Argumentative essays and discussion texts are a great starting point for debating. The challenge in writing a good discussion or argumentative essay is to be open minded even if you know which side you want to support. Factual research and evidence is your number one tool. It gives you credibility by sourcing knowledge from experts but more importantly it gives your own opinions and ideas greater weight as you have demonstrated a broad and accurate understanding of the topic you are writing about.
Most students will head straight for the internet to find their evidence so make sure you have a clear understanding of how to use it correctly. This poster demonstrates how to get the most out of the three major search platforms on the web. You can download the free poster version of it here.
This is a great warm-up exercise that allows students to explore a topic, weigh up the different possible opinions, and even offers a chance for the student to discover what they think themselves about a topic. This exercise can also serve as a fantastic prep exercise for a piece of extended writing and it involves minimal prep itself.
Pros and Cons involves students making a list of the pro arguments and con arguments of a given topic. This is often best done in small groups where the students can brainstorm together and bounce ideas off one another. The process of comparing the for and against of an issue gives them an awareness of the range of opinions on the matter, helping them on their way to forming their own opinion.
The list created during this activity can also provide a helpful outline that can work as a springboard into later writing. It is a great way to organize ideas coherently that can seamlessly feed into the writing process described later below. This activity requires almost zero prep, other than giving the class a topic to really get their teeth into! First, have the students think silently on the topic for the minute or two. They may scratch down doodles or brief notes of their ideas on a piece of paper to use in the discussion portion of this exercise, but this is not a writing activity!
Then, partner them up with another student. At this stage you may give consideration to differentiation, you may wish to match students with other students of equal ability, or with a stronger one as support. Either way, students discuss the topic with their partner for a predetermined number of minutes.
Experiment to find the most suitable length of time for your class. After the time is up, students can then share their opinions with the class. You can also scribe the ideas generated by each group onto a master list displayed on the whiteboard as part of a pre-writing exercise. This can also be a good exercise to begin the preparation for a formal debate, as it affords the students opportunities to think on their feet, engage with differing opinions, and to work on public speaking skills such as body language.
This is a pacy, fun activity to get a lively conversation going in a manner that apes the popular speed dating format - but with a more virtuous intent! You can organize the desks in rows facing each other or in concentric circles in the middle of the classroom. Choose one row or circle to be mobile. Give students a list of topics to discuss and start the clock. After three minutes or so, signal that the time is up and instruct students to move to the next table.
At the next station they can either discuss the same topic or move on to the next topic on their list. However, as this exercise works best fun and fast-paced, and the aim is for each student to have the opportunity to speak with every other student, it is often best to keep the topics fairly straightforward. Questions like Is it better to live in the town than the country?
The aim of a well-written discussion text is to present information and opinions that express more than one viewpoint. This will often take the form of a newspaper report or a leaflet. Regardless of the genre of the writing undertaken however, there are some common factors that apply to most discussion texts. Most often they are written in the present tense are commonly structured in the following way:.
No better place to begin than at the start. The title should normally be a general statement, or even a question, that draws attention to a specific issue. For example Should cellphones be banned in schools? The introduction section itself should usually be relatively brief and open with a brief statement on the issue and provide some background to the issue to be discussed. There are however a number of things to consider when writing the introduction. Fortunately, there are a number of tried and tested methods of achieving this.
A well-chosen quotation can grab the attention of even the most distracted of reader and compel them to read more! Not only is it engaging, but informative too! But, encourage your students to be careful here, the suitability of a humorous opening will largely depend on the topic being discussed. As jokes may not always be appropriate to the material they must be used wisely.
In writing a balanced argument, it is important that students consider the positive and negatives of the issue. The body of the text should be focused on presenting the pros and cons, the for and against arguments, relating to the central issue. This is why the oral starter activities can be so useful as pre-writing exercises. After the student has laid out the topic in their introduction by providing the necessary background information, it is time for the student to consider laying out the case for the argument.
The use of time connectives is a great way for students to organize their information. Adverbs of time, such as firstly , secondly , next , then etc and phrases such as, in addition to , therefore etc can be a great help for students to structure their information chronologically and coherently.
