My students used to struggle to find strong evidence to support their claims when writing argument essays. Some would choose the first semi-related quote they could find. Others were unmotivated and searching through hundreds of pages of text was a daunting task.
All of that changed with a simple shift: making argument writing an Olympic sport.
What human does not love a healthy competition? Students love competing, and they love the Olympics. Why not make finding the strongest evidence, deconstructing an argument, and developing a strong writing piece Olympic events?
1. Do a simple classroom transformation.
I'm not into large, expensive transformations, but I love to throw up some streamers and get the music pumping. For the Olympics, simply play the Olympic theme music from YouTube found here (the video has a great Olympic ring image to display on your screen as well).
Use some inexpensive red, yellow, and blue streamers from the Dollar Store to make your classroom feel festive. You can also purchase some inexpensive gold medals from Amazon (linked here). Use the medals to decorate and to hand out as prizes. To really spice things up, use a fun microphone (linked here) with an echo effect so kids can share evidence like Olympic announcers--they'll never forget the experience OR the power of strong evidence!
2. Make finding evidence a gold medal event.
The first Olympic Event I introduced to students was The Strongest Evidence Competition. Students were given two sides of an argument topic and asked to find three piece of evidence to support each argument. After finding their evidence, they were tasked with identifying the evidence that was the strongest. Students were so motivated to find the strongest evidence, and they were practicing essential analysis skills. The quality of evidence students were finding was amazing.
Next, students volunteered as Olympians. Olympians stepped to the front of the classroom with lots of fanfare and Olympic themed music and read their evidence into an echoing microphone. Classmates were asked to listen to each Olympian's evidence and vote for the strongest evidence they heard.
To end, I tallied the votes and announced the gold, silver, and bronze level winners. I used a stool, a chair, and the floor as my podium and announced names into the microphone. Kids were so excited, and the best part? They had incredibly strong evidence to use in their argument writing the next day.
3. Carry the Olympic theme throughout your study.
After our Strongest Evidence Competition, students were given their first group Olympic event: Deconstructing an Argument. Students were given a mentor text and asked to identify the claim, counterclaim, supporting reasons, and evidence.
Later, as we completed "Winning Outlines," I circulated the class and handed out "Caught Being Awesome" medals to students who wrote powerful claims, counterclaims, well-structured paragraphs, introductions, and closing paragraphs. Download the medals for free here.
4. Celebrate argument writing with a Closing Ceremonies.
Publishing writing as a final draft deserves a celebration, and the closing ceremonies are the perfect way to celebrate writing Olympic-style!
For our closing ceremonies, I played closing ceremonies highlights on my Smartboard as students entered the room. You can find the video here. I paused the video and instructed students to open or take out their argument essays and display them on their desks. I handed each student three sticky notes. Then, I instructed students to walk or dance their way around the classroom while I played Olympic themed music.
When I stopped the music, students sat at the nearest argument essay and left positive, detailed feedback for their classmates. After three rounds, we shared some of the gold-medal qualities we noticed in our classmates writing and ate Froot Loops (the cheapest Olympic ring snacks to serve to 100+ middle schoolers!).
We had so much fun transforming our classroom into The Argument Olympics, and my students argument writing was stronger than ever. Save time by grabbing my two week The Argument Games writing unit here.