I have just finished this assignment with my 8th grade English students and the ideas that they have been coming up with are astonishing! This topic has been extremely powerful and thought-provoking for students! The hand-outs allow students to review the definitions of claims and evidence for Argument Writing and then choose a claim having to do with prejudice. (We have been reading about The Holocaust in our Lit. book and have read various articles about heroes during the Holocaust, including an article about Irena Sendler and an article about Helmuth Hubener.)
The hand-out has them choose from such claims as:
"In spite of everything, I believe that people are really good at heart" by Anne Frank, and "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing" by Edmund Burke. Students may also choose from two other claims and can even choose to create their own debatable and defensible claim having to do with prejudice. The hand-out walks them through this process and then gives them various suggestions for research topics, depending on which claim they choose.
Next, it includes a quick review for how to do in-text citations in their writing and gives them a template to help them easily put all of their information together into an Argumentative Essay. (The Argumentative Essay template includes reminders along the way, so that students are comfortable with each step.) I have 130 students, and I did not have a single student complain about writing an essay on this topic. Students were engaged because they were allowed to choose what they were most interested in, felt strongly about, and then were able to research to find answers to their own curiosities. It also helped that they were comfortable with the format thanks to this hand-out.
This hand-out is 6 pages long and is broken into "Research Day 1" and "Research Day 2" with the Argumentative Essay template.