Facebook Argumentation - Central Utah Writing Project

Toulmin’s Theory of Argumentation
with an authentic audience
• How can I get my students to care about what they are writing?
Jeff Wilhelm is always talking about how students need an
authentic audience and a reason to complete an assignment or
project. That reason needs to transcend a “grade”.
• Teachers should not be the sole recipient of students’ completed
work. CUWP: Summer Institute teaches that students need
opportunities to be published.
• How can I encourage students to stop writing for me (the
teacher) and to truly consider their audience?
• Answer: By giving them real audience to consider in a forum that is almost
universally familiar: FACEBOOK.
• The new core greatly stresses the use of argumentation
verses persuasion. As a department, we decided to
work on incorporating argumentation as we slowly
update our core to the new core.
• (See Writing Strand grades 9-10 and 11-12
Standard 1a-e)
• As a witness and orchestrator of facebook debates, I
settled on argumentation as the writing style.
• As a department we researched this book…
“Although many teachers
begin to teach some
version of argument with
the writing of a thesis
statement (a claim), in
reality, good argument
begins with looking at the
data that is likely to
become the evidence in an
argument and which gives
rise to a thesis statement or
a major claim. That is, the
thesis statement arises from
a question, which in turn
rises from the examination
of information or data of
some sort” (Hillocks xxi).
Toulmin’s basic conception of argument includes
several elements:
• A claim
• Based on evidence of some sort
• A warrant that explains how the evidence supports the
• Backing supporting the warrants
• Qualifications and rebuttals or counterarguments that refute
competing claims.
Argument begins with the
“Students were
supposed to find
somewhere and
make some claim
about them.
However, without
analysis of any
data (verbal and
nonverbal texts,
materials, surveys
and samples), any
thesis is likely to be
no more than a
preconception or
assumption or
clichéd popular
belief that is
unwarranted and,
at worst, totally
(Hillocks xxii).
Teacher models with whole group
Students work in groups now to
analyze the “Case of the Dead
• Library research on a current debatable criminal case. (The
more advanced students usually picked something more
• Examples:
Kasey Anthony
OJ Simpson
Mark Hacking’s motives for killing his wife
The disappearance of Susan Powell
East High invited back into the conference
Easily translated to
facebook: The intro
becomes the “update
status”. Each subsequent
paragraph is a new
“comment” on the initial
status, allowing for others
to put their two-cents in for
a more authentic
Argument verses persuasion
The finished product
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Newspaper article: “Atheist messages displace nativity scenes”
Other similar sites that could take the place of
• myfakewall.com
• edmodo.com
• wikispaces discussion posts
Dramatizing a Heist
• 5 students take on a part to play in the
dramatized heist investigation as
potential suspects. Those 5 students
move to various locations around
• Students in groups of 3-4 interview
each suspect, taking notes on the
testimony of the suspects.
• In lab, groups type up an argument
based on their evidence about who
they think is the accomplice in the heist.
• Credit is given for the assignment, but
extra credit is given to the group who
guess accurately and who had the most
convincing argument.

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