Starting with the elite magazines like Forbes ending up with famous business owners like Steve Jobs, every successful person will tell you that leadership is half the battle. No matter in which field you plan to succeed, you have to develop leadership skills. In its turn, it is impossible to imagine leadership without great persuasive skills. When students write argumentative papers, they automatically learn how to create persuasive speeches. That is why it all starts from writing argumentative essays.
It is your responsibility as a teacher to teach argumentative writing to students.
As InfoProLearning admits, 83% of companies agree that is critical to develop leaders at all levels. To become one, you have to come up with arguments and be able to defend them. To do so, it is critical to find credible evidence and provide vivid examples from real life.
As a teacher, you may think that your knowledge gained in college is enough. Unfortunately, today, everything is a bit more complicated. For instance, it does not have to be 5-paragraph essays any longer. It is the basic model for writing any type of essay, but you should not be that strict with the structure. Your goal is to teach writing that fits the assignment and audience. Oh, by the way, defining the target audience is another challenge many teachers ignore.
Anyway, we should discuss it step-by-step. Welcome your personal guide to teaching the art of argumentative writing to students and young professionals.
Show Them the Difference between Fact & Opinion
The primary purpose is to explain that there is a huge gap between a fact/statistic and opinion. You may sound trivial if you mention something like “the earth is round” as an example of the fact. You may, however, admit that each opinion should start with phrases like “I think…” or “To my mind…” Instead, it is better to motivate the students to read an Op-Ed and highlight the facts and underline opinions.
You may initiate a compare-and-contrast contest based on:
News report with facts & statistics
An opinion piece with the author’s position
Example of the first one could be: “An ordinary criminal in one of the local Detroit’s hotels rained a quick-fire barrage during the last Saturday. It resulted in minimum 48 deaths of its visitors. At least 400 people were seriously injured.”
In the case of the opinion piece, it would sound: “I was totally shocked to find out that a mad gunman attacked my favorite hotel in Detroit, my native city, last Saturday. I feel so sorry for the victims. I believe it was a sort of terroristic act.”
Thanks to these examples, your students will understand you much better.
Let Your Class Answer the Series of Questions
To see the difference between the facts and opinions, you may also set up a list of questions. Bring a specific newspaper and choose an article to analyze. That could be any type of Op-Ed, but political and economic news might work the best even though they may have complicated terms.
Ask these questions:
What pieces look most interesting to students and why?
How do you believe the editors come up with the materials to publish?
What are some of the subsections in the looks at the top of the section? What is the way they work together?
Practice Freestyle Debates
To make the students understand what a debate is about, let them argue on a specific issue. You may divide them into teams or allow to argue individually. Let them choose a relevant problem to discuss.
For example, read a statement like, “Students should not be forced to wear a uniform.”
Those who agree join one team while the rest of the guys belong to the second one. Also, there may be students with a neutral position, but you should explain that they have to make choice to argue properly. Enjoy how well your students can debate!
Discuss the Prompt Out Loud
It is not enough to give the assignment away, leaving the students face-to-face with the challenge. Your responsibility is also to explain how the things work and what they should write about in their essays. You must provide every student with the so-called grading rubric so that they know what to focus on and how you assess their works. Here is what you should mention:
- Specific topic
- Number of pages or words (double-spaced or not)
- Citation format
- Number of sources to cite (and which exactly)
- Overall structure
Of course, such things as grammar, spelling, and punctuation should be perfect. The papers should also be free of plagiarism. Even though these things might be obvious, do not forget to remind them.
Make Them familiar with Rhetorical Strategies
Writing an argumentative essay involves learning such concepts as ethos, pathos, and logos. Since Aristotle introduced these three, they were used actively by the debating sides.
Explain that the ethos is about ethics, features, and reasons why the audience can trust the person. The pathos deals with emotions, and it helps to persuade people thanks to the strong emotional response. Finally, the logos have to do with logical and rational thinking. The reasoning is the key here.
Do not forget to provide several examples:
Ethos: “Music gurus around the world recommend using this guitar technique.”
Pathos: “I believe that you will win this game as you have something that other participants do not: you have a born talent.”
Logos: “Thousand of years of history has shown us how important the social status of a person is in any community.”
Define Claims and Evidence
You have to explain that there should be at least three good arguments in support of the thesis. However, students should find the credible evidence to support each of them.
Tell them about various types of sources. Those are primary and secondary sources. Focus on the sources like:
- Books and e-Books
- Scholarly articles
You should explain the difference between these sources and sources like interviews, polls, etc. Stress that the sources should always be up-to-date (no older than 5 years), informative, and trustworthy. Add, for instance, that Wikipedia and other open-source websites are not a good idea. On the whole, it is better to recommend sources at the beginning. Once the students learn the principles of selecting sources, allow them to search for the evidence on their own.
Examples and Samples Are Always Effective
Bring some examples of personal works to class. Of course, you may command the students to search for the samples on the web, but they might be not as good as you expect. Besides, they would like to see how good the works of their teacher are. This way, you will inspire them to bring it on!
Run a Writer’s Workshop
The final stage is teaching them a bit of writing. Spend 7-10 days on that. They might already know the basics of grammar and punctuation, so focus more on:
- Selecting relevant info
- Skillfully weaving evidence into a claim
- Meeting the expectations of the audience
- Correctly citing and referencing sources
It is a good idea to share the secrets of persuasion as well. To do so, assign at least one argumentative paper with a supporting speech or presentation. Give a hint that an engaging hook like shocking fact or literary quote may motivate the audience to read the essay from cover to cover. Do not forget to stress the importance of adding examples into the text. Personal stories are powerful to make a point!
While, according to Forbes and other prestigious magazines, 84% companies forecast a shortfall of leaders in the upcoming five years, you may really help your students to develop skills necessary to get well-paid job offers. Teaching them how to argue is the first step to success.
Here is one more wisdom for both of you:
Do not choose a topic, choose an argument instead!