In this lesson, you will administer a Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) to determine what students already know about argument writing. Students will respond to a prompt, and then you will assess each student’s argument, using the scoring guide, as a measure of early work. Students will have opportunities to write arguments throughout the year, during which they will have instruction on how to revise and edit their pieces. The information you gain from scoring this benchmark piece of writing will guide you in tailoring your writing instruction to individual student needs.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- Familiarize yourself with the writing prompt and the scoring guide.
- If you have students on an IEP or other accommodations, check to see whether they receive extended time or need an alternative test setting. Work with the professional supporting SWDs to make sure student needs are met.
- The recommended time for argument Benchmark Assessments (Cold Writes) is 45 minutes. Depending upon your circumstances, you may have to come up with ways to extend your class period in order to allow students enough time.
- Prepare activities for students who finish early.
Section 1: Argument Writing
- Allow students to recall what argument writing entails.
- This is the time to mine for misconceptions—for instance, that an argument is a fight, a battle, or a big disagreement between people.
- Ask students to share what they already know about argument writing.
- In the next task, students will take the assessment. Be prepared to do the following:
- ✓ Answer any questions that are not of a substantive nature, providing no additional guidance about the prompt.
- ✓ Do a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down check to ensure that students understand the prompt and are ready to begin writing. Remind students that they will have 45 minutes to write.
- ✓ Tell students to begin working. When the allotted time has elapsed, tell students to stop working.
- ✓ If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.
Take a minute to consider what you already know about argument writing. Then share your responses with the class.
Section 2: Benchmark (Cold Write): Argument
- Direct students to take the assessment. They will be responding to the following prompt:
- ✓ Some people are in favor of the method of getting natural gas that is called fracking.
- ✓ Other people believe do not support using the fracking method.
- ✓ Alicia believes that the United States should continue the use of fracking. Cindy disagrees. Cindy believes that the United States should discontinue the use of fracking.
- ✓ Here are some facts about the topic. Assume they are all correct. Use this evidence to develop a cohesive essay that shows why either Alicia or Cindy is correct.
- ✓ Your argument must use the information in these facts to support your claim. Your paper must also acknowledge a counter claim. Present your reasoning in a clear and logical manner.
- Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is a method of extracting natural gas. It is a newer, unconventional method that allows access to deeper reserves of natural gas that were previously inaccessible.
- Natural gas is a fossil fuel and accounts for one-quarter of total U.S. energy consumption. Other fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum (oil) account for 58 percent. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, and nuclear power account for a small fraction of energy consumption.
- The United States consumes more energy than it produces. 22 percent of our energy is imported.
- One-third of the energy the United States imports is oil from countries in the Middle East.
- About 10 percent of natural gas is imported. Almost all imported natural gas comes from Canada.
- Energy consumption in the United States is projected to grow for at least the next 25 years.
- Natural gas burns more cleanly than coal and oil, producing less emissions.
- Fracking just one well typically requires 2 million to 4 million gallons of water and toxic chemicals.
- Almost all new natural gas wells dug today utilize fracking methods.
- Studies have shown that fracking contaminates drinking water close to natural gas wells. Chemical spills and gas leaks also increase the risk of fires and explosions.
- Areas with natural gas wells have increased amounts of hazardous air pollutants.
- Few studies have been done on the health risks of chronic exposure to natural gas in the air.
- Fracking is specifically exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other government regulations.
- Fracking and other unconventional methods have increased the ability to access natural gas reserves by 35 percent.
- If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.
Now you will write an argument. Remember that an argument is a text that provides claims and gives evidence to support them. It also deals with opposing or alternative counterclaims.
- You will be given a set of facts to base your argument upon. Assume that all the facts given are true; develop your argument on the basis of the evidence provided in those facts. Your argument must use the information in these facts to support your claim. Your argument must also acknowledge a counterclaim. Present your reasoning in a clear and logical manner.
You will have 45 minutes to write your argument.
Section 3: Benchmark (Cold Write): Argument
- If there’s time, ask students to form pairs and answer the prompt. Have pairs share their thoughts with the class.
- After class, assess each student’s argument piece by using the scoring guide. Students will have opportunities to write argument texts throughout the year, during which they will have instruction on how to revise and edit their pieces. The information you gain from scoring this benchmark piece of writing will guide you in tailoring your writing instruction to individual student needs.
Consider the argument you just made. Turn to a partner and respond to this prompt.
- How difficult would it have been for you to argue the opposing claim? Why?