Writing an Argument Essay: Introducing the Writing Prompt and Model Essay | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2B:U2:L13

Writing an Argument Essay: Introducing the Writing Prompt and Model Essay

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. (W.7.1)
  • I can produce clear and coherent writing that is appropriate to task, purpose and audience. (W7.4)

Supporting Targets

  • I can begin the writing process for an argument essay on Pygmalion.
  • I can analyze the argument in a model essay.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Venn diagram
  • Writing Improvement Tracker


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Entry Task: Unpack Learning Targets/Pygmalion Writing Glossary (10 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Reading and Analyzing the Model Essay (15 minutes)

     B.  Discussing the Essay Prompt (15 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Review Learning Targets/Writing Improvement Tracker (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Review your Module 1 Reflections and fill in the Writing Improvement Tracker.

  • In this lesson, students begin the writing process for the End of Unit 2 Assessment, an argument essay on Pygmalion. In the design of this lesson and the lessons that follow, these criteria were used to define argument writing:

-   The goal of argument writing is for the reader to acknowledge the validity of the claim (not necessarily be persuaded by it).

-   Appropriate evidence is used and analyzed logically to support the claim. This evidence is usually organized into reasons.

-   The author considers the reasons and evidence for them before articulating the claim.

-   The author acknowledges a counterargument in his or her writing.

  • The model essay is about whether a character changes internally over the course of the play. The model essay is intentionally written about the same text (Pygmalion) that students will write about so that they are familiar with the context. However, the model essay, though using the same prompt as the student essay, focuses on a different character (Eliza's father, Alfred Doolittle).
  • Students will need the model essay in subsequent lessons, so ask them to keep their copy.
  • The writing process for the argument essay is similar to that of Module 1. The rubric for this assignment is based closely on the New York State Expository Writing Rubric. Because the students are already familiar with that rubric, the rubric analysis built into these lessons will not be as in-depth as it was in Module 1.
  • In this lesson, time is dedicated to students understanding the difference between an explanatory essay (which they wrote in Module 1) and an argument essay, which they are writing now about Pygmalion.
  • Remember, writing is really about thinking. To be successful with a writing assignment, students need to know the content well and understand the structure they will work in. Students have been developing a clear understanding of content; today is the day they build their understanding of the structure of an argument essay.
  • For students who would benefit from a visual representation of the structure of an argument essay, consider creating and posting a Building an Argument Essay poster. A sample is included in the supporting materials.
  • As in Module 1, students will have a Writer's Glossary to help them master the language used to talk about writing. The goal of this glossary is to build their understanding of an argument essay, as well as their academic vocabulary. Consider asking students to add the Pygmalion Writer's Glossary to their Writer's Glossaries from Module 1.
  • For homework, students start a Writing Improvement Tracker that they will return to after writing the essay in each module for the rest of the year. The purpose of this is to develop their awareness of their strengths and challenges, as well as to ask them to strategize how they plan to address their challenges. Self-assessment and goal setting helps students take ownership of their learning. To begin, students will review the reflection they did during Module 1 (Unit 3, Lesson 6) and complete the Writing Improvement Tracker for Module 1. When students are done, collect the trackers and keep them until they need them again. A paper like this, which needs to be kept over the long term, is best held by the teacher. Should students have not participated in Module 1, consider how you might modify the Tracker or substitute another tool to allow students to reflect upon their growth as writers throughout the year.
  • Post: Similarities and differences between explanatory essays and argumentative essays (see supporting materials); learning targets.


argument, claim, relevant evidence, coherent, appropriate, counterclaim


  • Pygmalion (play; one per student
  • Entry Task: Pygmalion, Lesson 13 (one per student)
  • Pygmalion Writer's Glossary (one per student)
  • Pygmalion Model Essay: Alfred Doolittle, The Same as Ever (one per student and one for teacher reference)
  • Explanatory Essay vs. Argument Essay (one per student)
  • Explanatory Essay vs. Argument Essay (for teacher reference)
  • Similarities and Differences between Explanatory Essays and Argument Essays (one to display)
  • Document camera
  • Building an Argument Essay (optional; for teacher reference; see Teaching Notes)
  • Module 1 Reflections (students' completed reflections; from Module 1, Unit 3, Lesson 6; see Teaching Note)s
  • Writing Improvement Tracker (one per student)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Entry Task: Unpack Learning Targets/Pygmalion Writing Glossary (10 minutes)

  •  Have students take out PygmalionDistribute the Entry Task: Pygmalion, Lesson 13 and prompt students to complete it.
  • After 2 minutes, cold call students to share the words they circled. Be sure that they note argument, relevant evidence, coherent, and appropriate.
  • Remind students that they discussed relevant evidence, coherent, and appropriate in Module 1, Unit 2, as they wrote their essays on A Long Walk to Water. These words, along with many others, were also included in their Writer's Glossaries in Module 1.
  • Invite students to turn to a partner and share the answer to the second question on their entry task:

*   "Think about a time that you were in an argument with someone. What causes an argument?"

