Argumentative Essay Unit Breakdown

Argumentative essays are an integral part of the 9th grade curriculum. It can be difficult teaching the structure of the essay and its necessary components. So, we start with the basics.

1) We get familiar with the vocabulary. The vocabulary is on a separate page below. Most of the definitions come from the Springboard curriculum. We go over all of the definitions together, and the students can practice their familiarity with the definitions using Springboard online and the Zinc Reading Lab.

2) We practice identifying the vocabulary using assorted sample argumentative essays. The good thing about this part of the process is that you can find or create essays that best fit the needs of your students. I like to create essays that are relevant to topics that they are interested in. We go through each essay, identifying the hook, claim, concessions, refutations, evidence/support, and the conclusion/call to action. We also identify any ethos, logos, or pathos appeals that we find in the articles, as well as identifying the types of evidence. Some of my essays are shared below. This process helps them to see how to structure their counterclaims, refutations, and the body of their essay.

3) We then typically begin to read essays on a given subject. Due to the large amount of material in the Springboard curriculum on the value of a college education, we generally use this topic. I try to find more articles that shed light on the negative sides of college, because the Springboard articles focus more on the positive aspects of college. I want them to have an equal representation of both sides to maintain integrity, and so they will have enough information and evidence, no matter what side they choose.

4) After all of our research, I ask them to formulate a thesis on the subject. I give them a graphic organizer to help them keep track of their evidence and sources.

5) We go over the rubric and what each category of Exemplary, Proficient, and Emerging look like. We then look at an exemplary exemplar essay.

5) We go over a breakdown of the actual essay, in outline format. The first time we do this, it is extremely structured. You can create your own outline and the aspects of the essay you want included. Each time we write an essay, the outline is less structured, as I begin to wean them away from the outline.

6) They start their first drafts of the essay. They edit and revise. They start their final drafts of the essay, making sure they have used the correct format, and that they have documented all of their sources correctly.

7) They submit their essays. I grade the essays. We have a writing conference discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the essay.

Leslie Perry-Hanley is a 9th grade English teacher at the Cleveland School of Architecture and Design. She has been teaching in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for 21 years, with 13 of those years in the elementary and middle grades and the last eight years in high school. Leslie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from Kent State University in 1998. She received her Master’s Degree in Special Education along with a Reading Endorsement from Notre Dame College in 2002. Leslie has been very active throughout her teaching career. She has served as a Union Conference Committee member, cheerleading coach, anti-bullying coordinator, mediation coordinator, building leadership team member, Resident Educator mentor, Academic Achievement Plan team member, and 9th grade team leader. Leslie believes that all students deserve and should be afforded the same opportunities when it comes to learning, and she strives to make sure that her students are given the same opportunities as their peers and counterparts across the State of Ohio.