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Argumentative Essay Activities

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Argumentative essays are a way for students to analyze the pros and cons of a subject with logic and not emotion. This lesson provides different activities to help students write these essays more effectively.

Argumentative Essays

An argumentative essay can be challenging for students, since they have to take a controversial subject and look at it with logic and not feelings. Remember to distinguish argumentative essays (which are required to have evidence and logic-based conclusions) from persuasive writing (where you may use personal ideals and pleas to emotion) when introducing these activities to students.

Breaking down the process of an argumentative essay and the research behind it can help students comprehend this way of writing better. The following activities are set up to help students work out the argument and supporting ideas for an essay topic, to help them write the actual essay afterward.

What's Not Fair?

A good way to get students thinking for an argumentative essay is to start class talking about what they do not think is fair. You can do this regarding school policy (such as uniforms, or no cell phones) or about the world in general. Do this as a group. Start by asking your students ''What do you think is not fair about _____?''

Once you have a long list, then start pulling the list apart. Bring up the first issue the students think is not fair (ex. uniforms), ask them why. On the board place uniforms in the center with branches shooting out that show the supporting reasons why uniforms are unfair to students.

Once you have shown them how to create this diagram on the board, erase the supports that are illogical. This will show students how to create their own diagram. Now, have the student create a diagram of their own for one of the issues they previously discussed. By the end, they have a start for their own argumentative essay.

Debate

A debate in class is a great way to give students an idea how to argue a subject logically. Break the class into teams. Then provide each team with a controversial topic such as: elimination of the electoral college, women's rights over their own bodies, and men's rights to paternity leave. Then have one student debate the pros, and the other the cons. They should make sure to research their side before the debate, and create a bullet pointed list the main ideas for their debate.

Once the students are ready, they should have the debate in front of the class. The class should be instructed to list out the pros and cons of each argument as the debates go on. Then once the debates are over, you can have the students look at their lists and explain that these are the points to bring up in an argumentative essay. This will help give the students a different example of how to come up with both sides of an argument.

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