Mini-Units

National Writing Project College-Ready Writers Program
ARGUMENT MINI-UNITS

What is a mini-unit?

The mini-units are 4-6 class period sequences of instruction that include reading and writing of arguments, a sample text set, and, in most cases, selections of annotated student writing exemplars. Each mini-unit helps students use argument writing to participate in a conversation about an issue that has legitimate, multiple points of view. The mini-units develop knowledge of claims, the use of sources, and reasoning, and they scaffold students’ drafting, revising, and publishing their arguments. The mini-units are designed to be taught as one part of a larger instructional plan that focuses on creating and fostering a culture of argument, and in consort with other parts of the CRWP, including routine argument writing, on-demand writing, and extended argument.

Why mini-units?

The leadership team of the College-Ready Writers Program, themselves National Writing Project teacher leaders, designed mini-units to provide teachers and students with a series of entry points to writing arguments. Students begin the year writing arguments, giving teachers a chance to study student writing and determine next instructional steps. Since the mini-units are organized around specific skills, teachers choose mini-units that meet the specific needs of their students. By carefully sequencing these resources, teachers can help students acquire deeper and more sophisticated skills.

How to use this chart:

  • This chart assists teachers, schools, and NWP sites in selecting and sequencing mini-units based on skills and specific instructional goals. Each of the mini-units takes students through the writing process to some degree, including planning, drafting, revising, and the potential for developing informal writing to a formal product. No one mini-unit teaches students everything they need to know about writing arguments; instead each mini-unit focuses on a specific set of skills identified by the title. Because each unit is focused on a different area of emphasis, the unit set provides multiple entry points to develop and stretch student skills with argument. The chart is organized from left to right, beginning with a focus on the area of emphasis and argument skills in each mini-unit. The last column in the chart provides a sample text set.
  • This chart is not meant to suggest that a teacher should move from top to bottom through the sequence of mini-units, but rather that the selection and sequencing of mini-units can depend upon a variety of factors such as students’ experience with entering skills, area of emphasis, written product, student engagement, or need to reteach or go deeper into an area of emphasis.
  • One primary function of this chart is to identify Next Steps based on a needs assessment, the Using Sources Tool, or another protocol for looking at student work.
  • Definitions of Key Terms:
    • Entering Skills: Skills that students should have experience with prior to beginning the mini-unit.
    • Foundational Skills: Essential skills that are transferable across argumentative tasks and that are likely to be circled back upon multiple times over the course of a year or years.
    • Going Deeper: More complex and nuanced skills that take the Foundational Skills to the next level.

To access each mini-unit resource, click on the title.

  WRITING READING  
TITLE and EMPHASIS
# of Lessons
*Resources
ARGUMENT SKILLS PRODUCT ELEMENTS OF ARGUMENT CLOSE READING STRATEGIES RESPONSE TO READING SAMPLE TEXT SETS
MAKING INFORMAL ARGUMENTS

Develop strategies to read, synthesize, & use evidence

4 Lessons

Entering Skills:
  • Recognize argument is everywhere
  • Write to explore
Foundational Skills:
  • Explore an issue to make a claim
  • Identify evidence
  • Integrate sources
Guided flash draft: layered writing & additions
  • Claim
  • Evidence
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, & countering
  • Coding
  • Loop Writing
  • Quick write
  • Sentence stems
  • Star & jot
  • Layering or adding to writing with sources
Reality TV

4 shared readings: image and print
WRITING INTO THE DAY TO JUMPSTART ARGUMENT

4 Lessons
 
 
 
 
Entering Skills:
  • Recognize claims
  • Identify potential evidence
Foundational Skills:
  • Describe a conversation among nonfiction sources
  • Craft a claim with supporting evidence
Multi-paragraph first draft
  • Claim
  • Evidence
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, borrowing, extending, & countering
  • Text and marginal annotations
  • Write informally responding to text
  • Draw a simple graphic & write to explain
School Start Time

4 shared readings: print 
CONNECTING EVIDENCE TO CLAIMS

4 Lessons
*PowerPoint
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Entering Skills:
  • Annotating text
  • Drafting a claim
  • Identifying evidence (quotations, facts, and statistics) to support the claim
Foundational Skills:
  • Tying evidence to the claim
  • Explaining its relevance
Going Deeper:
  • Authorizing
  • Countering
Multi-paragraph draft with layered returns to revise
  • Claim
  • Evidence
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, & countering
  • Guided evidence analysis
  • 3-column argument planner
  • PQP feedback
Fast Food

