7th Grade ELA : Unit #12 - Novel Study: The Hunger Games : Lesson #12

Writing Arguments with Counterclaims

Objective: Students will be able to write arguments to defend a claim by outlining and discussing with peers.
Standards: W.7.1 W.7.5
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Daily Grammar - 10 minutes


2 Reviewing Counterclaims - 10 minutes

I used yesterday's exit tickets to review what a counterclaim is and to give students practice explaining counterclaims. This also allowed me to clear up misunderstandings students had.

I used the doc camera to project what students had written, without names to protect the innocent, and also read aloud what the student had written.  This was all I really needed to do for students who had grasped the concept yesterday and demonstrated that with the exit ticket.  For students who didn't quite get how to write a counterclaim, I asked students to give them help.

For example, one student was given Rue.  Rue is quick and smart.  Those are the qualities Rue has that can be supported with evidence from the text.  That's also the claim.  Rue has the advantage because she is quick and smart. The counterclaim is the opponent's argument that is proven to be wrong.  Any character would work for this.  Although some would say that Katniss has an advantage because she scored an 11, it is really Rue who has the advantage going into the arena.  The first set of concrete evidence and commentary, then would be presenting the evidence that Katniss did get a score of 11 from the Gamemakers, and then in commentary, explaining why that doesn't actually give her an advantage.  One student suggested that it's an impressive score, but it draws attention to her and she becomes a target, so her score isn't actually an advantage.

3 Using the T3C Paragraph Structure to Draft an Argument - 15 minutes

I walked students through the process of using the T3C paragraph structure that they've come to love and cherish.  

The topic sentence introduces the paragraph.  A superb topic sentence would include both the writer's own claim as well as acknowledging the opposite side.

The first set of concrete evidence is devoted to presenting evidence and writing commentary to explain why your opponent is incorrect.  It should be done respectfully, however, maintaining the formal voice.

Once you acknowledge the other side, present evidence, and explain why it's wrong, you move onto presenting information to support your own argument. That's just the standard CE CM. 

Finally, use a concluding sentence to summarize your main points and explain the importance in a deep thought.

I also showed students how my own paragraph fits into the structure. This handout shows the paragraph I wrote about Thresh, but in the outline form. The picture below shows the same thing written as a paragraph, but color coded as in the outline above.

4 Writing Workshop - 20 minutes

I gave students about twenty minutes to outline a rough draft of their paragraphs using this outline for a T3C paragraph that was adapted to include counterclaims.

Students had the hardest time writing the counterclaims. Finding the evidence to support their own argument? That was easy for them. But writing a counterclaim? Using someone else's evidence against them?  That was rigorous and difficult.

While I was talking to two students, an amazing opportunity happened that allowed students to teach each other. Two students sitting next to each other used the other person's claims as their counterclaim. This video shows how I used their examples.

After this, I encouraged students to move around, find someone who was writing about the character they were using for their counterclaim, and get their help.  If they could use their concrete evidence, but interpret that evidence differently, they would have their counterclaim.


I'll Have to Read this Book

I don't have a ton of resources hidden away to teach argument writing. Hidden away?  I really mean jammed into the closet in my classroom, or stacked on a bookshelf in my house, or in the other bookshelf in my house. I have a ton of stuff for persuasive writing and using propaganda techniques, but not debate.

While I was researching argument writing, I came across this book Teaching Argument Writing: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning.

I haven't ordered the book yet, but from what I could see from the preview, it looks good.  Guess what I'm doing this summer? Woo!

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