STUDY & TEACH "Writing argumentative compositions/essays" in Form Three - O Level English

STUDY & TEACH "Writing argumentative compositions/essays" in Form Three - O Level English

Welcome to UNIT 12.3

PREVIOUSLY: In Unit 12.2, the sub topic "Identifying non-factual information from the media" in Form Two was covered.                                               

IN THIS UNIT 12:3, "Writing argumentative compositions/essays" in Form Three will be covered.

(Also: For Literature in English Subject, Check out my Literature in English Blog. Also check out My Diary for Diary Writing Inspiration and More! )

Sub Topic: Writing argumentative compositions/essays.
Periods per sub topic: 14
Class: Form Three.

Presenting and defending an argument is a difficult task for anyone. It becomes even more difficult when you run out of evidences and appropriate expressions to defend your argument. That's why it's important to possess argumentation skills for the one who wants to successfully present and defend his/her argument. In this sub topic, students will learn how to present and defend an argument like in debates, dialogues, and essays, argumentative essays.

The student should be able to present contrasting views of a given topic. The student should be able to appropriately present the argument with contrasting views and be able to defend his/argument by applying appropriate expressions and techniques of handling contrasting views in oral or written form; argumentative essays.

This stage is about the preparation of the teacher before undertaking the lessons of the particular sub topic. These are all activities, procedures, materials, teaching aids, and games prepared by the teacher for teaching a sub topic:

  1.  Putting heads together. Introducing the topic/lesson properly. Organising how students will be able to get to know what is the topic/lesson about. It is where teacher makes sure that students are going to be in his/her train. It includes brainstorming and familiarisation of the topic/lesson with the students.
This makes students stay together with the teacher. It is at this stage students can understand what is going to be discussed in the particular topic.

  1. Preparation of Materials. A teacher has to decide on the teaching/learning materials he/she is going to use.
In this sub topic/lesson, a teacher has to prepare various realia, visual-audio models, model compositions/texts, dictionaries, as well as encyclopaedias.

  1. Target Practice. Show them/Guide them to the practice of the functions of the sub topic. A teacher has to show or guide students to the target practice of the grammatical functions of the sub topic.

In this sub topic/lesson, a teacher has to apply the mixed English tenses in order to test students on the ability to apply appropriate tenses in various writings like argumentative writings.

  1. Context-Based Practice. A teacher leads students to the discussion on how the target grammatical functions practised earlier can be applied or integrated into the contexts and situations. The students are guided by the teacher to apply the learnt skills in relevant contexts and situations like schools and homes. These are the contextual settings where students can apply argumentative skills.

  1. Vocabulary Building Practice. At this point, teacher discusses with the students on the vocabularies and phrases to apply in the already mentioned contexts and situations. In this sub topic/lesson the most commonly applied vocabularies are: Revise, edit, organise, brainstorm, feedback, drafting, compare, contrast. The students are introduced to these terms because they are necessary for writing various compositions.

Guide the students to the full lesson procedures, activities and games for the better understanding of the sub topic by following these activities:

Activity One: What is an argument? The students are guided by the teacher to brainstorm and discuss the important concepts of argumentation and how arguments are carried out in our daily life.
By definition, argument refers to a reason or question. Argumentation refers to the process of exchanging views by reasoning with advanced evidences.

There are three basics of logical argument:
Before discussing these three basic parts of logical argument, let us talk about proposition/argument itself. Proposition or argument is the statement which is either true or false. E.g. Humans are most reckless animals in the world. Girls should complete their studies even after unplanned pregnancies.

In argumentation, a proposition can be agreed or disagreed.
  • Those who agree, gather their evidences to support their view.
  • Those who disagree also gather their evidences to support their view.
  • Proposition is always open to debate.

Now, here are the three parts of any proposition/argument.
(i)                 The premise. The premise is an assertion/ point or statement necessary for the argument to continue. A writer must have strong evidences to support his/her assertion. These premises or assertions are mostly indicated by phrases like because, since, obviously, etc. Words like obviously, certainly, surely, etc. are used by writers to fool others to accept even dubious premises/assertions simply by trying to convince the readers that their premises are true and beyond doubt.
(ii)               Inferences. This is the part when the writer uses premises/assertions/points of argument he/she has stated to add more details in support of his/her proposition. Inferences are assertions that are entailed or implied. Inferences can be true or false as well. Phrases that are used in making inferences are: implies that, thus, or leads us to.
(iii)             Conclusion of a proposition. The conclusion of a premise or assertion of an argument comes or is reached by combining the premises and the inferences together. The validity of the conclusion rests on the underlying premises and inferences. Conclusions are often indicated by phrases such as therefore, in sum, it follows that, we conclude and so on.

