15 Great Resources for Teaching Controversy, Rhetoric, and Argument Writing

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argumentI’m a firm believer in the notion that opinionated kids are the most important resources for argument writing, so when it comes to coaching this form in classrooms, early conversations are often about inciting passion and letting kids talk about what matters…..to them.

Experience has taught me that most don’t care to write about school uniforms, cell phone use, or cyber bullying, and when they are asked to write about these things, what emerges is typically uninspired. They have a lot to say about a lot of other things though, and they’re eager to research and learn more about issues that really mean something to them. Ready to support these kinds of writers in your classroom?

Here are 15 great resources for teaching controversy, rhetoric, and argument writing:

Those who need inspiration or provocation can find both at Pro/Con, Debate.org, Questia, Intentious, and Opposing Views.

Virtual Salt provides a handbook of rhetorical devices, and I’m a pretty big fan of Your Logical Fallacy Is too. Take a long look at the posters and tools provided there.

Educating students in confirmation bias and providing them tools to identify and curb it are important.

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project shares this resource, which reflects their efforts to coach argument protocols through workshop. I appreciate the scaffolding inherent in this approach and think that elementary and middle school teachers will as well. This approach could also be adapted for use with high school students who might lack experience.

This piece can help writers distinguish persuasive writing from opinion.

Want to make arguments and evidence visible? Try making a Tug of War board for your classroom.

American Rhetoric includes several archives, including one packed full of resources for scholars interested in understanding what rhetoric is and another that includes famous historical speeches perfect for mentor text studies.

This entry in Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a carefully crafted and comprehensive overview of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Attending to the work’s influence on argument, reasoning, and language, it’s heady stuff that scholars and researchers might appreciate.

Hepzibah Roskelly tells us what students need to know about rhetoric using language that is tight, engaging, and quick to read. It’s written specifically for teachers and offers some helpful perspective to those approaching this work in classrooms.

And if you are looking for a conversation starter about the importance of argument, research, and the reason why we pursue this kind of thinking and writing, you’ll want to take a peek at Taylor Mali’s bit: Like Lily, Like Wilson.


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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.

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