English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Editing
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Self-portrait
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Writing An Effective Argument

    Writing An Effective Argument


    Today, you will demonstrate how much you know about writing an effective argument.

    In this lesson, you will administer a Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) to determine what students have learned about argument writing. Students will respond to a prompt, and then you will assess each student’s argument using the scoring guide. Students have had the opportunity to write an argument earlier in the year; this final assessment will show their growth as writers and their mastery of the genre. To see individual students’ progress in argument writing, compare the scoring guides from previous Cold Writes.


    • 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.

    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 know about argument writing. Then share your responses with the class.

    Benchmark (Cold Write): Argument Writing

    • Direct students to take the assessment. They will be responding to the following prompt:
    • People wonder if going to college is a good investment. Some think that the costs outweigh the benefits. Others think that the benefits outweigh the costs.
    • Kim thinks that attending college is worthwhile. Pat disagrees. Pat thinks that attending college does not pay off in the end.
    • Here are some facts about the topic. Assume they are all correct. Use this evidence to develop a cohesive essay that shows why either Kim or Pat is correct.
    • Your argument must use the information in these facts to support your claim. Your paper must also acknowledge a counterclaim. Present your reasoning in a clear and logical manner.
    • All figures reference 2010 or the 2010–2011 academic year unless otherwise noted.
    • 1. One year of college (including tuition, room, and board) costs on average $18,500.
    • 2. Over the last ten years, college costs have increased by 71 percent, much faster than the rate of inflation.
    • 3. About 40 percent of students who begin college do not graduate.
    • 4. Many students and their families take out loans to pay for the cost of college. These loans must be paid back, even if the student does not finish college, and in some cases end up totaling over $100,000.
    • 5. Adults (ages 25–45) with a college degree earn $45,000 on average, while those with only a high school diploma earn $30,000.
    • 6. Over a lifetime, the average college graduate earns $570,000 more than someone with only a high school diploma.
    • 7. Not all college degrees have the same earning potential. In 2009, college graduates who majored in early childhood education earned $36,000 on average, while those who majored in petroleum engineering earned $120,000 on average.
    • 8. For young (under 25) college graduates, the unemployment rate this year was 10 percent. For high school graduates it was 33 percent.
    • 9. There are some jobs that require a college degree, or even education beyond a college degree. Examples: teacher, accountant, engineer, doctor, lawyer.
    • 10. Today, 59 percent of jobs require a college degree. That is projected to grow to 63 percent by 2018.
    • If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.

    Work Time

    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.

    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.
    • Students have had opportunities to do argument writing throughout the year. Compare the information you gain from scoring this benchmark piece of writing with previous Cold Writes to see each student’s growth over time in the genre.


    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?

    Project Work

    • Check students’ Planning Calendar periodically so you have a sense of how they are progressing through the project.
    • Remind students that during the next lesson they will begin organizing their files for ease in uploading.


    Keep working on your self-portrait.

    • Continue collecting artifacts for the various chapters of your self-portrait, checking off items on your Self-Portrait Checklist as you go.
    • Log your progress in your Planning Calendar.