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How to Teach Argumentative Writing in Middle School

Teaching argumentative writing to your middle school and high school students can be SO hard! But this blog post and free step-by-step guide will really help teachers in their classrooms as they implement writing skills and strategies!

While we strongly believe that to become better writers, students should read, read, and read some more, we also know that explicit writing instruction is necessary. Yet, we notice that often writing time is not included in classroom schedules, aside from creative writing (definitely still important!). So many teachers have told us that they simply don’t have time to teach evidence-based writing skills, it takes too much time to grade all the essays, or they simply don’t know how to teach writing. Well, we’ve got you covered. And more importantly, we’ve got your students covered...

At some point, we’ve all encountered students who simply abhor writing essays because they don’t feel confident in expressing their thoughts, don’t know how to start, don’t know how to end (the dreaded conclusion paragraph!), or don’t feel like they have anything to say.

We were tired of seeing our students frustrated and wanted to provide them with more concrete writing lessons. So, we developed a guide to teaching argumentative/persuasive writing. (Note: By persuasive writing, we’re not talking about a “Convince your teacher why you shouldn’t have homework” essay. Rather, we mean crafting responses to literature using evidence from the text and justification to support student claims.

In this post, we’re going to break down how we introduce evidence-based writing to our students. (It's a lot of info, but totally worth reading! We promise!)

First, we start off with a simple mystery story that we wrote called “The Mystery of the Broken Vase” that has an open-ended conclusion. Kind of like a "whodunit" story. Students must play detective and find evidence in the text and corresponding illustration to see which character is responsible for breaking a precious crystal vase. Although the story is simple, we’ve found it’s necessary to start with simplicity for students of all grade levels because this really allows them to practice searching for evidence in the text and justify their reasoning.

We use this evidence tracker for students to gather evidence. The evidence tracker is a life-saver because it allows students to organize their thoughts (independently, in small groups, even whole class) BEFORE writing a final essay, which we’ll get to later...

Then we explain to our students that throughout the year when reading our novels, short stories, poems, historic articles, etc., we will be analyzing essential questions and writing responses to literature using evidence from the text and justification - just like we did for this whodunit story.

Here’s where the concrete writing instruction comes in. We use this graphic organizer and spend A TON OF TIME going through each component of a response to literature. We break a response to literature down into the following components for our students:

  • Introduction
    • TAG (title, author, genre)
    • Summary
    • Claim
  • Body Paragraphs
    • Premise
    • Introduce evidence
    • Evidence
    • Justification
  • Conclusion
    • Restate claim
    • Summarize evidence
    • Lesson learned

Having this format really helps those students who don’t know how to begin or end their essays. It provides them with a super clear roadmap to express their thoughts. Speaking of expressing thoughts, writer’s block is pretty much eliminated since students have already gathered all their evidence and justification using their evidence tracker. It's simple, straightforward, and extremely effective.

We believe so strongly in this process that we sat down and spent months creating a complete guide to teaching argumentative writing and filled it with literally everything you could ever need to teach argumentative writing in your classroom. From background information for the teacher to TONS of graphic organizers that will help students gain confidence in their writing AND become stronger writers capable of crafting claims, and finding just the right evidence to justifying their thinking, this guide has it all. 

We firmly believe that teaching writing this way has profoundly positive effects on your students' ability to craft a strong, cohesive, in-depth, analytical essay. We want to give you part of this resource for free so you can start implementing some of these strategies in your classroom TOMORROW. 

Teaching argumentative writing to your middle school and high school students can be SO hard! But this blog post and free step-by-step guide will really help teachers in their classrooms as they implement writing skills and strategies!

Our complete How to Teach Argumentative Writing Guide includes all of the following outlined below. You'll receive ALL of Unit 1 by clicking here. 

UNIT ONE: Introduction to Evidence-Based Writing
This unit is really the how-to for you. Before you can teach something, you need to understand the in's and out's of it. This unit walks you through everything you'd need to know before teaching this way of writing to your students. We included:

  • What is Evidence-Based Writing?
  • Practice Writing Your Own Response to Literature 
  • Teacher Sample Responses to Literature
  • Importance of Rubrics
  • Providing Timely Feedback + Student Reflections
  • Extra Practice

UNIT TWO: Teaching Evidence-Based Writing in Your Classroom
Now that you understand Evidence-Based Writing, it's time to teach it to your students. Well, how do you go about doing that effectively? This part of the guide provides you with everything you need to take your students step-by-step through this new process. This is exactly how we introduce writing to our students at the beginning of the year.

  • Define Evidence-Based Writing Terms
  • TAG + Summary
  • Claims
  • Practice Writing an Introduction
  • Body Paragraphs
  • The Dreaded Conclusion
  • Putting It All Together: Response to Literature Practice

UNIT THREE: Mini Lessons for Evidence-Based Writing
Whenever you teach writing, you'll inevitably come across certain skills or areas where your students struggle. This could be as simple as helping your kids create stronger transitions or as difficult as finding the correct piece of evidence from the text that most clearly supports their claim and premise. This unit covers a multitude of these skills with instructions, worksheets, and extra practice to help you help them :)

  • Connecting TAG/Hook + Summary
  • Teaching Transitions
  • Expanding Sentences
  • Introducing Quotes
  • Finding the Right Evidence/Quotes
  • Avoiding First + Second Person Personal Pronouns
  • Implementing Stronger Vocabulary 

UNIT FOUR: Create Your Own Units
So now you know how to effectively teach writing in your classroom. You've introduced your students to this form of writing, they get it, and life is good. But you can't stop there. Your students have to keep writing throughout the year, and integrating your reading and your writing is the key to creating strong writers. This unit teaches you how to create your own novel units that incorporate writing responses to literature in an incredibly seamless way. Trust us - this is how we've taught for years, and simply put: IT WORKS.

  • How to Create Essential Questions
  • Utilizing the Evidence Tracker
  • Incorporating Socratic Seminars
  • Extra Practice Using Key Scenes + Mini-Responses to Literature

What's a guide without bonus content? We love this part of our guide because it includes all sorts of extra content that you can use throughout the school year.

This step-by-step guide will not only give you, the teacher, explicit strategies for teaching evidence-based writing, but will also provide you with ready-to-use lessons and graphic organizers. Still worried about grading all those essays and not having enough time? Writing rubrics are included and who says students always have to write multi-paragraph essays? We often have our students simply write 1-paragraph responses using the same response to literature format described above.

Have questions or want to learn more? Feel free to send us an email at any time at! 

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Teaching argumentative writing to your middle school and high school students can be SO hard! But this blog post and free step-by-step guide will really help teachers in their classrooms as they implement writing skills and strategies!

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