How To Analyze An Argument for Middle School


Before my middle school stduents can write about argumentative texts, they first need to know how to analyze them!

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.

Before middle school students can analyze, they need to be familiar with appropriate vocabulary.

We studied these words with a worksheet and a game or two.  I used both printable games like dominoes and a digital puzzle game.

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?

These steps were all in our notes so we could record examples and have something to refer back to when we use other texts.  I have used both printable and digital notes and even have used a digital "quick check" (quiz) to increase accountability with the notes.  ;)

I teach my middle school students a 3 step process for analyzing arguments using differentiated guided notes.

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.

I've also had students practicing their knowledge in a self-checking digital game or by using a printable maze.  Both of these use the same text so one could be practice and one could be used later for remediation.

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

After the vocabulary, notes, and practice,  it’s time for a quiz.  I have a paper version that I converted to digital as well.

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 teach-practice-test-reteach/enrich 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.   Then they would be able to use this knowledge to write argumentative essays.


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

Get everything you need to provide instruction, practice, assessment and reteach/enrichment opportunities for analyzing arguments for your middle school students!

Printable     Digital      BOTH

ALL come with EDITABLE lesson plans!

I hope this helps you teach your middle school students how to analyze an argument!

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

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