In this unit, students are introduced to the skills, practices, and routines of argument writing by working collaboratively with their peers to examine argument models, plan for their writing, and gather evidence. Students independently practice writing and revising and also engage in peer review to revise their work. Throughout the unit, the class will construct an Argument Writing Checklist, which students will use to guide their drafting, review, and finalization. By the end of the unit, students will have produced fully developed arguments.
Students begin the unit by reading two model argument texts, “Keep on Reading” and “We Need the League,” exploring how each writer organizes and expresses his ideas. Using the models as examples, students learn the purpose of argument writing, the key components of an argument, and the importance of considering one’s audience. Students then analyze the prompt for this unit’s argument writing assignment, which asks them to take a position on whether their school should participate in the national event “Shut Down Your Screen Week.”
In order to build their knowledge on the argument topic and practice the skill of gathering evidence to support claims, students read and analyze four articles that discuss the effects of digital media usage. After gathering evidence and deciding on a central claim, students learn how to plan their arguments and begin drafting. Students draft their arguments in a nonlinear process, focusing first on developing the supporting claims, evidence, and reasoning in their body paragraphs before composing a clear, engaging introduction and powerful, logical conclusion. To continue to strengthen their drafts, students engage in peer review and teacher conferences, incorporating constructive feedback into their revisions. Finally, students learn and apply the conventions of the editing process to finalize their arguments. To close the unit, students engage in a brief activity in which they reflect on the writing process, identifying strategies that helped them succeed as well as areas for improvement.
This unit contains a set of supplemental skills lessons, which provide direct instruction on discrete writing skills. Teachers can choose to implement all of these lessons or only those that address the needs of their students. Teachers also have the option of implementing activities from the module’s vocabulary lesson throughout the unit to support students’ comprehension. Student learning is assessed based on demonstrated planning, drafting, revising, and editing throughout the writing process. At the end of the unit, students are assessed on the effectiveness of their finalized drafts according to the class-generated Argument Writing Checklist.
Unit and/or Assessment Task Texts
“Keep on Reading” (argument model)
“We Need the League” (argument model)
“Kids Still Getting Too Much ‘Screen Time’: CDC” by Amy Norton
“Social Media as Community” by Keith Hampton
“Attached to Technology and Paying a Price” by Matt Richtel
“Education 2.0: Never Memorize Again?” by Sarah Perez
Thoreau's Civil Disobedience espouses the need to prioritize one's conscience over the dictates of laws. It criticizes American social institutions and policies, most prominently slavery and the Mexican-American War.
Thoreau begins his essay by arguing that government rarely proves itself useful and that it derives its power from the majority because they are the strongest group, not because they hold the most legitimate viewpoint. He contends that people's first obligation is to do what they believe is right and not to follow the law dictated by the majority. When a government is unjust, people should refuse to follow the law and distance themselves from the government in general. A person is not obligated to devote his life to eliminating evils from the world, but he is obligated not to participate in such evils. This includes not being a member of an unjust institution (like the government). Thoreau further argues that the United States fits his criteria for an unjust government, given its support of slavery and its practice of aggressive war.
Thoreau doubts the effectiveness of reform within the government, and he argues that voting and petitioning for change achieves little. He presents his own experiences as a model for how to relate to an unjust government: In protest of slavery, Thoreau refused to pay taxes and spent a night in jail. But, more generally, he ideologically dissociated himself from the government, "washing his hands" of it and refusing to participate in his institutions. According to Thoreau, this form of protest was preferable to advocating for reform from within government; he asserts that one cannot see government for what it is when one is working within it.
Civil Disobedience covers several topics, and Thoreau intersperses poetry and social commentary throughout. For purposes of clarity and readability, the essay has been divided into three sections here, though Thoreau himself made no such divisions.