Argumentative Essay

The Argumentative Essay on the AP Spanish Exam: Part 2

In the last post we talked about how to teach students HOW to write an argumentative essay for the AP Spanish Exam. Now we will talk about the logistics of grading them to help students improve. It’s no easy task, for students or for teachers!

Day One: Argumentative Essay Sources

The first time my students will write an argumentative essay for a grade, I try to dial down the stress and anxiety.

I don’t feel that they need a real AP Test-taking scenario on the first try.

So, I usually present the sources on “Day one”. They have time to read the 2 print sources and listen to the audio source. I collect the sources and their notes. Usually this does not require an entire class period, especially if your schedule is a block schedule. I would plan 10 minutes for the listening and 10-15 for the print sources.

Every school has a different class schedule. In my school, we have 3 days of 44 minute classes and 2 days of 90 minute block classes. I do the sources on the shorter class that leads up to the block day.

Day Two: Writing the Argumentative Essay

On the block day, students write their first draft of the essay. I give them back their sources and notes. I also supply them with THIS checklist, which I uses as a pseudo-rubric when I am grading their work.

Amig@s, I cannot tell you how much time this checklist saves me. But I’ll talk more about it in the next block.

While students are writing, I walk around. I tell them that they can ask me how to say 5 words. (I realize that on the AP Test, this is not an option. But since this is usually one of their biggest grades for class, again- it’s about managing their anxiety.) I ask them to write the words at the top of their paper. I come around just a few times, so I don’t interrupt their train of thought, and I translate the words. I find that this is a great relief to my students!

As an FYI, I find that my students (at least a good many) use the entire block period to write. Again- they have far less time on the AP test, but this is their first time. It will get easier and faster with time and practice!

Grading the First Draft of the Argumentative Essay

Students have turned in their work, and now I have a TALL pile of papers to grade. Groan….. anyone else feel overwhelmed by seeing that stack??? : )

Ok. Let’s get moving! How do we give students specific and timely feedback?

I use THIS CHECKLIST. It is my life-saver.

It is broken down by paragraph with the things I’m looking for in each paragraph. A simple check or X provides the feedback and saves the time it takes to write out all the feedback.

At the end, there is a list of the general look-fors, like spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

It is not exactly a rubric, because there are no points assigned to any part of it. But, when I am deciding on a grade for the student, or a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 in AP-style scoring, the checks and X’s on this list paint a very clear picture. Of course, if you choose to purchase this checklist, you can modify it to suit your own needs!

When I pass back their argumentative essay with this checklist, students can look paragraph by paragraph for the specific things they did right and the specific things they can fix or improve!

Final Draft

We take another class period to revise. Be prepared! Some students will have very little to revise! Some students will have a lot of work to do. Remember that all of our students will struggle in different areas. Here are some common areas of confusion:

-not having a clear thesis in the intro

-not using all 3 sources to back up your arguments

-having too many ideas in one body paragraph

-using quotes from sources that repeat (instead of support) what they already wrote or using quotes that don’t help at all

-being too wordy (we need to teach them to be concise because of the time constraint on the AP Test.)

-presenting an opposing viewpoint but NOT negating it (this is a big one!)

Take-Aways for Teachers

This is a BIG task, both for students and for us as teachers. It would be great if our AP Students came to us with spectacular writing skills, but in my experience, that is not always the case.

So, we not only teach our students the general writing skills of good essays, but the specific requirements of the AP Spanish Argumentative Essay, and throw in the challenge of Spanish reading and listening comprehension, and vocabulary and grammar in their writing. Ay caramba!

I find, in general, students will require at least 3 attempts at writing this sort of essay before they are consistently meeting the goals. Throughout the school year, I modify the different ways I ask them to practice. I have created a number of resources over the years, and I will link them below in case they can be of help to you.

Buena suerte colegas!

Resource Links

Argumentative Essay Sample Intro Paragraphs: Free!

AP Spanish Argumentative Essay: Graphic Organizer for Student Practice

AP Spanish Test Prep: Growing Mega Bundle

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