Unit 5: Argumentative Writing

Unit 5: Argumentative Writing

Welcome to our fifth writing unit of the school year. Below you will find a detailed description of each element, which you can customize to make your own unit. To learn more, visit our writing curriculum overview.

Right now, the concept of “student voice” is having a moment.

Thanks to the work of people like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg, the Parkland students and the teenagers in the streets of Hong Kong, the power young people can wield when they stand up for a cause is clear. And the fact that many members of Gen Z, the most ethnically and racially diverse generation the United States has ever seen, will vote for the first time this year, makes those voices even more critical. As the Times video above puts it: “We wanted to know what young Americans think. After all, they’ll get to decide the direction of this country.”

On our site, we’ve been offering teenagers ways to tell the world what they think for over 20 years. Our student writing prompt forums encourage them to weigh in on current events and issues daily, while our Student Editorial Contest has offered an annual outlet since 2014 for formalizing those opinions into evidence-based essays.

Now we’re bringing together all the resources we’ve developed along the way to help students figure out what they want to say, and how to say it effectively.

Here is what this unit offers, but we would love to hear from both teachers and students if there is more we could include. Let us know in the comments, or by writing to LNFeedback@nytimes.com.

How young is too young to use social media?

Should students get mental health days off from school?

Is $1 billion too much money for any one person to have?

These are the kinds of questions we ask every day on our site. In 2017 we published a list of 401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing. This year, we’ve followed it up with 130 more, all drawn from our daily Student Opinion column.

Teachers tell us their students love looking at these lists, both to inspire their own writing and to find links to reliable sources about the issues that intrigue them. In fact, every year we get many contest submissions that grow directly out of these questions. Several, like this one, have even gone on to win.

But even if you’re not participating in our contest, you might use these prompts to invite the kind of casual, low-stakes writing that can help your students build skills — in developing their voices, making claims and backing them up with solid reasoning and evidence.

And, if your students respond to our most recent prompts by posting comments on our site, they can also practice making arguments for an authentic audience of fellow students from around the world. Each week we choose our favorites to honor in our Current Events Conversation column.

Over the years, we’ve published quite a few lesson plans to support our Editorial Contest — so many, in fact, that we finally rounded them all up into one easy list.

In “10 Ways to Teach Argument-Writing With The New York Times,” you’ll find resources for …

  • Exploring the role of a newspaper opinion section

  • Understanding the difference between fact and opinion

  • Analyzing the use of rhetorical strategies like ethos, pathos and logos

  • Working with claims, evidence and counterarguments

  • Helping students discover the issues that matter to them

  • Breaking out of the “echo chamber” when researching hot-button issues

  • Experimenting with visual argument-making

You probably already know that you can find arguments to admire — and “writer’s moves” to emulate — all over the Times Opinion section. But have you thought about using the work of our previous Student Editorial Contest winners as mentor texts too?

Here are ways to use both:

The culmination of this unit? Our Seventh Annual Student Editorial Contest, of course.

This year we have both high school and middle school categories, and you can find all the information you need, plus the entry form, here.

As always, all student work will be read by our staff, volunteers from the Times Opinion section, and/or by educators from around the country. Winners will have their work published on our site and, perhaps, in the print New York Times.