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Argumentative Text Activities for Middle School


I teach my middle school students a 3 step process for analyzing an argumentative text.

The last time I introduced the students to our “Analyzing Arguments” unit, the students were excited.  They love to argue and debate.  However, when it came to focusing on arguments found in a text, some of that enthusiasm waned.  Why?  I believe that although students know what arguments are, they don’t know how to break down a text.  When I realized this, I deconstructed the skill into steps so that I could teach students the thinking that should go on during analysis.  

First, however, we needed to go over critical vocabulary.  I needed to make sure we were all speaking the same language!  We went over words like evaluate, argument, claim, assess, reasoning, valid, relevant, sufficient, position and support.

The first step in teaching middle school students to analyze argumentative text is learning the key vocabulary.

We studied these words with a worksheet and a game or two.  Now we were ready to look at the steps for analyzing argumentative text.  First we read a text - "Should College Athletes be Paid?" and then we went through the following 3 steps with the text:

1.  Determine the focus of the argument

2.  Determine how the key points support the argument to test the reliability of the evidence

3.  Evaluate the argument.  Is it fact or opinion?

I use these notes to deconstruct the standard for analyzing argumentative text with my middle school students.

These steps were all in our notes so we could record examples and have a something to refer back to when we use other texts. 

Next, it was time to process that information by practicing the steps with a new article called "Pay College Athletes".  Students received a menu with two choices.  Students could choose to use a graphic organizer to analyze the new text with the steps or they could choose to write a letter to the author summarizing the steps.

To process argumentative text analysis, I use a menu with two options to get better buy-in from my middle school students.

In the digital classroom, I converted my vocabulary and notes to digital and instead of the menu, I introduced a digital game.

Digital Vocabulary and Practice Activities for Analyzing Argumentative Text with Middle School Students

Then it’s time for a quiz.  I have a paper version that I converted to digital this year.  Students that score 80% or better are ready for enrichment while the students that scored below 80% need some remediation.  In the physical classroom, I give the students menus.  There is a specific menu for enrichment and a different one for remediation.  They look identical but give the students different options relative to their needs.  These projects could be completed in a digital environment if the teacher is willing to accept picture uploads of assignments or to just have a sharing day where students share their projects on their webcams.  

Remediation and Enrichment are a big part of learning how to analyze argumentative text in middle school.


Once this process was complete, students had a firm foundation for analyzing arguments in ANY text.  Now they were able to examine a text step-by-step and answer questions about the arguments presented. 


Ready to try this with your own students?  The notes, projects, games, quiz and menus are all ready to go in printable and digital format.


This printable bundle contains vocabulary, notes, practice activities, a quiz, and even remediation and enrichment activities!  PLUS it comes with editable lesson plans!

Digital resources to analyze argumentative text with middle school students.  This includes vocabulary, notes, practice and an assessment!

Both come with EDITABLE lesson plans!

I hope this helps you teach your middle school students how to analyze argumentative texts!

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Media Literacy Activities for Middle School


Media Literacy is more than watching a video!  Find out the 3 steps needed to truly analyze media.

When I say Media Literacy what do you think of?  In a recent discussion at my school, some teachers thought that showing the video version of a story is good enough because this standard can't really be assessed, right?  Well actually...

In Florida, this skill is reportedly assessed directly in our standardized tests by asking students to read and then listen to a speech.  So, I decided to analyze the standard, create some notes, a text and a speech to match.

First we reviewed some basic vocabulary relative to media literacy and then took some notes so that students would have a solid background as we read the information and then listened to it.

In the notes, there are 3 steps to analyzing media:

1.  Compare and contrast the text and the audio.

To accomplish this, we used a Venn Diagram.  We wrote down how the text and the speech are alike and different on the surface.  We asked questions like "What kinds of appeals does each use?"

