The main purpose of the writing instruction in our junior curriculum is to prepare students to write an argumentative essay. We often jump right in, trying to train our students to plug their ideas into a pre-made template or formula. For example: Attention getter + Attention Holder + Thesis + Preview statement = Introductory paragraph. This type of instruction often leads to formulaic writing that often doesn’t make sense as a whole. By beginning with a simpler form of writing, such as the narrative, and progressing to more complex forms before the argumentative, we can develop our students into stronger writers who are prepared to write for any situation.
To begin we introduce the levels of writing by having the students apply a single subject to the six tiers of writing. I have chosen to create these tiers based on the six purposes of writing Kelly Gallagher identifies in his book, Write Like This.
Express and Reflect – narrative writing based on personal experiences
Inform and Explain – expository writing that states a main idea and purpose
Evaluate and Judge – focuses on the “worth” of something, a review
Inquire and Explore – uses research to wrestle with a question or problem
Analyze and Interpret – uses research to analyze subjects that are difficult to understand
Take a Stand / Propose a Solution – argumentative essay of persuasion
Using the chart from Gallagher’s Book as inspiration, I have modified a top-down example with the Chicago Blackhawks as my writing topic. Carol Ann Tomlinson uses the ladder approach in order to get students to climb to the higher levels of learning. But for upper-classmen, I feel starting with the easiest on top and moving to more difficult levels below just works better.
The idea is that once students have applied the topic of their choosing to the chart, they can start at the writing level they feel comfortable. Once they successfully complete the assignment, their next writing assignment will be required to be completed on the next higher tier. Students who have already mastered narrative and expository writing can explore more creative options once they reach the highest tier of argumentative writing.
Below is an example of how to complete the template:
Topic of choice: Chicago Blackhawks
Express and Reflect
How I became a hockey fan
Game 5 vs Nashville
Watching them win the Stanley Cup
Inform and Explain
Who are the Original Six?
History of the Blackhawks
Penalties of Hockey
Evaluate and Judge
Best offensive player on the team
Best defensive player on the team
Blackhawks vs the rest of the league
Inquire and Explore
How was the game invented?
How did it become a professional sport?
How did they lose an entire season to a strike?
Analyze and Interpret
Why did the Blackhawks finally win a Stanley Cup?
Why did the city ignore the team during the 90’s?
Why did the team fall short last season?
Take a Stand / Propose Solution
More high schools should sponsor Hockey teams
Games should not end in shootouts
Parks should create rinks in the winter