My daughter Hayley can argue anything! When she was in middle school if I said the sky was blue she would argue that it was really shades of gray. I called her my little defense attorney, and who knows she just might be one day. It got to the point where I decided I would not get into it with her. But boy could she argue and include lots of sound reasoning! It always amazed me that she was often right or at least made me question my own thought process. My guess is most middle school students can argue a point if given enough information, or passion for the issue. And in the case of my daughter, a natural inclination to argue everything, especially with her mother.
The student author in this sample has a passion for the issue at hand: laptop computers in school. Before embarking on the writing it is imperative that students begin by evaluating the evidence both for and against the issue. Once there is enough evidence on both sides, then students can select a point of view to argue and develop the claim. If I want representation of both sides of the issue in my class I might have students roll a pro/con dice to see what side of the argument they will write about. This way I’m not the bad guy, I didn’t assign a point of view, it was all left up to chance.
The annotation of the writing sample indicates evidence of the skills that had been taught up until this point. The student included examples from first hand evidence or background knowledge, and then added some second hand evidence, information found through research. This is was an initial attempt at citing work by the student, as evidenced by the citations in parenthesis. Also missing from the sample is an acknowledgement of the opposing view point, or what we call a Yes…but statement. This is instruction that had not taken place at this point, but will certainly be a next step.