2.  Determine the reliability of the information presented.

Next, we dug a little deeper and looked at both the text and the audio for things like word choices.  Then we asked ourselves "Do these word choices represent opinions or facts?" and "How did the speaker's choices affect your understanding or interpretation of the information?"

3.  Determine the effect of presenting the information in one media vs. the other by examining the advantages and disadvantages.

Finally, we took what we had done in the first 2 steps and used that to determine the effect of the text by analyzing its advantages and disadvantages.  Then we did the same thing for the audio.  Now taking into account what the goal of the text/audio was, we could determine if the goal was achieved thereby making it effective (or ineffective).  Questions we pondered were "What was the effect of reading and hearing the same information?" and  "How did this affect the audience?"

Use these 3 steps to analyze media and increase your middle school students' media literacy!

It definitely takes time to work through this process but if the students engage in the conversation related to these questions, they will connect some dots they have never connected before.

The trick is finding a text with audio that is interesting to the students.  All too often, the speeches "they" select for students are hardly relevant to the students.  So what I did was think about things that my students had interest in, locate a good text and make my own audio.   Then I add in some menus with 2 choices for practice.

Want to try this out with your own students?  It's all ready to go just by clicking here.

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Teaching Research Skills in Middle School


Use this creative idea to teach research skills to your middle school students!

One year, around this time of year, my middle school students were needing something more active and project based to keep them engaged.  

I thought it might be fun to have students research what Christmas was like in other places around the world.  So I made a flipbook with 5 different countries that focused on 4 aspects of the celebrations:  the gift bringer, the foods, the customs and the language.  The idea was to incorporate reading, writing, thinking and talking every day. My students learned all about the writing process and enjoyed(!) practicing research skills including locating evidence.

Here's how I did it:

First, I had the students assemble the flipbooks.  These flipbooks guide the research by asking questions for each of the categories:

Introduce students to the concept to research by providing them guiding questions.

Next, the students chose their favorite country and I placed them in groups of 4.  Then in the group, each student chose one of the 4 aspects and began their research!  I provided a website (http://www.santas.net/aroundtheworld.htm ) and brought some books from the library to class to help them find their information.

After the students completed their research by answering the questions in the flipbook, it was time to put their answers into a paragraph.  I provided a paragraph organizer and walked them through the process with "my" country.  Students each wrote their own paragraph and then had a peer in their group edit it.  The final paragraphs along with pictures were placed on a group poster.  

Providing models helps all learners understand how to organize their work.

To add a little excitement, I turned the poster part into a contest and judged them as they gave a presentation with (hopefully) music and maybe even some food.  

Finally, as students presented their posters, the rest of the class filled in their flipbooks with the information that was shared.

Students learned the entire writing process along with using textual evidence with this fun topic and all with minimal "sit and get".   I think this is so important for students who struggle because this project allows them to experience writing in a more engaging and genuine way. It's like Mary Poppins said "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."  :)

Want to try this with your own students?  It's ready to go in print and digital formats!

Combine Christmas activities and research using this interactive and creative flipbook with for your middle school students!   It's an authentic holiday research and writing experience!

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Teaching Idea Development in Middle School


Find out how I teach my middle school students to trace the development of ideas in a nonfiction text.

Previously, I shared how I teach character development based on R.CCR.3:  Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

After I teach the fiction portion of that standard, the I teach the non-fiction portion:  idea development.

I'll start with reading an article called "High Court Reviews Insanity-Defense Case" from CommonLit.  I chose this article because it connects to "Lamb to the Slaughter" which we read for the fiction portion of this standard.

After we read the article, we'll complete new Pixanotes (interactive guided notes) based on how ideas develop using this article.  There are 3 steps we'll learn to analyze text to determine how and why ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Idea Development can be tricky for some middle school students but Pixanotes make the job easier with a combination of structure and visuals!  #teaching #ideas

Then we'll practice with the information using task cards with specific questions about the developing ideas in the article.  I think this time, I might play ZAP with the task cards to change things up a bit.

