Human Rights: An Introduction

As I noted in my previous post, my students will explore human rights issues through various readings, choose a topic, research it, develop a thesis and an outline, write an essay, revise, edit, rewrite and publish it. In addition to the formal paper, each student will present his claim through the medium of his choice.

Today my students were introduced to the concept of human rights. However, since we had been away on break, I reminded them that we are going to write an argument, which is a little different from the expository pieces we had been writing throughout the semester, and really, since the fourth grade.

I introduced the class to the following words: exposition and argumentation. Yes, they sound like big words, but I assured them that they have been exposed to both of these types of writing without even knowing it–through reading books and writing exercises assigned by teachers.

My Virtual Scribble Pad

…Human rights make up the backdrop for this unit. Each student will eventually have to develop a thesis that falls under this category. Their thesis will be the basis for their argument. The hope is that as they read the various texts, they will discover the authors’ theses and identify how they support their claims. With exposure to different models of argument and some exploration of a topic that interests them the most, I want each student to develop her own claim. Hopefully the students will see the importance of reading as a way to prepare for writing–especially an argument. Another way to look at this is that writing an argument just means that we are joining a conversation that is already in progress.

…Students will read excerpts from thinkers such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Malala, Gandhi, Pope Francis, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; poets, such as Elma Stuckey, and other authors including W.E.B. Du Bois, George Orwell, Harper Lee, Anne Frank, Alex Haley, and Aldous Huxley will also be explored. The students will not only identify their claims, but they will look for the evidence that these influential people have used to support them. In addition, they will evaluate and assess the evidence. This is particularly important for 8th graders to begin doing before they start high school.

*Note: According to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, this is the biggest difference between the 7th and 8th grade expectations for writing an argument. Seventh graders must use relevant evidence while 8th graders must use well-chosen, relevant evidence. Eighth graders will evaluate and assess the evidence of other writers and begin to strategically select evidence to include in their writing.