ELA Monthly Digest

Charles VerheyELA

All the World’s an Argument

In general, people are naturally argumentative, and our students are perfect examples. They love to argue with their friends, classmates, parents, and teachers. Often, they feel that their opinions are right without giving much thought to providing real evidence supporting their claims. One example is when a teenager is asking their parents to borrow the car. To persuade them, they will bring up their immaculate driving record, their trustworthiness, and how little they break curfew. Once these teens become adults, they will need credible sources to back up their claims. Argumentation in daily life will arise in the workplace or in social situations: discouraging a friend from drinking and driving because it is deadly, convincing your boss at work why you should get a pay raise, or explaining why your parent should go to a nursing home instead of moving in with you.

Crafting an “argument” is a vital skill to learn, and it affects all facets of a student’s life. Students need to learn how to express their point of view, support it, and be able to defend that position. That teaches students how to think critically and rationally. The classroom is an excellent place to begin learning how to debate and honing their argumentative skills for the real world.

 Essential Middle School Argument Classroom!

Click the picture below to shop all essential middle school argument resources.

What Happened to Persuasive Writing?

Personally, it feels like the change happened overnight. One day persuasive writing was in, and then the next, argument writing reigned supreme. While I am not sure exactly when the change happened, after some Google searches I believe persuasive writing in the upper levels died with the Common Core. SAT® and ACT® further nailed the coffin closed when these tests changed the essay from a persuasive essay to an argument analysis.

To be honest, I always thought persuasive writing and argument writing were the same thing—argument writing just sounded fancier. I never really thought beyond that simple explanation for the change. Now, after researching to write this, I feel a little silly that I just let myself think that for so long, because the real answer for why middle and high school students write argument essays instead of persuasive ones is much deeper.

Here are the main differences between persuasive and argument writing:

  • Argument writing has a claim based on an opinion, position, hypothesis, thesis statement, or theory, and that claim is supported with reasons and examples from credible sources. Persuasive writing has a claim based on opinion and is not always substantiated.
  • Argument writing relies heavily on logos—an appeal to logic—and the writer’s ethos, or credibility, is established through knowledge of the subject and the reasons and evidence used. Persuasive writing relies heavily on pathos—appeals to the audience’s emotions, desires, and needs. And while ethos is used, it’s all about the establishment of the writer’s character, credentials, and trustworthiness.
  • Argument writing includes the counterclaim and rebuttals. Persuasive writing does not address any opposing views.

Students Will Know HOW to Be Successful in English Class Before They Even Walk Through the Door!

Writers and Curators of the Teacher’s Discovery ELA Digest:

Heather Bauer, former building principal, reading specialist, and classroom teacher

Sarah Smith, former world language and ESL teacher

Elizabeth M. Zupan, curriculum writer and former ELA teacher