  • Cold call a pair to share their thinking. Ideally, students will say: "We disagreed about something" or "We had different ideas."
  • Point out that argument in writing is not exactly the same thing as "having an argument" with a friend. It does involve possible disagreement, but it never involves anger or being upset. In fact, an argument in the sense we are talking about here is a clear, reasonable, logical development of a particular claim, with the goal of everyone seeing it as valid, even if they disagree with it.
  • Explain that in writing, there is a difference between argument and opinion. In speaking, we often say that we had an argument because we had a difference of opinion--but when we refer to writing, the meanings of the two words are different. Writing an opinion piece means that it's something a person believes, whether or not the author has evidence to prove it. However, in a written argument, the author will make a claim, support it with reasons, and prove his or her reasons with evidence. The author will also acknowledge that there is another valid point of view.
  • Let students know that today they will focus on understanding what it means to write an argument essay.
  • Distribute the Pygmalion Writer's Glossary. Ask students to look at the first page and put a star next to the words that appear in today's learning targets.
  • Tell students that in order for them to get ready to write their own essays, the lesson today will focus on understanding what it means to write an argument essay. They will begin working on their own essays in the next class.
  • Discussing and clarifying the language of learning targets helps build academic vocabulary.
  • For students who need more support in understanding the structure of an essay or who might benefit from a visual representation, consider adapting and posting the Building an Argument Essay supporting material and pointing to it during this explanation.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reading and Analyzing the Model Essay (15 minutes)

  • Ask students to meet with their selected Discussion Appointment partner. Distribute the Pygmalion Model Essay: Alfred Doolittle, The Same as Ever. Invite students to read along silently while you read the model aloud.
  • Ask students to turn to their partner and talk about the gist of the essay.
  • Explain that this is an argument essay, like the ones they will be expected to write. They will use this essay to help them understand how to make a claim and support it in an argument essay.
  • Ask students to reread the model essay, underlining the claim that the author makes and numbering the paragraphs that support the claim.
  • After about 5 minutes, refocus the class. Cold call pairs to share the model essay's claim and the reasons that support it. Listen for students to say:

-   "The claim is, 'Alfred Doolittle changes externally, but internally he does not change at all.'"

-   Reason in Paragraph 1: "In Act I, he is a strong character who demonstrates that he is selfish and self-absorbed."

-   Reason in Paragraph 2: "In Act 5, his external circumstances have changed, but he remains completely focused on his own wants and needs."

  • Point out that the essay uses only one reason but gives supporting evidence from the beginning and end of the play. This is necessary for an essay, which shows change over time (or no change over time) in a character.
  • Students who need substantial support with this writing assignment will be able to use the top of the anchor chart to create the introduction paragraph to their essays.

B. Discussing the Essay Prompt (15 minutes)

  • Distribute the Explanatory Essay vs. Argument Essay handout. Point out the argument essay prompt. Ask students to read along while you read the prompt aloud. Remind them that they will write an essay on Pygmalion based on this prompt (which they received in Lesson 12), and reinforce that this is the question they have been gathering textual evidence about throughout the unit. Their task now is to understand how this essay is going to be similar to and different from the essay they wrote on A Long Walk to Water.
  • Point out the title of the worksheet--Explanatory Essay vs. Argument Essay--and explain that students are going to work with their partner to compare and contrast the essay prompts.
  • Show the class the posted list of Similarities and Differences between Explanatory Essays and Argument Essays.
  • Tell students that they are going to work with their partner to sort these similarities and differences and write them on the Venn diagram on the Explanatory Essay vs. Argument Essay handout.
  • While students are working, circulate and check their progress. If they are stuck, consider asking:

*   "What did you need to do to address the prompt in your essay on A Long Walk to Water?"

*   "Based on the prompt for the essay on Pygmalion, what do you think you'll need to do to address this prompt?"

  • Once students have their Venn diagrams filled out, refocus whole class. Project a blank Venn diagram using the document camera. Cold call pairs to share something they included in their Venn diagrams. As students share, fill in the blank Venn diagram with similarities and differences between the explanatory essay and the argument essay. Encourage students to add to their own Venn diagrams as others in the class share their work.
  • When a student mentions, "In the essay you need to acknowledge that others might disagree with you," add it to the Venn diagram. Then, point out that this is known as acknowledging a counterclaim. Let students know that they will learn more about counterclaims in the next lesson.
  • If a student volunteers information that does not help the class understand the difference between the two essay types, thank the student for taking a risk and sharing, but do not add it to the Venn diagram.
  • Taking the time to explicitly teach students the expectations of a particular writing form gives all of them more opportunity to be successful, but it is particularly supportive of ELLs and others who need additional support.
  • If you identified students who need more support on their Eliza Character Trackers, consider working with a small group during this time.

Closing & Assessments


A. Review Learning Targets/Writing Improvement Tracker (5 minutes)

  • Distribute the Module 1 Reflections (from Module 1, Unit 3, Lesson 6) and the Writing Improvement Tracker.
  • Explain that this is a tracker to help students identify strengths and challenges they have in writing. They will continue to use this tracker for the rest of the year. For homework, they will review their Module 1 Reflections and fill in the tracker.
  • Have students conduct a "Fist to Five" assessment to see how well they felt they achieved their learning targets today.


  • Review your Module 1 Reflections and fill in the Writing Improvement Tracker.

 Note: Be prepared to hand back the students' Eliza Character Trackers with feedback in the next lesson.

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