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Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning

4.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0325013961
ISBN-10: 0325013969
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

George Hillocks, Jr. is Professor Emeritus, departments of Education and English Language and Literature, The University of Chicago. He and his MAT students have taught writing in Chicago schools for over twenty-five years. In 1997 he won the NCTE David H. Russell award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English for the book Teaching Writing as Reflective Practice. In 2004 he received NCTE's Distinguished Service Award. George Hillocks was named the recipient of the 2010 Distinguished Lifetime Researcher Award given by the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy. George's book Narrative Writing has also just been named the winner of the Richard Meade Award, given by the National Council of Teacher's of English. In 2011, he won NCTE's James R. Squire Award: a special honor given to an NCTE member who has had a transforming influence and has made a lasting intellectual contribution to the profession.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 11 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 6 - 12
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann (March 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0325013969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0325013961
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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If you aren't a fan of inquiry yet, this book should do the trick. Hillocks shows how you can use questions, curiosity, and discussion to teach students the finer points of argument. It's no understatement to say that your existing persuasive unit will pale by comparison to goings-on in this book. It's an eye-opener (not to mention a mind-opener!).

Written for Grades 6-12, the book follows a progressively more difficult agenda. Hillocks starts with the basics of argument writing, including "whodunit" cartoons for arguments of fact. Kids scrutinize the drawings of murder scenes and draw conclusions based on visual details, trying their ideas out in group discussions. Such "fun" work is teaching them the relationships between evidence, claims, "warrants" or rules (e.g. "As a rule, when people fall down stairs, they drop what they are carrying to save themselves."), and conclusions. The mystery solving is followed by writing exercises, wherein the conclusions of the students are carefully justified in paragraph form. Hillocks provides a chart to ensure that all elements of good argument writing are logged.

From here, Hillock moves to simple arguments of judgment (he uses examples of what makes a good school mascot and what makes a good leader) and simple arguments of policy (here the students gather data on gum chewing). The latter example is especially good because the students do not simply jump on-line to cut and paste (yes, and sometimes plagiarize) material. Instead, students create their own data by interviewing the principal and custodians on the reasons for forbidding gum on school grounds plus its costs in time and money. They also create a survey to find out why students stick gum under chairs and desks or throw it on the floor. Invested? I guess!
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I recently attended a conference related to the new and upcoming "Common State Core Curriculum." One of the presenters recommended this book, saying that any teacher charged with teaching argument writing should definitely take a look at this book. It was fabulous. In the beginning it clearly outlines the Toulman Model for writing arguments. The author makes a reading/writing connection throughout the book. This book is packed with easy-to-incoporate ideas, starting from the ground up and building from the basics.

Already I have loads of new ideas for how I might better teach this type of writing with my students. It's written in a fashion that will make modifying these ideas to fit my students' needs very easy to do.

I give this book my highest of recommendations.
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I'm using this approach for my 7th and 8th grade classroom. I like that it covers argument rather than just persuasion and justifies the difference between the two. This aligns with Common Core (and probably any state or local) writing standards. I wish I had more time to read it. It's got great examples, but I really need an outline rather than a lengthy (though helpful) anecdote about how this works in the classroom. I will probably use this in my classroom for many years.
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Argument writing has traditionally been very difficult for most of my students; however, having used this book as a guide during the last week of the school year, they actually improved tremendously. Can't wait to begin this current school year with it!
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Great ideas to start students to think critically - and write. I like the way the author walks the whole class through the activity, then breaks into groups (with groups pre-arranged by teacher) to continue working and ultimately students write their own essays.
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When I looked at the CCSS for my English classes, I was concerned to see that students needed to be able to write solid arguments. I had taught persuasive writing, but arguments, no. After reading the book, I know that these two areas are not the same! Argument involves thinking and not just amassing piles of research by others that seems to prove a point. Actual thinking for themselves and reasoning out an issue which can go either way and backing it up with warrants that are in turn backed up or supported is real argument. As pure coincidence (believe it or not) I also bought two of Lawrence Treat's Crime and Puzzlement books and was amazed to find that George Hillocks Jr. uses these in his beginning argument classes! Hillocks's cover states that the book is for grades 6-12, and mostly, I agree. There are some cases discussed that I do not think work for junior high students in my area, but that is not really an issue as he provides plenty of ideas with his other examples and ample fodder for me to create or find my own cases.
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I don't even know how to describe the level of hatred I feel for this book.

(This is long, but it must be, in keeping with Hillock's template of claim/evidence/warrant/backing/qualifications. I have attempted to use his prescribed method for judgment within this review.)

My first complaint is the lack of internal consistency within the text. For example, on page 9, Hillocks chastises a teacher for assigning a lesson on imagery then giving comments on the papers that target word choice, sentence structure and usage. His observation is that the feedback is not elaborated---" [The comments] only remind students of their lack of competence." He later says it is "unethical to teach toward one specific target of learning and grade learners on another" (p. 38). Yet, on page 30, after detailing a lesson on claims and warrants, this is his summation of 'Marisol's' presentation of evidence: "She makes several errors in this passage, but her basic grasp of the syntax of argument is sound. She needs to learn how to punctuate introductory adverbial clauses. Note also that she slips from third person to second in her final warrant. She needs to proofread for spelling, unnecessary words, and other minor problems." It seems to me that Hillocks is in fact " teaching toward one goal" (use of warrants) and "grading" on another (Marisol's 'lack of competence' in usage and spelling). Additionally, under the section (pp 6-8) labeled "Clarity of Specificity of Goals and Objectives," Hillocks writes this sentence: "The objective includes criteria for judging what will count as an effective argument and implying what the instruction must include: work on evidence, qualifications, and so forth." So forth? So much for specificity.
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