Depending on the length of the text, it is normally recommended that each paragraph consists of a single point. It is important to remind students that in the presentation of a balanced argument they should not express their own bias, or even their own point of view, rather they are laying out both sides of the argument for the reader and should give equal weight to each point of view.
When exploring each point, whether for or against, the PEE method can be a helpful way to aid students in structuring their paragraphs and to give their arguments direction:. Be sure to check out our own complete guide to writing perfect paragraphs here. When the student has considered each of their points for the argument, for example three separate paragraphs each making three separate points for the argument, it is now time to consider, and do the same for, the argument against.
The purpose here is to set up an opposition to the previously made points; to offer the other side of the story. Encourage students here to use words and phrases that set up this contrast, for example, however , contrastingly , on the other hand , etc. Displaying these words and phrases in a word bank can also be a great way to help weaker students to organize their writing. In the conclusion, the student reviews the information, provides a summary of the arguments made, and weighs up the issue in light of the available evidence.
It is at this point that students can offer their own opinion in favor or against the issue at hand, but only if it is appropriate to the genre of the discussion text. Students often find it difficult to know how to end their writing.
One excellent way to finish their discussion is to end it with a question, a challenge to the readers to form their own opinion on the issue in light of the evidence that has been presented. The discrete teaching of discussion and argument in the classroom is essential. It offers students invaluable opportunities to test their opinions and ideas with their peers in a safe environment. Students learn that disagreement is inevitable and not fatal! They learn, too, that it is okay to revise an opinion in the light of compelling evidence they had not previously considered..
Discussion is a proving ground for ideas. Ideas tested in the arena of classroom discussion will likely be expressed much more coherently in written form. Often it happens that students are not fully aware of exactly how they think on an issue until they have had a chance to try out their embryonic ideas with each other in a public discussion.
It also helps students to avoid the dangers of the echo chamber of their own minds where frequently their ideas existed without challenge. Encouraging our students to engage in respectful and productive disagreement is perhaps one of the most important skills we can help them develop. Discussion activities offer wonderful opportunities for some informal assessment that helps with planning to best meet the needs of your students in future lessons.
This allows you to spot areas of difficulty and gaps in learning - all valuable information that will be priceless for effective future lesson planning. Make sure you clearly explain the topic to the audience before you get into taking sides. When you have selected a topic ensure that you research both sides of the argument thoroughly before writing.
In your conclusion make it clear which side of the argument you side, even make a recommendation but allow the reader to keep an open mind. List all the items that will be required to complete the task. Use paragraphs effectively. Each new argument should start with a new paragraph. Below are a collection of student writing samples of discussions. Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.
One list should be reasons that they hold their opinion or the pro side of the argument , and the other list should be reasons that the opposition holds their opinion about the issue or the con side of the argument. If you are teaching a simple argument essay, the list of pros should be longer than the list of cons. If this is not the case, you may need to encourage your student to change to the other side of the argument. Your students can start with any style introduction that seems most effective, but the body of the essay should be rather straightforward.
The writer should choose between two and four of the most convincing arguments and write one paragraph about each. It is very important that he supports his opinion with objective proof — facts , statistics , typical examples , and opinions of established experts — and not just statements of his own beliefs and opinions. Without this type of support, the argument will not be convincing. If you are teaching advanced students, this might be a natural place to look at logical fallacies and how to avoid them in this type of essay.
Once the body paragraphs are written, have your students arrange their arguments in order — weakest to strongest — and end with the most compelling of the arguments. In this type of essay, just as important as arguing your points is arguing against the points of the opposition.
When writing this type of essay, your students should not only show why they are right but also why the opposition is wrong. This part of the essay is called the refutation. Looking at the list of the reasons against their arguments, tell your students to choose the strongest point the opposite site might present. Then challenge them to think about why this argument is invalid.
A strong refutation will address the argument and prove it is not logical, there is a better answer, or it is not true. Your students should spend one paragraph on the refutation, and it should come after the arguments in favor of their positions on the topic.
They will want to remind the reader of their points and end with a call to action. The overall tone of the essay should be logical and not emotional or manipulative. If your students are able to write this way, their essays will be convincing and effective. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking one of those sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow our Facebook page where we share more about creative, non-boring ways to teach English.
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