4 shared texts: video & print - whole text & excerpts
FOCUS ON EVIDENCE

6 Lessons
*PowerPoint
 
 
 
Entering Skills:
  • Ability to draft from notes and annotations
Foundational Skills:
  • Explore an issue to make a claim
  • Identify evidence and explain its relevance
Multi-paragraph revised draft
  • Claim
  • Evidence
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, & countering
  • Text and marginal annotation
  • Watching with a Quote in Hand
  • Paired Reading Protocol
  • Read, Write, Pair, Share
  • Slice-the-Pie Discussion
  • Partner notes
  • Save the last word for me
Online Privacy

7 shared & choice readings: print - whole text & excerpts

Optional video
RANKING EVIDENCE

Evaluate quality & relevance of evidence to support a claim

6 Lessons
*Unit Plan Document
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Entering Skills:
  • Explore an issue to make a claim
  • Identify evidence
  • Integrate sources
Foundational Skills:
  • Identify ways to use sources
  • Rank evidence
  • Draft based on evidence
Going Deeper:
  • Identify limitations of evidence for countering
  • Process analysis of use of evidence and sources
Multi-paragraph first draft

Optional revision after unit
  • Claim
  • Evidence
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, & countering
  • Mining a Text - annotating evidence
  • Rank and Sort
  • Jigsaw note catcher
  • Tap-out discussion
  • Exit Ticket
  • 3-2-1 protocol
Nutrition and Schools

9 shared & choice readings: infographics and print

5 shared readings: visual & print
MAKING THE CASE IN AN 
OP-ED

Develop a line of reasoning & relationships to connect evidence

5 Lessons
*PowerPoint
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Entering Skills:
  • Identify and rank evidence
  • Identify ways to use sources
  • Draft based on evidence
Foundational Skills:
  • Identify elements of a purposeful Op-Ed
  • Develop claims & counters
  • Develop pairs of related evidence (sets)
  • Plan and draft a purposeful argument
Going Deeper:
  • Analyze process & decisions for line of reasoning

NOTE: To support students who struggle with identifying evidence beyond a for or against position, you might insert lesson 3: Rethinking Organization of Evidence from Organizing Evidence after Lesson 1: Jigsaw Research

Op-Ed

Prompted multi-paragraph first draft

Optional revision after unit
  • Claim
  • Counterclaim
  • Evidence
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, & countering
  • Loop Writing
  • Coding: Ranking & Key Words
  • Jigsaw note- catcher
  • Drafting planner
  • Join the Conversation: Reflective Questions and Current Claim
Driverless Cars

7 shared & choice readings: video, infographic, & print
COMING TO TERMS WITH OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS

Come to terms with multiple views and countering

6 Lessons
*Website
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Entering Skills:
  • Identify claims & evidence
  • Identify elements of a purposeful argument
  • Identify & rank evidence
Foundational Skills:
  • Writing nuanced claims
  • Countering opposing viewpoints
  • Comparing purposeful arguments across texts
Going Deeper:
  • Coming to Terms to create nuanced arguments
  • Creating a respectful, academic argument
  • Allowing credible evidence to shift writer's perspective
Op-Ed

Prompted Multi-paragraph first draft

Optional revision after draft
  • Claim 
  • Counterclaim
  • Evidence
  • Commentary
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, extending, & countering 
  • Annotation
  • Claims
  • Evidence
  • Commentary
  • Coding
  • Purposeful argument
  • Revision
  • Jigsaw note catcher
  • Planning a purposeful argument document
  • Claim development tool
  • Working w/sources: terms, vocabulary, coding
Use of Police Force

4 shared readings: print
TEACHING ON-DEMAND ARGUMENT WRITING
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Entering Skills:
  • Identify claims & evidence
  • Develop claim and support it with evidence from multiple readings
Foundational Skills:
  • Quickly construct a claim & find supporting evidence in nonfiction readings
Going Deeper:
  • Writing commentary on evidence that connects with a thoughtful claim
  • Quickly organizing a written argument so it builds
On-demand multi-paragraph
  • Claim
  • Evidence
  • Structure: Introduction & Conclusion
  • Use of sources: illustrating, authorizing, countering, & extending
  • Text and marginal annotation
  • Reading to quickly discern a topic
  • Selecting evidence
Wild Horses

6 readings: print and graphic



Funding for the National Writing Project’s College-Ready Writers Program is provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Competition Program, with additional funding from The Rural School and Community Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
June 2015
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