A Late August Text on Rhetorical Forms in Argumentation

At my school, teachers in all four common branch subjects assign research papers as a matter of academic routine. Unfortunately, as far as I’ve seen and therefore know, nobody on the faculty has developed explicit instructions and materials teaching the numerous skills involved in assembling research, let alone judging, organizing and synthesizing it. Nor does anyone teach argumentation (I assume it goes without saying that we have no debate or forensics team), a key skill for composing a synthetic research paper.

For years, this rankled me as the bad practice it clearly is. Last year, I finally resolved to do something about it: I wrote this unit plan on argumentation, which I titled “Arguing Your Case.” All of this work is adapted, as the unit plan explains in its “Methods and Materials” section,  from Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s excellent manual They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (New York: Norton, 2017). As I write this, the Third Edition lies before me on my desk; this is a textbook, evidently, that will go into numerous editions.

But the gravamen of the book–using basic rhetorical figures to structure argumentative discourse–will certainly remain the same. I’ve already posted the first two lessons from this unit (you’ll find them here and here). Here is the third lesson plan from the “Arguing Your Case” unit, this one on using the “They say” and “Standard views” procedure for laying out, in one’s argument, the current research, conventional wisdom, or what have you, on a particular subject. I use this context clues worksheet on the noun discourse to open this lesson, Finally, here is the combination of a learning support and worksheet that students use to get a sense of how to perform the academic task at hand.

I wrote this unit for more advanced students than I usually teach. If you plan to use this material with struggling learners, particularly kids with low levels of general or academic literacy, you will almost certainly need to edit the texts in the worksheet, which, frankly,  I cribbed from The New York Review of Books.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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