Now that we have practiced, it will be time for a quiz with a new nonfiction text.

After the quiz, students who score 80% or better will receive a nonfiction enrichment menu and have the option to create a poster or a paragraph response to the text presented in the quiz.

Students who scored less than 80% will receive an enhancement menu for reteaching.  They will have the option to watch the review video and create their own new quiz or to to use their notes to explain each question on the quiz.

After a quiz on idea development, my middle school students each get a menu to either have opportunities for reteaching or enrichment.

Finally, to wrap up the entire unit...

I'll take some time and have students present some of their enhancement or enrichment products from both the fiction and nonfiction portions of the standard.  That will serve as a review for the final unit assessment.  

This entire unit will likely take about a month, but we will have covered both character and idea development with plenty of differentiation and opportunities for students to experience project based learning.

If this sounds like a lot of work, you'd be right - except that it was only a lot of work for me since all the work is done and you can get all of these things by clicking here!

I also have DIGITAL materials available for idea development.

Or if you'd like both the character AND idea development units, then please click here!

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Vocabulary Tactics for Standards Mastery in Middle School


Use vocabulary to build a strong knowledge base and deeper understanding to help middle school students master standards!

I believe that creating a firm foundation for literature studies with struggling students always begins with vocabulary. It is so important for all students to understand the academic vocabulary that will be used in the text and the questions about that text BEFORE they begin reading.  Once students understand these words, then they can use them to master the standards.

I recently wrote all about this topic at n2y and you can read the full post by clicking here.

In this post, I share my best tactics for physical classrooms and virtual classrooms including:

1.  Definitions using all 3 learning modalities

2.  Dominoes games

3.  Vocabulary Tic-Tac-Toe

4.  Slide

5.  Gimkit

6.  "Jeopardy" -like Quiz Show games

7.  Quizlet Live

I've made vocabulary sets for the first 8 reading anchor standards in both paper and digital formats.

The paper versions all include vocabulary worksheets, word wall cards and dominoes games.

The digital versions all include digital graphic organizers, digital practice puzzles and digital quizzes.

Vocabulary is an important step to helping students master standards because it is the base from which more complex learning is built.  Teaching vocabulary is an important use of time as it will make concepts easier to attain and then to be retained.

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There are more great ideas where this one came from!

Teaching Plot In Middle School

See how to support middle school students who struggle with story comprehension or visualization.

Before I begin studying literature with my middle school students, I always review plot and the plot diagram.  This helps my struggling learners to get a good grasp on some academic vocabulary and hopefully refresh their memories on how a story is structured.

In this post at n2y.com, I share my top 3 strategies:

1.  Plot diagram - with the support of pre-made events to place on the diagram

2.  A story board - the focus is on using images.  You can get a copy of the story board for FREE in my resource library.  Sign up below!

3.  Guided Notes - you can certainly make your own but my digital notes for plot diagram are ready to go and come with an embedded video and practice activities.  

Get all the details over at n2y - one of my favorite places for getting new ideas to reach all learners!  


3 Critical Pre-Reading Hacks for Middle School


Anytime I get ready to read a short story or novel with my middle school students, I like to provide some background knowledge to help all my learners get more from the text.  This gives them not just a preview, but hopefully also a kind of anchor to help them as they learn something new.

As a teacher who works with students that have unique learning needs, I have tried many things over the years to reach all learners.  

What I have learned about pre-reading is condensed into this post featured at n2y, one of my favorite sites for working with students that have unique learning needs:

3 Critical Pre-Reading Hacks:  Tips For Literature Studies

In this post, I mention a few items that I created and used in my classroom.  To find out more about those items, please take a look at these links:

1.  Information about Sinkholes is included in my Central Idea Main Idea Guided Notes with PowerPoint and INB Foldable 

2.  The Pre-Reading Game for "A Christmas Carol" is available by clicking here.

Get more great ideas where this one came from!