South Orangetown Central School District

SOMS student reads argumentative position letter

Eighth graders in South Orangetown Middle School English teacher Carol Fagan’s class recently completed writing authentic argument letters to someone of their choice about a topic in the world that they want to change and hosted a publishing party to celebrate their work.

“One of the most important lessons for our students is the knowledge that there is power in words, and argumentative writing is a great place to help students begin to harness these skills and see them in action,” said Fagan. “We started the unit by talking about real-world examples and uses of persuasion. Students had time and space to debate a multitude of issues and sharpen their persuasive skills before being introduced to the official task.”

During this writing unit, students were asked to think about things they would like to change in the world and how they could make those changes happen. “Rather than writing a traditional persuasive essay, students took a stance on an issue they were passionate about and turned that into a letter that would ultimately be mailed to their chosen audience. Along with crafting a strong claim and supporting their arguments with research, they also had to think about who the best person would be to write to help them make this change,” explained Fagan. Some students focused on changes they would like to see made within the school while others chose to write about issues that they see in the world and how they would change them. “Throughout the writing process, students had to take an ethical and balanced position by crafting strong arguments, using connotative language and credible research in the most effective way to not only convince their audience but ultimately get them to act on the ideas in the letter and make a change,” said Fagan.

Once everyone completed their letters, Fagen hosted a publishing celebration where students were able to bring in snacks and read each other’s position letters. Fagan added, “We then shared elements of the writing that their classmates had done well and discussed their opinion of the unit in general, which is a beautiful way to continue to support each other and build community within our ELA classroom.”