A collection of assertions is no more an argument than a pile of bricks is a building. Both must be planned, organized, and thoughtfully supported. Students rarely come into class with this skill.
The following is a lesson plan to help students internalize the process of building an argument through a series of steps employing verbal, auditory, and tactile skills. The product is an essay paragraph that supports an assertion with evidence and analysis. It can be modified for each of the Historical Thinking Skills of AP World History.
What you’ll need
Divide your class into groups of 2 or 3 and give each the following:
- Six colored 3×5 cards, 2 of each color.
- A pair of scissors (Alternately, you could pre-cut aligning slits on the top and bottom of the cards).
- Three highlighters in colors that match the colors of the cards.
- A task or question related to a Key Concept and one of the Historical Thinking Skills.
Directions: Students will discuss the research question in their group. They will make an assertion, brainstorm historical evidence for their assertion, then analyze their assertion. Using the cards, they will physically build an Argument Tower to support their assertion.
In the following example, the topic is the social structure of Classical Civilizations and the skill is Comparison.
At the top of one of their green 3×5 cards, someone writes the words “For example, ”
At the top of the red/pink card, someone writes “The reason for this is . . . ”
Students develop an assertion that states a similarity in the social structure of two classical civilizations. They write this assertion on the yellow card as shown below:
Next, students in each group must come up with concrete historical evidence to illustrate this assertion. These need to be content-specific vocabulary words. The group then composes the evidence portion of their tower to support the assertion.
Now students will analyze their assertion. This moves away from the WHAT and begins to explain the WHY. In short, students must make an argument from history about why these two civilizations are similar in their social structure. This goes on the last card after the words “The reason for this is . . .”
Now that students have made their assertion, evidence and analysis cards, they are ready to build their Argument Tower. The assertion must be supported by the other two components.
The Argument Tower becomes an important part of the essay providing supporting evidence and analysis. Students can make another argument on the backs of these cards. Here’s how this tower would look in an essay:
Once students have internalized the process of making argument towers, they can use the colored highlighters to identify these three components in their essays. The highlighter colors correspond to the cards they are used to writing on. The paragraph above, for example, would look like this,
Each essay should have a few argument towers. The colors help students understand that the assertions, evidence, and analysis are discrete components of an quality essay. And the practice of having them highlight their essays this way not only speeds the grading process but helps teachers identify which aspects of essay writing they need to remediate in class.
Hope this helps your students!