Quick and Easy Argumentative Essay Practice for Middle School


Middle School students need practice when writing Argumentative Essays but that doesn't mean they need to write entire essays over and over!

It's Essay Writing "season" and every year it becomes obvious that essay writing is not my students' favorite thing to do.  I think this is because, in the past, they have had to essay after essay after essay...

However, that is not all that productive and it just makes kids dislike writing even more.  So what I suggest is this:  task cards

Task Cards Provide Argumentative Essay Practice

How?  Well it all depends on what you want to practice!

1.  Process practice

I wanted to make sure my students could use the writing process for essays:

-Read the prompt
-Flip the prompt
-Read and Mark the Text

So, I created two tiny texts and then asked questions about claims, opposing claims and evidence.

Questions like:

-One claim is that the statues of Easter Island were built for religious purposes.  Which is an a opposing claim?
-One claim is that the statues of Easter Island were built to show a chief's power.  Which is relevant evidence to support the claim?

Each card had 3 choices to choose from and students used a piece of notebook paper to record their answers.

2.  Paragraph practice

Next, I wanted to make sure that my students could also formulate good introduction and conclusion paragraphs.  We all know that if there is a strong introduction, that it sets the essay up for success.

So I again wrote two tiny texts - this time about crop circles - and then made some task cards that ask questions about:

Introduction:  Hook, Arch (Transition), Thesis
Conclusion:  Affirm the Thesis, Trim the Point, The Call to Action

Questions like:

-Assume the writer is taking the position that crop circles are human creations.  What would be the best hook from the following choices?
-Assume the writer is taking the position that crop circles are alien creations.  What would be the best thesis from the following choices?

There are two "games" I like to pay using the task cards:

1.  Scoot

This game is played by taping the task cards to the students' desk.  Each students answers the card at their desk until you call "Scoot". At that time, students move to the desk to the right and then answer that card.  Students continue to "scoot" until all the questions have been answered.

2.  Scatter

This game is played by taping the task cards all around the room.  Students wander from card to card to answer questions.  

In both cases, I like to go over the answers afterwards.

These task cards keep my students up and moving and engaged with essay writing.  They also help me ensure that my students are "getting it".  And all in one class period!

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Task cards are a great way to get middle school students actively involved in their essay writing learning!