Activity Two: Debate. The teacher provides the students with a topic to debate on. Students are guided to list the points for and against the topic. Here you may provide a topic, a controversial one, and allow them to form two sides. Let them choose the side just like the debate sides. At the end, you will tell them that this is an argumentative debate; the kind of debate that has two opposing sides. In this case, you will have introduced them to the meaning and contents of the topic/lesson they are going to learn.

An example of argument built on the topic; “Many Students Fail National Exams”.
Here are important parts of an argument like this:
  • Claim;
  • Argument/reason;
  • Evidence/data;
  • Explanation;
  • So what (outcome of evidence and examples given);
  • Counter - claim;
  • Rebuttal; and
  • Conclusion.

Note: Also in an argument there is no use of personal pronouns, and the tone is formal and serious.

An example of an argument: Many Students Fail National Exams

(CLAIM) Many students fail National exams. (REASON) They fail because of their poor preparations and lack of commitment to the studies. (EVIDENCE) In 2014, for example, more than 80% of failed students were those from schools with enough teachers. (EXPLANATION) If that is not enough, the teachers from those schools had finished all syllabus topics as required. (SO WHAT?) In this case, students are the reasons for the mass failures because they are not committed to what they are instructed by the teachers. (COUNTER-CLAIM) It may be true that students are the sources of the problem. However, teachers also contribute to the mass failures. Some of the teachers do not fulfil all syllabus requirements. (REBUTTAL) It is to say that, but when you look at the facts, most teachers perform their duties accordingly and as required. Students are at the core part of the problem. (CONCLUSION) Students and teachers may be part of the problem. But some critics argue that some parents, guardians, education systems, and the whole society are also part and parcel of the problem. Thus, it is strongly recommended that all education stakeholders should jointly work together to address and tackle the problem.

An example above can be outlined in an essay format as follows:
Best Argumentative Essay Outline

1) Introduction
b) Background information
c) Thesis statement and question sentence

2) Development of an Argument (Main body of any essay)
Claim/point 1
(For each of the claim/point: state the reason why this claim/point is supportive of the issue; give out evidences; explain the evidences; show the outcome of evidences and explanation you have given; and then conclude the claim/point)
Claim/point 2
(For each of the claim/point: state the reason why this claim/point is supportive of the issue; give out evidences; explain the evidences; show the outcome of evidences and explanation you have given; and then conclude the claim/point)
Claim/point 3
(For each of the claim/point: state the reason why this claim/point is supportive of the issue; give out evidences; explain the evidences; show the outcome of evidences and explanation you have given; and then conclude the claim/point)

3) Refuting Opponents’ Arguments
Opposing view/point 1
(For each of the counter-claim/point: state the reason why this counter-claim/point is supportive of the issue; give out evidences; explain the evidences; show the outcome of evidences and explanation you have given; and then conclude the counter-claim/point)

Opposing view/point 2
(For each of the counter-claim/point: state the reason why this counter-claim/point is supportive of the issue; give out evidences; explain the evidences; show the outcome of evidences and explanation you have given; and then conclude the counter-claim/point)

Opposing view/point 3
(For each of the counter-claim/point: state the reason why this counter-claim/point is supportive of the issue; give out evidences; explain the evidences; show the outcome of evidences and explanation you have given; and then conclude the counter-claim/point)

4) Conclusion
a) Restate the importance of your issue being discussed.
b) Paint a picture of the world depicting what would happen if your argument is (or is not) implemented. This is the reaction when in case the issued supported by the writer is not considered.

After introducing this outline, the teacher guides students to discuss the arguments presented in the above composition and the expressions used. In other words, students are given an opportunity to continue the discussion started by the teacher in above argument. For students, they should be in two groups; one group argue for students' responsibility in mass failures and another group argue for teachers' or education stakeholders' responsibility for mass failures.

Also the teacher can discuss with the students some important counterclaim sentence starters such as:
Others may say that but I argue...
Critics argue that...
While it might be true that..., still all in all...
A common argument against this position is...but...
It's easy to think ..., but when you look at the facts...
It may be true...however...
While some researches (researchers) say...nevertheless...
It is often thought...imagined...supposed...

