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Make Cycle #3 Archive: Build an Argument

The third summer Make Cycle for Letters to the Next President 2.0 encouraged us to embrace the power of argument as a means of supporting civic discourse in diverse communities. Here is archive of what happened as well as related resources you are welcome to use/remix as needed this fall:

Welcome to the third summer Make Cycle for Letters to the Next President 2.0. This week we encourage you to embrace the power of argument as a means of supporting civic discourse in diverse communities.

Why argument?

As Elyse Eidman-Aadahl for the National Writing Project describes in Why is Argumentation a Critical 21st Century Skill?, learning to build thoughtful arguments requires a kind of writing and discussion that values evidence, critical thinking and clear reasoning and it is how we reason ourselves to conclusions about propositions, social formation, and ethical positions that affect us all in a democracy.

Who are we? We are educators from the National Speech and Debate Association, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, and the National Writing Project. We bring a background in supporting youth voice through competitive speech and debate, in preparing youth for college-ready writing, as well as supporting the habits of inquiry and skills of expressions youth need to be effective thinkers, communicators and active citizens in today’s world.

Make with Us

This week we encourage you to make a resource that represents multiple points of view on an issue of your choosing. The resource that you make maps the territory of opinions and is a first step towards building a reasoned argument. Maybe this issue is something that you are passionate about and seek to understand diverse perspectives … Maybe it’s a topic you are wrestling with or haven’t figured out exactly what you think … Maybe it’s a set of overlapping topics that get complicated and could use more explanation.

In supporting discourse within diversity, we are encouraging you to create a resource that represents legitimate points of view and perspectives on a single topic or issue.

There are no right answers to many of the questions out there on a political trail or otherwise. Within each issue, people have a range of opinions; sometimes people have adjacent or overlapping perspectives, but sometimes people have more polarized perspectives and simply have to agree to disagree. The important thing is encouraging dialogue that develops respect, even among those on opposite ends of issues. If we accept this premise, we can have fruitful discussions and create environments where youth and adults treat opposing views with respect and generosity.

Here are some ideas about how to make these kinds of resources this week. See more details below:

  • Make an infographic that captures the variety of positions/stances on a single topic of your choice.
  • Make a concept map or other drawing of different perspectives on an issue.
  • Make a series of media content (memes, video, photos) that reflect the different sides of arguments that are in the news today.
  • Make a Calder-inspired mobile that represents the range of opinions on an issue
  • Another idea? Feel free to make that instead!


Here are places where you can connect with other educators and share what you make:

Archives of Live Events

We are excited to make and connect with you!

Rachel Bear, National Writing Project
Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, National Association for Media Literacy Education
Tom Fox, National Writing Project
Steven Schappaugh, National Speech and Debate Association

Ideas for Making Your Resource

Think about the resource you are making as something that is designed to present multiple perspectives on the issue. You are also welcome to indicate your own perspective, of course; we simply encourage you to do so in a way that acknowledges others’ perspectives. The issues you choose can come from the election (KQED curated this set of topics from the election; also check out NYTimes Room for Debate) or they can come from something more local or personal to you. Also, the issues don’t need to be the polarizing ones and instead could be something that simply needs further exploration and dialogue.

Check out some examples!

An infographic on wildfires shared via #2nextprez by Andrea Aust:


A concept map by Rachel Bear about the issue of school start time as part of an activity in this mini-unit:

A couple examples of videos that display different parts of related issues using a Dove commercial as the original text:

Something like this Immigration Descriptive example is an interesting way of being descriptive in looking at an issue even as it comes from a certain perspective. And then others look at Pro/Cons across a range of contexts: Open source vs. Enterprise Learning Management System and Pros and Cons of Wind Power.

You probably want to start your make by finding an issue and doing research about different perspectives on that issue. Here are a few resources from NWP’s College-Ready Writers Program you can try and potential use with students down the road:

Mind Over Media is a great resource for thinking about media and its power in making certain kinds of arguments.

Once you have your research gathered, start to map out these perspectives in a way that others can see and understand them … here are some helpful tools and links for getting started:


Concept Maps:

Calder-Inspired Mobile

Other media content (memes, video, photos)

Additional Resources

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