Finally, the teacher guides students through the process of identifying possible next steps for revision. To do so, students review the responses to all the Student UST questions to identify possible areas to focus revision. Students should prioritize possible recommendations and focus on just one or two that are most likely to improve the writing. Some possible discussion questions to identify next steps for revision:
    • Which element would have the biggest impact on the writing when revised?
    • Which element was most distracting or confusing?
    • What revision step seems within reach for this writer?


Applying the Student Using Sources Tool for Self-Review

  • After understanding the purpose and language of the Student UST and practicing a shared sample, students are ready to apply the Student UST to their own writing.
  • Students print out the current version of their Op-Ed and use the printed copy with the Student UST.  Students will keep this version with revision marks in their “portfolio”.  
  • After using the Student UST to complete a self-review, students should make any necessary revisions to their digital Op-Ed.


Applying the Student Using Sources Tool for Peer Review

Students will now utilize the Student Using Sources Tool to peer review one other person’s Op-Ed.

  • Teacher will pair students together or allow students to choose their own partner to use the Student Using Sources Tool for a Peer Review of the Op-Eds.
  • Students will print out a copy of the latest version of their Op-Ed for themselves and their peers.
  • Students will use the Student Using Sources Tool and the copy of Op-Eds to complete peer review process.
  • After students analyze the writing, the students will follow the Peer Response Discussion Protocol to discuss the findings of the peer reviewers and identify recommended revisions.
  • Students will make revisions based on peer suggestions.  Students will keep the peer reviewed version with the Student Using Sources Tool in their portfolios.

*NOTE:  Going public with student work helps elevate student effort beyond what may happen in a traditional classroom.  Teachers are encouraged to seek opportunities of going public beyond the students and teacher in the classroom. The following list provides  suggestions, but teachers are encouraged to think about their unique communities to identify opportunities for going public.

  • Invite school administrators to attend the public reading of Op-Eds.
  • Invite interviewees, parents, friends and community members to a showcase of student Op-Eds.
  • Requires students to participate or share Op-Eds on state and national forums, like Letters to the Next President or KQED Youth Voice.
  • Visit subject area classrooms or lower grade level classrooms to share Op-Eds and/or promote awareness of identified community issues.
  • Collaborate with local media outlets to feature student Op-Eds, like radio and community social media sites.



Editing for Correctness

Since the letter is going to be published to an authentic audience, editing is particularly important.  The teacher can use the editing process below.

  • In preparation for this lesson, the teacher looks over student papers to see what kinds of errors a good portion of the class needs to know how to correct. There’s always a group of 2-5 students in a class of 30 that need extra help, but no need to spend valuable whole class time on a problem that only a few experience. The teacher then names the errors that many students have in common and teaches how to correct them. Start with one or two of the easiest errors to correct (not necessarily the ones that interfere with sense) so students can see progress. The most common errors are listed below and are linked to relevant sections of the Purdue Online Writing Lab, which is a deep and up-to-date resource for writing. The teacher will want to create your own list that corresponds to the patterns of errors in students papers. 
    • Proofreading
    • Possessives
    • Commas 
      • use one to set off an introductory phrase 
      • use two to set off parenthetical expressions (put a common on both sides of the expression)
      • don’t use a comma to separate a long subject from the verb 
    • Homophones –  affect/effect * there/their/they’re * its/it’s * have/of (as in *She would of finished in time.” instead of the correct “She would have finished in time.”)
    • Attribution When using evidence from the sources in the text set, be sure to distinguish between your own ideas and ideas from the sources with the use of 
      • Clearly indicated paraphrasing 
      • Quotation marks 
      • Signal phrases 
  • Once the letters have been edited and are finalized, have students submit them to their chosen publication venue. 

SESSION 36-40: Celebrating Your Hard Work

The teacher can decide how much time to take with this final step, but it is important to celebrate the hard work and achievement of students.

Ask students to read their Op-Ed to the whole group and share the steps in the process they struggled with the most and their greatest take away from this process.


  • CCR Anchor Standards:
    • Reading Standards for Informational Text (6-12)
      • 1, 2, 6, 7, & 8
    • Writing (6-12)
      • 1, 4, 5, 6, 9 & 10
    • Speaking & Listening (6-12)
      • 1, 2, 3 & 6
  • History/Social-Science CLIC Frameworks
    • Literacy, Inquiry and Civic Engagement
  • Aligned with NGSS Cross-cutting Concepts
  • Social-Emotional Learning Standards
    • 1A, 1B, 1C
    • 2A, 2B, 2C
    • 3A, 3B, 3C