Activity Three. A teacher provides another topic, and guide students to write an argumentative essay. The students will discuss their points and write an essay.
Encourage students to form pairs and get ready to write the first draft of an argumentative composition.

Give them the topic such as:
Topic: Early Pregnancies
Thesis Statement: Girls should be blamed for early pregnancies.

Ask students to follow the ‘Best Argumentative Essay Outline’ above and write an argumentative essay in pairs.
Ask them to:
Write an introduction
Develop Body paragraphs - arguments and counterarguments, and
Write a conclusion
Researches/References - if there's any.

Activity Four. 3. In this activity, teacher guides students to apply their skills on revising and editing their drafts. As they revise and edit, they should focus on the content of the topic. This means, students have to make sure that what they have included in the essay is what is required. They should not be in the common trap of writing their essays that are ‘Out of Point’ (OP).

Apart from guiding students to the revision of the essay’s content, a teacher can also guide students to the correct spelling and mechanical errors of the essay.

Activity Five. One last activity can be to ask students in pairs to exchange their essays for comments and corrections.
After that, students in pairs again, they get back their essays and enter corrections that have been made or identified by their fellows and write their final drafts. At the end of this activity, their full argumentative essay should at least look like this teacher's model below:
An Example of Teacher’s Model

Early pregnancies are the pregnancies that are conceived before the considerably right age for pregnancy. These pregnancies are sometimes referred to as unplanned or unexpected pregnancies, but they are generally childhood or underage pregnancies that have various implications in the society.

Some arguments that support the allegations that girls should be blamed for early pregnancies are based on the following reasons:
First, recklessness. Most girls are reckless when it comes to love affair. They do not care about their health and probability of being impregnated.

Second, lack of education. Most girls they do not have adequate education on the things about sex. Most do not understand even their menstrual cycle trends.

Also ignorance. Some of the girls are ignorant of the ways used to protect themselves from getting early pregnancies.

Poverty is also another cause. Being poor is one of the core causes of the various early pregnancies cases. Girls have their needs, and when they are not fulfilled they tend to find another way.

However, there are some counterarguments to these reasons discussed above. Those who argue against say girls are not to be blamed for early pregnancies. Here are their claims:
Moral decay. This has been a major factor in these modern days. Most of the modern societies have been morally hit and it is in these societies where these girls live.

Peer pressure. Peer influence is another source of early pregnancies. Most girls are merely influenced by their friends in this messy. Then, the girls who have no confidence are plunged into this trap of early pregnancies.

Unchecked upbringing. Some of the girls are not in good environments for their upbringing. This especially happens to the orphans and others of the same kind.

Therefore, the girls should be give right education for their biological development and they should also be taught to possess good morals and restrain for peer pressure.

Our societies are full of arguments on various contexts. People also raise various arguments on various topics especially the hot topics of the societies. All arguments and people who present them may become weak or strong according to the mode of presentation.
Ask students where they commonly find arguments. Ask them to mention some of the hot topics they once came across in their experiences. Ask them to discuss in groups or pairs about the topic they often experience. Once they find some common topics, a teacher may guide them to discuss or arrange a debate. However, this activity of selecting some common topics will show them that arguments are relevant in their societies as well.

A teacher uses or applies the various assessment tools such as oral questions and answers, assignments and exercises in order to check if the student is able to present contesting views of a given topic.

Assessment 01
Present an argument like: 'Schools should have no holidays'. Divide the class in two sides and allow them to contribute from each side. It's just a debate! This will test them if they can express contrasting views. Encourage them to apply correct expressions. There should be a winner.

Assessment 02
Also a teacher may give students the task of writing an argumentative essay like: 'Private schools and government schools both have blessings and curses'. This question can also test them.

Summarise the sub topic by telling the students the importance of having argumentation skills in life. Allow them to provide their views if they have. Tell them that argumentation skills can help them in various fields like in an interview, public speaking, and in other areas.

NOTE: These stages explained above are not necessarily covered in a single lesson of single or double period. Remember that this is the guide for teaching the whole sub topic which has periods ranging from 6 to 20. So, the teacher's task is to divide these stages according to the total number of periods for a particular sub topic.

Check out how to Study & Teach other Form Three Sub Topics in this Blog!

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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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