Below is the four step process I use with my students to support– and gradually pull support– for writing the extended argumentative essay for the GED. Obviously, some students will need more or less support, so some steps may need to be repeated more than once or omitted altogether at your discretion.
The GED testing resources suggest students write between four and seven paragraphs in their extended response. I have found that students more easily organize, remember, and master a five paragraph essay. A strong five paragraph essay is always better than a weak seven paragraph essay; therefore, that is the structure I teach, and this has successfully prepared students to pass the LA test with high scores. Of course, this is an editable document, so you can always alter content or add to it as you choose.
The use of color coding to guide students with structure within their essays is highly recommended, as research shows it significantly aids with comprehension and retention.
Step 1. I begin by giving students (1) the sample prompt, (2) the structure guide with sentence stems, and (3) the color-coded exemplar. I do not time the first essay. I have students refer to my exemplar as they type their first essay, and I have them highlight their paragraphs as shown in the exemplar, which will help them remember the structure. (If they have to hand write, they can use markers to highlight.)
The five paragraphs are highlighted as follows:
- Summarize the topic of the two arguments and state which argument is strongest (claim)
- Note specific arguments from the speech to support your claim
- Note more specific arguments from the speech to support your claim
- Concession/Rebuttal: Acknowledge opposing arguments. Then refute or invalidate them
- Restate your thesis (reiterate who has the strongest argument)
Step 2. With the second practice essay, I give students an exemplar, but I have them turn the exemplar face down and challenge them to only refer to it if absolutely needed. They still have the structure guide with sentence stems to refer to, and they are still instructed to color code each paragraph as they write. I challenge them to complete the essay within an hour. When they are finished, I have them compare their paragraphs with the exemplar paragraphs and reflect on what they could have done to make their essays stronger. Then, I edit grammar and mechanics within the essay and address weaknesses accordingly with mini-lessons.
Step 3. With the third practice essay, I pull the exemplar and only give students the structure guide. They’re still instructed to color code each paragraph. I challenge them to complete the essay in 45 minutes. Again, when they are finished, I give them the exemplar have them compare their paragraphs with the exemplar paragraphs and reflect on what they could have done to make their essays stronger. Then, I edit grammar and mechanics within the essay and address weaknesses accordingly with mini-lessons.
Step 4. With the fourth practice essay, no supports are given. Students have the prompt but no structure guides, and they are given 45 minutes to complete the essay. You can delete the mini-structure guides above the exemplar at this point as well if you wish. Students are still instructed to color code their paragraphs according to introduction, support, concession and rebuttal, and conclusion. Then, we compare and contrast their essays with the exemplar and end by editing grammar and mechanics.