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Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning
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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!Read more ›
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.
(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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is ridiculous and although it has a lot of good information on the parts of a valid argument, it did almost nothing for my teaching practice. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
As schools move into the Common Core Standards, we will need to teach different things in different ways than before. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Sherry Juhl
When it comes to argumentative writing, Hillocks is an expert and the material offered here shows why. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Robert E. Fischer
This book was helpful in that it gives a lot of practical examples for the classroom. That said, if you already know a lot about argument, argumentative writing, or rhetoric, this... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Snuffalupagus
Very clear information with nice examples of how to implement the teaching of argument writing. This was my first year teaching argument writing and it enabled me to get going... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Polanka