Teaching Argumentative Writing

Writing is a process involving close reading, brainstorming, developing an argument, formulating a coherent structure, and drafting and revising.  The information below helps you focus on teaching each part of the writing process to your students.

Developing Ideas

These resources help you work with students to generate and develop ideas, use source texts, and give structure to developing ideas.


Structure and Organization

Drafting, Revising, Editing

For ideas on using peer reviews for teaching the writing of argumentative papers, see "Peer Review and Collaboration" from the Teaching your Course section of this website.

Grammar and Style

Grammar sometimes frightens new teachers of writing as much as it frightens students.  Will I know what to mark?  How much to mark? Edit?  There is no one answer, but there is a good guideline: the Golden Rule.  “Do unto others…” and remember how you read papers as a student when you got them back.  You did not read every mark that indicated a grammar problem, pick up a handbook, and try to fix the problem. Or if you did, you weren’t well-liked by your classmates.

Mark representative errors, underline or circle some repeats of the same ones, and indicate in your end comments on a paper what the issues are.  If a paper is covered with marks from front to back, students won’t read them, and won’t learn from them.  By the same token, students want to believe that if there are no marks on a page, it must be fine.  So be sure to spell out the problems in your end comments.

Make sure you and your students have a common understanding of any terminology you’re using.  Don’t assume they know what “subordination” means.

Some small editing is ok, but resist the temptation to rewrite.  As often as not, you’ll rewrite a student’s paragraph to say what you want to say, not what the student wants to say.  On the other hand, during office hours, you can often productively edit together with a student.

“Teaching” grammar in class is mostly a thing of the past—drills, conjugations, etc.  But dealing with grammar in class is very much alive and important.  If your students as a group have a problem with a particular aspect of grammar, you should address it in class.  But most good grammar instruction comes from looking at student work and published essays, and discussing how the grammar works as part of the whole communication.