September 25, 2006

Argument Class

I've been going back and forth about how I want to blog my argument class this year. I am teaching an Introduction to Argument class for our homeschool cooperative. I have just 6 students (the class maximum size I was willing to have) all boys 7th-9th grade.

Typically I put full lesson plans or teaching outlines up for the classes I teach but I have decided against that for this particular class for a variety of reasons. Instead I guess I will just sum up what I teach each week. The main reason is far too much would get lost in the translation of my outlines and it would seem oversimplified. I would hate for someone to pick up one of my outlines and try to teach from it as it would be very difficult to do without my background and understanding of argument. Also so much of the class will be based around the particular arguments the students themselves choose.

So what is worth sharing here? I still feel some basic overview of what I teach is week would be useful atleast for my own record keeping if not for someone trying to get a full lesson plan out of it. This is the time when my blogs multiple functions come into play. While much of what I post is to help my readers find ideas and creative ways to share lessons some of it is also just to record our daily lives and lessons and things I want to remember how I did them.

All that being said my first argument class was a success and very fun to teach. I felt at home right away - teaching argument and debate is such a part of who I am and I love having an audience to listen to me when I talk about this topic. I could have been a "lifer" in debate were it not for how unfamily friendly the lifestyle of a debate coach is. It is no life to have with three small children and traveling every week and living and breathing debate for atleast 7 months of the year (often more months than that as well). So we both gave it up though we both loved it. It was the right choice but it is always exciting when I can have opportunities to share even little parts of it with others who are interested in the topic.

I began the class with a lot of talk about expectations and behaviors I wanted in the class as well as asking each student to tell me why they were taking the class. This turned out to be very informative to me and was a natural lead in for the topic of "What is Argument" I wanted the students to list a wide variety of answers and they did, including elements of argument and elements of fighting and everything in between. We also talked about the difference between a speech and an argument - where they can overlap and where they can differ. I also spent some time going through the difference between argument and debate and setting the expectation for what I want them to get out of the class when they are done.

The tricky part of teaching this particular class is that I only have 6 one hour sessions to teach a complex topic to relatively young students. My overall goal for the students is that they have a basic understanding of the elements that make up a good argument and an understanding of how to structure and write a good argument themselves. This may disappoint some who are hoping it will be about the competition or debate more than the construction of a good argument but in the end I think this approach will offer them the best basis in argument.

I used some sample arguments to demonstrate the basic elements that should be contained in any good argument. I used some ideas that would appeal to them (video games, tv shows and the like) as well as some real life examples of arguments that I have constructed on the fly to demonstrate the power of understanding how to construct argument.

For their first assignment they have to find a written argument that they feel demonstrates good argument and point out the elements of argument that we discussed. They also have to pick a topic for the entire class that they want to demonstrate through argument. For this next class they need to pick the topic and outline it using the elements of argument. I am looking forward to next week.


1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed your post, Tenniel. I'm about to do the same course with my Year 7 and 8 students (in Australia) - but for the very first time, so your concerns echoed many of mine. I'm curious to find out if you are going to teach the students some of the 'traditional' forms of argument - deductive and inductive reasoning, premises, inferences, conclusions, as well as Aristotle's pathos, ethos and logos notions. I'd really like to do this with my class, but I'm still struggling to find an entertaining, stimulating way to do this. Look forward to reading more of your posts!