This is a sample assignment including complete instructions for completion and expectations for grading. In it, students work alone to map out their planned content for an argumentative essay.
This can be given to students prior to them writing a more traditional essay, or as a standalone minor assessment. This assignment takes advantage of Kialo’s clear visualization of argument structure to help students organize their essay. This visualization also makes it easy to see how the argument they are developing progresses. The pro/con structure helps students make sure they are including opposing viewpoints in their essay. Additional adaptations to the assignment also utilize Kialo’s built-in suite of commenting, editing and mark-up tools to integrate feedback and revision into the drafting process.
This assignment is designed to take about one hour of work beyond any research required to write the essay, though it would take longer if used to outline papers over ten pages or so. This assignment is adapted from an assignment pitched at older high school or college students, but can easily be adapted to different age groups. For example, middle school students could work in in-class groups to write an outline before a class presentation or shorter writing assignment.
This assignment assumes that teachers will set up Kialo discussions for their students in advance. For more information on setting up Kialo assignments of all kinds, see Setting Up an Assignment. You can also explore a demo of a debate for this type of Kialo assignment here. If you’re exploring Kialo for the first time, we also have a set of simple guides to integrating Kialo into your classroom.
Content this article covers:
Learning outcomes associated with this assignment:
- Construct and defend a clear thesis
- Organize supporting material into a coherent structure
- Consider and address counter-arguments and conflicting evidence
- Visualize full structure of an essay
The goal of this assignment is to help you organize and visualize the content of an argumentative essay. This will involve creating and writing out your arguments in a Kialo that you create and invite me to as an editor.
Steps for Visualizing your Essay:
Step One: Thesis and Main Arguments
Add your essay thesis as the Kialo thesis. Your thesis should clearly state the perspective you intend to argue in your essay.
Under your thesis, begin adding claims to support (Pro) or challenge (Con) your thesis. The Pros you add directly under your thesis each represent a potential section of your argumentative essay. The Con posts directly under the thesis each represent a potential section devoted to a counter argument your essay will need to address. Dealing with counter arguments effectively is the hallmark of an effective argumentative paper.
You should add at least three Pros and one Con directly under your thesis. This reflects the scope of arguments your argumentative essay will need to address - at least three arguments in favour of your thesis, and at least one potential counter-argument.
Step Two: Supporting Evidence and Counter Arguments
With each major section of your essay summarized as a Pro or Con to the thesis, the next step is to organize the evidence that will be used for each section. At this level, nested Pro claims can be used to embed links to useful resources and add direct quotes and supporting claims from the text. Nested Con claims can be used to highlight potential counter-examples and objections.
New Pro and Con claims can be added to contextualize, support, or refute the post above them. If a Pro or Con is relevant to two different sections of the paper, it is possible to link the same claim in multiple locations.
As you are writing the Con claims, you do not need to deal with every possible objection, but it is important to make sure that you are including the strongest arguments against your own position. Your paper will be stronger if you are able to deal with these objections.
In grading the development of your own outline, I will be asking the following questions:
- Does your thesis clearly articulate a defensible position on your topic of interest?
- Did you outline at least three main Pros to support your position, and at least one Con to explore a possible counter-argument?
- Were all of these Pros and Cons adequately supported?
- Did you use nested claims to provide effective support using textual evidence and outside research when appropriate?
- Have you used nested claims to anticipate objections to your views and develop appropriate responses to them?
Suggestions for Adaptation
Below are some ways to extend this assignment or adapt it to different learning objectives or age groups.
Add in Peer Review
In this adaptation, students provide one another with peer review, using Kialo’s suite of tools for commenting and revision. The format of Kialo encourages substantive, actionable feedback that focuses on specific claims and threads.
Additional learning outcomes:
- Analyze the structure of an argumentative essay
- Identify places to improve an argument
- Communicate content-rich feedback with peers
Additional Set-Up Instructions
Rather than creating a Kialo discussion for each student, create a multi-thesis Kialo discussion for each group of students. Invite all students in each group to their multi-thesis discussion.
Additional Student Instructions
Changes to Step One
Replace the first paragraph of Step One with:
In the multi-thesis Kialo discussion you have been invited to, add your essay thesis as a discussion thesis. Your thesis should clearly state the perspective you intend to argue in your essay.
Step [x]: Peer Review
Next, please review the outlines written by students in your group. Their work should be posted in the same Kialo as your outline. You should go through your classmates’ theses and every claim under each of them. You should focus on assessing whether your classmates have made strong arguments for and against their theses, rather than whether you agree with their claims. If you have questions about a specific point or suggestions for how to make it better, you should post in the comment section of their claim. If there is a problem with a specific point or suggestion (it makes a factual error or doesn’t really support the student’s argument), you can use the “Mark for review” feature.
Additional Grading Info
In grading the feedback you gave your classmates, I will be asking the following questions:
- Did you show that you had read each student’s complete outline?
- Did you provide actionable feedback? Did the questions you ask illuminate important considerations in their argument?
- Would your suggestions improve their paper?
- If there were any serious errors or omissions, did you catch them and mark them?
- Were you respectful while providing feedback?
Add in a Revision Phase
This adaptation is an additional layer that can be added on to the Add in Peer Review adaptation. Alternatively, it can be added in following a round of instructor review.
Additional learning outcomes:
- Revise initial draft for clarity, strength and organization
- Collaborate with others
- Adopt and consider multiple perspectives
Additional Student Instructions
Step [x]: Review Suggested Improvements to Your Outline
Once you have the comments of those assigned to review your essay outline, go back and review your own argument. While you are encouraged to respond to the comments and questions posted by other students, you are required to address marks for review. This does not mean that you have to go along with any suggestions or marks, but you do need to respond to them in a way that shows that you’ve considered their relevance and made adjustments when appropriate.
Having completed these steps you can now see which aspects of your paper are well-supported or need further support, review your comment and editing history, and visualize your argument. Once you’ve completed the revisions and dealt with any marks, you’ve done the most difficult part of essay writing.
Additional Grading Info
In grading your revisions to your outline, I will be considering the following:
- Did you respond to all the important questions, concerns or suggestions raised by your classmates? You are not required to accept every suggestion, but your responses should show that you’ve considered their concerns and found a way to address them effectively.
- Did you catch and fix any errors in content in the initial draft?
- Was your final outline an adequate blueprint for an argumentative thesis paper?