We’re experimenting with a clever way for students to practice argument writing. This year our language arts, social studies, and science departments have been aggressively integrating CCSS argument writing into our classes. We’ve been doing it frequently enough that it now elicits groans from our students when we announce that we’ll be working on another writing assignment. In social studies we’ve been using argument essays as summative assessments for our units. With another unit concluding right before winter break, I thought it would be nice to give the students a break and do a little twist on our usual essays.
The students will still be structuring their arguments using the CCSS argument writing format that we’ve taught them. The 7th grade teachers created a template that students use for argument writing in all of their core courses in 7th grade. Students will complete the template in order to organize their ideas. However, rather than typing a formal essay, students will be creating a visual representation of their argument.
This idea actually came from an unwitting student. She shared that the previous night she had been chatting with a friend on Instagram and they were using the argument writing format we had taught them as they were exchanging images. The lightbulb went on. We’ve all heard the expression “a picture is worth 1000 words”. I was interested in assessing their ideas so why not save them some words and find a way to let them work using a visual medium?
Since we are 1:1 in 7th grade social studies with iPads, we’ll be using the Strip Designer app to lay out the images. I created an example to give to the students which mirrors the template we use. I’ve inserted the example below and you can download a full-size pdf of the example here.
I’m excited for the potential. I think this will help reinforce the format by challenging the students to think about it in a different way. Plus it should be a fun way to stay engaged on the last week before winter break!
UPDATE: The students have been enthusiastically engaged with the assignment. I was pleased to see that the conversations I was having with students about their ideas and evidence were the same in this visual format as they were when we did formal typed essays. There were certainly added benefits; they students reported that they enjoyed it and they were engaged each day despite the fact that they completed the assignment the week before winter break. However, this activity was not a mere diversion. I believe it has been an effective assessment and that it contributed to our argument writing skill set.