Student Imagination

Across the junior high and high school, all English Language Arts teachers engaged in a movie poster assignment. Students were invited to use their imaginations through the phases leading to the creation of the final product, and they could build off of a preexisting movie or entirely come up with their own. This represented an opportunity to practice submitting a proposal to the teacher, accepting feedback on a rough draft, and making modifications for a final draft to be displayed publicly within the school. It was also meant to simply incorporate creativity and fun into the classroom.

The level of student commitment was very high for this project. A large wall in the junior high is covered with posters, along with portions of the library paneling, and some of the walls in the high school are decorated, too. More than one teacher was seen looking at the results between classes, and even after school, students could be heard at teachers' doors asking those mentors to come into the hallway and see what the students had displayed.

During quarter two, across both schools, many students will be trying out their argumentative writing skills. Although this learning opportunity may appear very different on the surface, it has similar elements incorporated into the process. Student creativity is involved during the brainstorming phase and at every turn of writing. Plus, the assignment involves multiple drafts and the incorporation of peer and adult feedback.

Within the United States school system, there are two main types of persuasive writing: opinion and argumentative writing. Opinion writing is most closely aligned to what used to be called persuasive writing, and argumentative writing seems to be its own thing.

According to ReadWriteThink.org, one of the primary differences between persuasive and argumentative writing is willingness to consider the other side's position. Persuasive writing relies heavily on emotional appeals and convincing readers of one's own side. In contrast, argumentative writing involves looking at multiple perspectives and acknowledging counterarguments. Logos, or logic, is the emphasis of argumentative writing. Contrary to the sound of the words persuasive and argumentative, the latter method is considered less aggressive because it emphasizes incorporating evidence. However, with both types of writing, students defend their positions. 

When a student transitions from 5th to 6th grade, that child is expected to build off of his or her persuasive writing experiences and enter into the world of argumentative writing.

This year in Mrs. Dyas' junior high and high school classes there will be three essential questions, one for each grade taught. Students are invited to brainstorm and discuss multiple perspectives as they explore these essential questions. Many students like to connect with each other, their families, and sometimes others invested in their education as they develop and refine their arguments. After doing their research, which may involve conducting interviews, junior high and high school students use their skills to make a stand and articulate their positions. This year, students in Mrs. Dyas’ classes should frame their arguments around the following:

  • A Case for Invention, ELA 7: What invention has significantly improved the U.S. since the 1800s?
  • Community Controversy, ELA 8: What do people in our community disagree about?
  • Dramatic Performance, ELA 10: Which foreign drama (or movie) changed the U.S.?

This quarter of argumentative writing is an invitation to speak calmly together on topics that sometimes evoke strong emotions. Multiple smaller practice assignments will lead up to the culminating pieces that students write in response to the three essential questions. May the outcome be as positive as the quarter one poster displays!