Writing an Argument Essay: Planning the Essay | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2B:U2:L14

Writing an Argument Essay: Planning the Essay

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. (W.8.1)
  • I can produce clear and coherent writing that is appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (W.8.4)

Supporting Targets

  • I can select reasons and support them with evidence to support my claim about A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • I can explain how the details develop the reasons that support my claim.
  • I can acknowledge and respond to a counterclaim.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Exit ticket


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Entry Task: Writing Improvement Tracker (8 minutes)

     B.  Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

2.  Work Time 

     A.  Continuing to Plan the Essay (20 minutes)

     B.  Essay Plan Talk-through (10 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Debriefing Learning Targets (3 minutes)

     B.  Previewing Homework (2 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Revise the A Midsummer Night's Dream essay planner.

  • In this lesson, 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 work is to develop students' awareness of their strengths and challenges, as well as have them strategize to address their challenges. Self-assessment and goal-setting helps students take ownership of their learning. To begin, students will review the rubric from their essay in Module 1 and complete the Writing Improvement Tracker from Module 1. If rubrics from Module 1 are not available, distribute blank NYS Grades 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation Rubrics and ask students to recall as best they can.
  • Note that students' Module 1 essay was informative (aligned with W.8.2), whereas their Module 2B essay is an argument (aligned with W.8.1). Continue to make this distinction for students; this may be a point of confusion since both types of writing tasks are evaluated based on a very similar writing rubric.
  • In Work Time A, students craft a response to a counterclaim. This thinking is often hard for kids to do, so spending a bit of time with this particular paragraph in the model would be time well spent--looking at how the writer responds, the specificity of it, references made to text, and other defining features.
  • During Work Time B, consider working with students who still need help understanding what an argument essay is or how to write a claim with reasons and evidence for an argument essay.
  • In advance: Make sure students have access to their essay rubrics from Module 1. If the completed rubric is not accessible, provide a blank version of the rubric used in Module 1.
  • Review students' exit tickets from Lesson 13 to make sure all students are starting with appropriate claims and reasons.
  • Use the Rochester discussion partners today.
  • Review: Fist to Five in Checking for Understanding techniques (see Appendix). Notice any students who rate themselves with a two in the Fist to Five or lower on any of the learning targets and check in with them before they begin to draft their essay in the next class. 


claim, counterclaim


  • NYS Grades 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric (students' copies from Module 1, Unit 2, Lesson 11; or prepare clean copies)
  • Writing Improvement Tracker (one per student)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream model essay (from Lesson 11, one for teacher)
  • Document camera
  • Model essay planner (optional; only for students who need additional support)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Entry Task: Writing Improvement Tracker (8 minutes)  

  • As students enter the room, distribute the NYS Grades 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric (from Module 1) and the Writing Improvement Tracker.
  • Explain to students that this is a tracker to help them identify what strengths and challenges they have in writing. They will continue to use this tracker for the rest of the year.
  • Give students several minutes to reflect on and record their strengths and challenges from Module 1.
  • Then, ask students to turn to a partner and share:

*   "What is one strength and one challenge from your Module 1 essay?"

*  "How will knowing these strengths and challenges help you write your essay on A Midsummer Night's Dream?"

  • Developing self-assessment and reflection supports all learners, but research shows it supports struggling learners most.

B. Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Read the learning targets aloud and let students know that they will be working on planning their argument essays today.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Continuing to Plan the Essay (20 minutes)

  • Project a copy of the A Midsummer Night's Dream model essay on the document camera, andask students to get out their copies of the model essay. Read the introduction paragraph aloud as the students read along silently. After reading, ask students to turn and talk to an elbow partner about what the author does in the introduction. Cold call pairs to share their ideas. Listen for: "The author names the title of the play and the author," "The author introduces Puck and Helena, the two characters the claim is focused on," and "The introduction ends with the author's claim."
  • Read the three body paragraphs aloud while students read along silently. After reading, ask students to talk with their elbow partner about how this third body paragraph is different from the first two body paragraphs. Cold call pairs and listen for: "It focuses on a counterclaim," "The author gives a reason to support the counterclaim and develops it," and "The author responds to the thinking in the counterclaim with good thinking of his own."
  • Lastly, read the conclusion aloud while students read along silently. Ask students to talk with their partner about what the author does in the conclusion. Cold call pairs and listen for: "The author restates her claim" and "The author summarizes her reasons."
  • Remind students that they have started to work on planning the first two body paragraphs of their essay and now they will get the chance to plan the other paragraphs.
  • Ask students to get out their A Midsummer Night's Dream essay planners that they worked on for homework and their Supporting Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizers.
  • Circulate as students are working. Push students to be clear and explicit in their plan.
  • Graphic organizers provide the necessary scaffolding especially critical for learners with lower levels of language proficiency and/or learning.

B. Essay Plan Talk-through (10 minutes)

  • Invite students to meet with their Rochester Discussion Appointments to talk through their essay plans with their partners. Make sure that students know not to read straight from their plans; instead, they should tell their partner what their essay will be about and how they will develop their claim. Students should also present the counterclaim they will use and possible ideas for a counterclaim.
  • As students are working, circulate and listen. If a student is being unclear or imprecise, ask questions like: "How does that support your claim?" or "How are those ideas related?"
  • After students have had the chance to share, let them know that for homework they should revise the ideas in their essay planner to make sure their argument is logical and clear.
  • If students are ready for a challenge, push them to include four body paragraphs in their essay instead of three.
  • For students who may need more support planning their essay, a model essay planner (optional) is included in the supporting materials. Consider using it with individual students or small groups during this time to guide them through the process.
  • Giving students the opportunity to talk through their argument allows students to ensure that the ideas in their essay are logical and flow well. Students can also learn from each other and strengthen their own writing. 

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Debriefing Learning Targets (3 minutes)

  • Read the first learning target aloud. Ask students to rate their mastery of that learning target with the Fist to Five Checking for Understanding technique. Repeat for the other two learning targets as well:

* "I can select reasons and support them with evidence to support my claim about A Midsummer Night's Dream."

* "I can explain how the details develop the reasons that support my claim."

* "I can acknowledge and respond to a counterclaim."

  • Checking in with learning targets helps students self-assess their own learning. This research-based strategy supports struggling learners most.


  • Revise the A Midsummer Night's Dream essay planner.

Note: Lesson 15 is designed assuming that students will use computers to write the essay. Be sure to reserve laptops or the use of a computer lab, if necessary. If using computers is not possible in your classroom, consider giving students more time to handwrite their essays.

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