WRITING LESSON:  Researching Issues


Learning Objectives



State Curricular Benchmarks   

·        Strand III, Standard 1: Purposes of Government

·        Strand III, Standard 2: Ideals of American Democracy

·        Strand III, Standard 3: Democracy in Action

·        Strand III, Standard 4: American Government and Politics

·        Strand III, Standard 5: American Government and World Affairs

·        Strand V, Standard 1: Information Processing

·        Strand V, Standard 2: Conducting Investigations

·        Strand VI, Standard 1: Identifying and Analyzing Issues

·        Strand VI, Standard 2: Group Discussion

·        Strand VI, Standard 3: Persuasive Writing




Persuasive Writing                                Citizenship

Data / Research                                    Democracy

Charts/Graphs                                      Debate



Time needed

The time needed for this assignment varies upon the detail required by the teacher.  Where this can be a detailed research assignment for a senior in high school, it can also be an expository (informational) essay for the 7th grader.  Scheduling some class time for completion of this project is suggested as it will allow you to assist students in the presentation of their issues.



Teaching Strategy

This assignment helps your students get ready for the writing assessment on the social studies section of the MEAP.  Students will be able to communicate their ideas in the structure given to them.  After you have walked your class through the agenda building process (see lessons 1 & 2) you can then assign a writing project for them to present their ideas.  Students will have chosen their ideas and are now asked present their issue/opinion to their classmates.  This mirrors the process in which members of congress present information to other members.


Assign students to present a paper – however detailed or basic your class requires – on their issue.  Some possible questions to prompt writing would be as follows:

1.      What is your issue?

2.      What are the major sides to your issue?  What is the debate around your issue?

3.      What is your opinion on the issue?

4.      What is the evidence supporting your claim?

5.      What is the evidence supporting your opposition’s claim?

6.      How does your issue relate to other social studies disciplines? (history, economics, sociology, etc.)


Along with this writing assignment, the teacher can also add an oral component.  Have students develop a persuasive presentation about their issue.  This allows them to present the issues in their paper orally, aiding students who are better speakers than writers.  This contingent of the assignment also allows students to create charts and graphs that visually explain their issue.  The MEAP test requires students to work with information in a visual medium and this requirement aids students in learning how to manipulate and utilize information given in charts and maps. 


The key to this assignment, much like all Urban Agenda assignments, is to mold the lesson to fit the needs of your class.  Often, each school district will require teachers to complete a certain writing assignment in their social studies class.  If this assignment does not exactly match every component of your required writing assignment, add or subtract from it to meet your needs.



Assessment Recommendations

If a teacher uses this lesson with both oral and written components, that teacher should weight both equally.  This allows students to work equally on both components.  However, the teacher should use the same techniques used in the MEAPs assessment…

  1. Does the essay have a clear and focused argument?
  2. Is the support for this argument focused and logical?
  3. Does the essay use information from charts/graphs for evidence?
  4. Does the student use the evidence in a logical manner?  Does it make sense?
  5. Does the student show prior knowledge and relate the issue to another discipline within social studies?  Is there a historical (etc.) example in the essay?
  6. Does the essay address dissenting opinions with evidence refuting dissenters?
  7. Does the essay address the issue in a manner that is appropriate to the chosen audience?