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Developing Writers of Argument

Developing Writers of Argument
Tools and Rules That Sharpen Student Reasoning

Foreword by Jim Burke

Additional resources:

January 2018 | 184 pages | Corwin

The ability to make effective arguments is not only necessary in students’ academic lives, it’s a transferable skill that’s essential to students’ future success as critical thinkers and contributing members of society. 

But in the here and now, how do we engage students and ensure they understand argument writing’s fundamental components? How do we take them from “Here’s what I think” to “Here’s what I think. Here’s what makes me think that. And here’s why it matters”?

This stunning, full-color book by Michael Smith and Jon-Philip Imbrenda shows the way, with ready-to-implement lessons that make argument writing topical and relevant. Students are first asked to form arguments about subjects that matter to them, and then to reflect on the structure of those arguments, a process that provides learners with valuable, reusable structural models.

  • Throughout the book, the authors provide helpful instructional tools, including
  • Literary, nonfiction, and author-created simulated texts that inspire different points of view
  • Essential questions to create a context that rewards argumentation
  • Lessons introducing students to the three essential elements of an argument—claim, data, and warrant—and how to make each effective
  • Questioning probes, semantic differential scales, and other innovative instructional approaches 
  • Samples of writing from the authors’ own students, and enlightening details on how this work informed the authors’ subsequent teaching approach 

Complete with guidance on applying the lessons’ techniques in a broader, unit-wide context, Developing Writers of Argument offers a practical approach for instructing students in this crucial aspect of their lifelong development.


Foreword by Jim Burke
Chapter 1. Introduction
Argument Cultivates Critical Thinking

Argument Fosters Collaborative Reasoning

Argument Promotes a Sense of Social Responsibility

What This Book Can Offer

Chapter 2. A Classroom Culture of Argumentation
Revisiting the Three R’s

Conversation as a Metaphor for Learning

Staging Conversations in Your Classroom

So What, Exactly, Is an Argument, Anyway?

Chapter 3. Our Instructional Approach
Transferable Classroom Tools

So Do They Work?

Chapter 4. Everyday Arguments
Introducing the Elements of Argument

Lesson 1: Apple Music vs. Spotify

Lesson 2: Taco Bell vs. Chipotle

Lesson 3: Who Is the Better Superhero?

Lesson 4: Which Video Streaming Service Is the Best?

Lesson 5: Heinz’s Dilemma

Lesson 6: To What Extent Am I Responsible to Others?

Chapter 5. Practicing Three Elements of Argument
Lesson 7: Crafting Controversial Claims

Lesson 8: What Makes an Effective Claim?

Lesson 9: What Makes Effective Data? Part 1

Lesson 10: What Makes Effective Data? Part 2

Lesson 11: How Do Warrants Relate to Claims and Data?

Lesson 12: Practice Writing Warrants

Chapter 6. Applying What They’ve Learned About Argument to Texts
Lesson 13: Who Is Going to Bounce Back?

Lesson 14: Using Three Key Questions to Understand a Poem

Lesson 15: Applying What We’ve Learned to a Literary Argument

Lesson 16: Learning the Reader’s Rule of Rupture

Lesson 17: Applying Argumentative Strategies to Respond to a Well-Known Theory

Lesson 18: Bringing Together All of the Elements of Argument: The Minnesota Twins Study

Chapter 7. Putting It All Together: Applying Argument to Life Choices
Lesson 19: Should I Choose a 2-Year or 4-Year College?

Lesson 20: What Career Has the Best Potential for Me?

Chapter 8. How to Use This Book
Using the Lessons Directly

Using the Tools

Using Our Lessons as Templates



“Smith and Imbrenda care about deep and meaningful learning. In this book, they show how argument can be taught in ways that develop tremendous engagement and deep understanding through a process that is in service of critical literacy and social imagination and responsibility.  There are a lot of books about argument out there. I’d argue that this one is the best and most transformative I’ve ever read.  The ‘so what’ lessons on reasoning/warranting alone will transform your teaching of argument and of much else.

Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Distinguished Professor of English Education
Boise State University

“I was impressed with how Smith and Imbrenda's approach helped students who are usually passive learners become so engaged in discussions about readings. Our test scores reflected that passion.

Matthew Record, Principal
Pocomoke Middle School, Pocomoke City, MD

“In just a few weeks, Smith and Imbrenda's approach to instruction transformed my classroom. My students and I became passionate about our reading, writing, and discussions; our state assessment scores went up. This stuff works. I wish I had known about it my whole career.

Hanna Poist, Language Arts Teacher
Pocomoke Middle School, Pocomoke City, MD

Developing Writers of Argument is not only a practical guide for teaching students, but also a practical guide for educating teachers in the art of argument made simple. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, the authors draw upon years of research-based strategies and methodologies to make lessons real and relevant for today’s learner. Reading the lessons provided me that 'ah ha' moment and helped me to internalize the need for the three Rs (relevance, responsibility, and respect) in teaching and learning.”

Kym Sheehan, Teacher/Curriculum Specialist
Charlotte County Public Schools, Port Charlotte, FL

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