Supporting Civically Engaged Argument Writing with Primary Sources

2022 National Council for the Social Studies Conference


  • Jen Freed, Grades 10 English Language Arts and AP Seminar Teacher; PhilWP Teacher Consultant

  • Beth Patten, Grade 7 Social Studies Teacher; PhilWP Teacher Consultant

  • Javaha Ross, Grades 1-8 Librarian and 4-5 Intervention Teacher; PhilWP Teacher Consultant

  • Trey Smith, Grades K-8 Digital Literacy Teacher; PhilWP Teacher Consultant

  • Lisa (Yuk Kuen) Yau, 邱玉娟, Grade 5 Teacher; PhilWP Teacher Consultant


Teachers in our Philadelphia Writing Project network are engaging in inquiries and creating curriculum resources to support civically engaged argument writing in K-12 classrooms.

Our emerging resources draw upon:

  1. primary sources from the Library of Congress;

  2. argument writing approaches from the National Writing Project’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (Arshan & Park, 2021; Friedrich et al., 2018); and

  3. Gholdy Muhammad’s (2020, 2021) Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy Framework.

Argument Writing Stances

  1. Arguments are all around us.

Students should recognize the many conversations in our communities. Many are already contributing to these ongoing conversations. As teachers, we should cultivate a culture of argument in our classrooms and support students as they civically engage beyond the classroom.

  1. Arguments are not simply pro and con, for and against.

Often, there are multiple perspectives that students should engage with. Recognizing multiple perspectives can help students figure out what others have said in a civic conversation so far, build empathy (Mirra, 2018), and imagine thoughtful ways forward.

  1. Argument writing involves making moves with claims and evidence.

Students should try out moves that other communicators make in an effort to strengthen our own arguments (Graf & Birkenstein, 2021; Harris, 2017). As they try out these moves, students may make them their own.

Draft Text Sets

Text Sets and Resources — NCSS 2022 Conference — Supporting Civically Engaged Argument Writing — Philadelphia Writing Project


2022 NCSS Conference — Supporting Civically Engaged Argument Writing with Primary Sources


Arshan, N. L. & Park, C. J. (2021). Research brief: SRI finds positive effects of the College, Career, and Community Writer’s Program on student achievement. SRI International.

Friedrich, L., Bear, R., & Fox, T. (2018). For the sake of argument: An approach to teaching evidence-based writing. American Educator, 42(1), 18-40.

Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2021). They say, I say: The moves that matter in academic writing (5th ed.). W. W. Norton.

Harris, J. (2017). Rewriting: How to do things with texts. University Press of Colorado.

Mirra, N. (2018). Educating for empathy: Literacy learning and civic engagement. Teachers College Press.

Muhammad, G. (2021). 12 questions to ask when designing culturally and historically responsive curriculum. Association for Middle Level Education.

Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. Scholastic.