Using Twitter Beef to Teach Argumentative Essay Writing

My mission is to show that anything can be turned into a classroom lesson, you just have to know how to finesse! 

I've been teaching argumentative essay writing this week and using two separate resource guides: Linda Christensen's "Reading, Writing, and Rising Up" and Katherine Bomer's, "The Journey is Everything". Both Christensen and Bomer include some very strong examples/mentor text, that have been helping my students to find their own voice in their writing. 

Today, however, I decided to stray away from those essays and incorporate an essay I wrote at 1:30 this morning about Azaelia Banks and Skai Jackson's Twitter beef. Here's a quick scope in sequence of how it went down: 

1. We read the article together, round-robin style. Any student that didn't want to read was able to say, "pass" and the next person would pick up where we left off. This took about 6-10 minutes. (I attempted to hide the fact that I wrote the essay by changing my name and pretended it was written by someone else ... Only one of my girls figured out that it was me, but thank goodness, she didn't spoil it for me!) 

2. The kids re-read the story independently and used Christensen's "Essay With Attitude" Criteria feedback form to annotate and assess the effectiveness of my essay. The feedback form prompts the students to identify the thesis, evaluate the introduction and conclusion, review the evidence, and give suggestions for areas of improvement. 

3. We didn't have enough time to review our responses or have a discussion about the context of the essay like I wanted to, because the kids had to head to math class. While they were gone, I sorted the papers into 3 piles. 

*It should be noted that this method of assessing-without-grading my students' work is a differentiation technique I learned at an Expeditionary Learning workshop a few years ago. 

Purple Check Pile: 
Student showed full understanding of the thesis of the argument, was able to label evidence, and evaluate the effectiveness of the introduction/conclusion. This group of students will move on to drafting their own essays. 

Orange Check Pile: 
Student showed partial understanding of the thesis of the argument, was able to label evidence, and evaluate the effectiveness of the introduction/conclusion. This group of students will get a small follow-up lesson in which I review how to identify the components of an argumentative essay. Then, they will be able to begin drafting their own essay. 

Red Check Pile: 
Student shows no concrete understanding of the thesis of the argument, was not able to label evidence, or evaluate the effectiveness of the introduction/conclusion. This group of students will get an in depth lesson in which I reteach them how to identify the components of an argumentative essay. Then they will be re-assessed before they can begin drafting their own essay.  

This work can be done with any piece of writing but it was super fun for the kids because the Twitter beef was so juicy to them. Many of them were able to relate, unfortunately because they engage in cyber bullying themselves. As teachers, it's important that we remember to use every day situations in the classroom. If our goal is to sustain a student-centered practice, we should remain consistent in providing our children with the creative space to explore topics that mean the most to them. 

You can get a copy of the worksheets and examples of student work by clicking the link below. Please leave a comment with your email if the link does not show all of the files, I don't mind emailing them!


  1. I would love a blank copy please!

    I love your method of teaching!

    Aisha Haggard

  2. Just want to say you're an amazing individual and I hope one day I can meet you. Also, the fact that you're sharing this method is nice of you. I would love a copy my email is . Thank you so much!

  3. I would love a copy of the essay and worksheets or you....this is amazing!

  4. Gosh, I wish I would've had a middle school teacher who taught this way. I really wish to hear from you in person. Maybe you can come up to Howard one day and speak to our future educators! I'll email you!

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