NGSS-Tied Activities for Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Do you need help covering the NGSS Science and Engineering Practice (SEP 7), Engaging in Argument from Evidence? You are not alone! There are a lot of Next Generation Science lessons out there and you may not have time to sift through everything that is available. Whether you are looking to have students compare two arguments, construct written arguments or practice oral argumentation, PopEd has materials!

The NGSS-aligned lessons below will get your students engaging with scientific content and developing reasoned claims – a perfect fit for SEP 7.

Middle School Lessons for Teaching Argumentation (Grades 6-8)

In middle school, students will build on the argumentation skills they learned in elementary school like comparing and critiquing arguments and researched solutions written by others. This forms a solid foundation for middle schoolers to begin forming their own arguments using scientific evidence. The following activities will help students in grades 6-8 form research-based claims to explain their stance on newsworthy topics.

  • Take a Stand – This lesson is the perfect introduction to constructing solid arguments. The lesson employs a “four corners” strategy and asks students to decide if they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with a statement. After deciding where they “stand” they will share their position with classmates. Giving the statement to students the night before will allow them to conduct research and support their position with evidence.
  • Fracked or FictionFracking drill rig in a remote location on the prairie in a hay field with bales. – This activity has students comparing two arguments by analyzing the evidence and claims used for fracking and against fracking. By evaluating the provided sources and looking for bias, students will construct a credible argument to explain if they are for or against fracking. An extension to this activity has students writing an op-ed to explain their stance on if fracking is an acceptable energy source.

High School Lessons for Teaching Argumentation (Grades 9-12)

After practicing constructing their own arguments in middle school, high school students are ready to use scientific reasoning to defend and critique arguments that they or others have constructed. The following activities will get high schoolers creating, critiquing, and defending arguments on environmental issues relevant to their lives.

  • The Great Bag Debate – In this lesson, students participate in a “fishbowl” debate on the topic of plastic bag bans. Students are assigned a stance as either for or against plastic bag bans, or are assigned to be a moderator between the two groups. Students participating in the debate must create and defend their position, while the moderators critique the arguments of both sides. Ultimately, the moderators must decide which group has the most sound argument based on the scientific facts and research shared.
  • Trash Trouble in ParadisePile of garbage in landfill with birds flying overhead – Environmental justice takes center stage in this lesson. Students are tasked with analyzing qualitative and quantitative data for one of three communities on the island of Oahu. Using their data as evidence, they argue where a landfill should be placed in a mock city council meeting. A separate group of students serves as the city council who will decide where the landfill should go based on the claims in the three arguments that were presented.

Additional Ways to Engage Your Students in Argumentation

If you are looking for ways to have your students practice constructing concise arguments, the World of 8 Billion Student Video Contest is the perfect argumentation project. After conducting research, students create a one-minute video where they make a claim about a global challenge and support their position with evidence. The short time limit helps students practice determining what information is the most important to get their main ideas across – an important skill in argumentation!

World of 8 Billion Student Video Contest topics for 2023

Looking for more connections to NGSS? Many of PopEd’s lessons also align to the NGSS standard – MS-ESS-4, and dive into how increases in human population and per-capita consumption impact earth’ systems and resources. At the end of these lessons, there are often assessment and extension activities that have students engaging in argumentation to show what they have learned, so don’t forget to check those out!

Image credits:  Fracking in Texas (486416314 by grandriver); Landfill waste (522257175 by zeljkosantrac)