Below are some of my notes and take-aways about argument based read alouds in the classroom.
Purpose of Argument Based Read Alouds:
- Increase the intensity and engagement of partner talk
- Increase skills of using text evidence
- Hone into skills for evidence based arguments
During an argument based read aloud, you are reading aloud the text like you normally would without the students having the text in front of them and having the students stop and jot/turn and talk about the text. However, in this type of read aloud, you have rounds of conversation that focus on a particular type of skill. For example the focus for the rounds of conversation may focus on character attributes, theme, or author's craft. Also, the partnership has decided who will be partner 1 and who will be partner 2 because each partner will have a specific focus during each round and will need to collect evidence to support their claim for their argument. Prior to reading aloud, you will need to plan to figure out which parts of the text to stop at and what the focus will be for each partner. You also will need to tell the students what their focus is so they can take notes on text evidence that supports their position. When it is their turn to share their position with their partner, they will state their claim first and then their collected evidence along with their evaluation of the evidence. For example, they should rank their evidence from most important to least important or vice versa, use quotes from the text instead of only plot, and use thinking stems to evaluate the evidence.
Mary Ehrenworth had us try this out as partners as she read aloud Stray by Cynthia Rylant from Every Living Thing. It was so powerful and beneficial to try this out as the students to see what their role is like in this type of read aloud and to get a clear visual of how this will look in our classroom with students. She had us decide who was going to be partner A and partner B and told us that Partner A will work to prove that the main character is weak and partner B will try to prove she is strong. As she read aloud the beginning of the story, we each took notes to support our position about the type of person the character is in the story. She paused and gave us a minute to rehearse our claim and evidence in our minds before sharing with partner. Then she had partner A share first and then had partner B share. Mary said that instead of just allowing students time to rehearse their argument in their mind before the conversation, partner A can find a partner A to compare evidence and rehearse as well a partner B finding a partner B to do this work.
We continued this work through a 2nd round that had a thematic focus. Partner A had to collect evidence for how the family struggles with communication and partner B focused on how poverty is an issue for the family. We went through the same process of collecting evidence while she read aloud and then had our conversations with partner to support our claims. The 3rd round focused on author's craft and partner A collected evidence to support how weather is used in important ways and partner B focused on how the author uses the dog as a symbol in the story.
I am excited to try this out with my 5th graders this week and am already planning other stories to use besides Stray by Cynthia Rylant. This is a strategy we can use in our classrooms with any type of fiction or nonfiction text as long as we plan where to stop and what the positions will be for each partner. This is an engaging way to have students practice conversation skills, collect important and relevant text evidence, and strengthen their argument skills. It also teaches students about perspective and how we can read the same text, but see characters, objects, themes, etc. in more than one way.
If you try this out in your classroom or have already done this with your students, please share! :)