Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our 5th Graders LOVE to argue!

Argument writing is always a challenging unit for 5th grade. A lot of the kids love to argue but they have a hard time defending their argument with solid evidence. In this unit, students are asked to write an argument piece on whether or not chocolate milk should be served in school. When we introduced this topic, the students immediately got fired up and had very strong opinions about it.

The most difficult part of this unit is to get them to defend their claim using research, and also analyzing that research to best support their reasons. We started by stating a claim and giving three reasons to support that claim. Then the students started to draft based on their knowledge of the topic and articles that we read as a class. A lot of the students were easily able to give their reasons and provide research-based evidence to defend them, but the struggle came when we asked them to analyze the evidence and explain their thinking to create a more powerful voice to their writing. In order to do this, the students have to consider a few things: Why did I include this evidence? How does this evidence relate back to my claim? What makes this evidence so important?

Here is a sample of a 5th grader's writing notebook. It is amazing to see the way their brains work and how they organize, draft, and revise their pieces.

Although we are only approaching the second bend in this unit, we have seen some tremendous work from our kids. The next step to take in our writing is to consider counter-arguments that will help enhance our arguments. You can see that the student above has already done this by stating, "Some people might say that chocolate milk is unhealthy compared to white milk but..."

Here is a paragraph taken from another students' writing:

Isn’t it ridiculous how much sugar is in flavored milk? Flavored milk has way too  much sugar in it. It has around 30 grams of sugar according to the text, Chocolate Milk, More Harmful than Healthful. That's over 20% more sugar than a can of soda! That is enough sugar to get you sick.  Did you know 57 tons of sand is the same amount of sugar an average child gets every week, just from flavored milk? That’s enough sugar to fill a bus!  According to Jamie Oliver, “Chocolate milk has as much sugar as a candy bar.” So, when you are considering a glass of flavored milk, remember flavored milk has as much sugar as a classic Hershey chocolate bar! An average container of white milk contains vitamin D, vitamin A, and Vitamin B. It also contains minerals like potassium. White milk has all of these healthy, and organic nutrients. Meanwhile flavored milk has 160 calories, according to And research shows in the article 3 Good Reasons Why Milk Needs to be Removed from School Lunches, “Flavored milk is an excuse to sneak in sugar.” That’s like saying a chocolate bar is healthy. No way! Now you know why flavored milk has way too much sugar in it.

It is interesting to see both sides of the argument in the classroom and to hear the evidence and reasoning of each child. This is a powerful and fun unit to teach, and as we all know... Fifth graders LOVE to argue!

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