How to Win Arguments and Influence the Audience

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SWBAT delineate, evaluate, and craft arguments based on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "The Ways of Meeting Oppression"

Big Idea

How do the masters of the of argument present claims and organize their evidence? How can students become masters of argument through study of the texts?

Let's Get Started: Reviewing the Language of Rhetoric

3 minutes

We will jump right into the learning activities today, but will start class with a very brief review of some academic language that students are already familiar with (L.9-10.6), specifically:

  • Claim
  • Argument
  • Bias
  • Rhetoric
  • Organization of Argument
  • Evidence

I hope that this vocabulary review will help set the stage for student learning and work in this lesson. I want them to use the language of the discipline to discuss "Three Ways of Meeting Oppression". 

Building Knowledge: Close Reading and Annotation of "The Ways of Meeting Oppression"

15 minutes

Today begins with a close reading and annotation of Three Ways of Meeting Oppression by Dr. Martin Luther King.  I want the students to identify the claim and the evidence from the text that supports the claim.  This is not the students first time at bat with annotation.  However, it has been awhile.  So, we begin by reading the first couple of paragraphs together.  The text is visible on the smartboard. 

Before we begin reading, I ask the class what is the most important sentence in an essay or informational text.  I want to hear the roar of voices saying thesis or claim.  I tell them as we read the first paragraph to underline the thesis or claim.  I ask for a volunteer to read the paragraph.  After s/he finished reading a give them a couple of seconds to underline the claim.  Then I ask for a volunteer to share their claim with the class.  I underline the claim on the smartboard. The first step in evaluating an argument is identifying the claim.  Now the students are ready to search for the evidence and discuss  how well it connects and supports the claim (RI 9-10. 8). 

Next we discuss the rest of the introduction.  Students have color pencils on their tables, so I tell them to now underline in a different color pencil any clues in the introduction that describe the direction that Dr. King's argument will take in the body of the text.  

I tell the students they have 10 minutes to finish the essay.  They should annotate the remainder of the text using different colors to highlight the different pieces of evidence stated to support the claim.

Building Knowledge: Whole Group Discussion: Chalk Talk

10 minutes

Now that students have read and annotated the text, they are going to deconstruct King's argument. The claim is the first sentence of the text, "Oppressed  people  deal  with  their  oppression  in  three  characteristic ways." Next the students will identify the King's three ways of meeting oppression: acquiescence, physical violence, non-violent resistance.  Around the room will be six different stations for students to explain how King constructed his argument.  While standard RI.9-10.8  asks students to consider a wide range of argument strategies, we will focus on evaluating King's claim, evidence and credibility.  The six stations will be:

1. Evidence to support acquiescence

2. Evidence to support physical violence

3. Evidence to support non-violent resistance

4. Examples of Logos

5. Examples of Pathos  

6. Credibility of source/speaker.

Students will be given ten minutes to walk around the room and add information from their annotations to the different stations.  

Providing students an opportunity to take their annotated thoughts and transpose those to written form allows me to formatively assess their ability to delineate King's argument.  I will be watching students for evidence of them identifying sections of argument.  

Additionally, providing students with an opportunity to get up out of their seats is great practice.  I get stir-crazy when I am asked to sit for 50 minutes and I know my sophomores do as well.  The standards ask students to initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (SL.9-10.1).  While students are at the various stations, there is no doubt they will engage in collaborative discussions about these sections of King's argument. 

Building Knowledge: Creating a List of Characteristics of Valid Argument

5 minutes

Once students have had a chance to write examples of King's claims, argument and evidence on the boards, we will return to our seats to do a quick debrief of what we discovered about his organization and strategy for presenting argument.

The main focus of this lesson is to help students understand how masters of argument create and organize their arguments so that they can become masters of argument themselves. While CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 asks students to dive into a variety of specific argumentative strategies and structures, we are specifically asking them to delineate and evaluate the claims and arguments of a text for validity and relevance so that they can mimic this in their own arguments.

To move from our reading task to our writing task, we will ask students to quickly generate a list of key character traits of solid argument, which we will chart/write on the main classroom boards. We will ask them to use this list to create their group arguments (W.9-10.10).

Applying Knowledge: Small Group Creation of Written Argument

20 minutes

Each group will be given two writing topics. The group can chooses between the two options.   These  topics include: social media, technology in school, compassion, censorship, equality, standardized testing, bullying (cyber and in person), student drug-testing in school, the cost of  higher education, television, video games/gaming, the pressure to be perfect, diversity in HS sports, responsibilities of bystanders (witnesses), kindness, climate change, teaching evolution in public school, journalism, consumerism, privacy, community service, local food movement, vegetarian/vegans, the pursuit of happiness,  nutrition, failure, winning, body image, multilingual society, political awareness, violence, protest, etc.  I want students to follow King's essay structure.  However I want their own voices to ring through the essay. So, I will model an example using friendship.  

The topic will be on the smart board.  Next I will show the following sentence:  Even the most intervened person needs friends.  However, people evaluate friendships in different ways.  

I will display a graphic organizer and fill it in using my examples.  I hesitate to give students a graphic organizer that puts limitations on how many examples or how much evidence they can use.  However, the point of this assignment is for them to write an argument patterned after King's text. Therefore the graphic organizer helps them to focus on filling the needs of the assignment. I will also ask them to label their evidence as either logos or pathos.  

In these groups, students' objective is to use the graphic organizer to presents their claim, and relevant and substantive evidence to demonstrate valid reasoning (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1) to support their claim. The graphic organizer follows a linear, reflecting the structure of Dr. King's own argument. Teachers may adapt to another graphic organizer as needed. 

Within their groups, students are encouraged to argue for present their own information, prior knowledge, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically so that group members can follow the line of reasoning (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4), In ultimately coming to a consensus on the wording of their topic argument and support. Students are directed to vote in the event of disagreement or deadlock.  



Wrap Up and Next Steps

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I will let them know that they will be writing these essays during the next class.  They can come to conference (end of day tutoring time) if they need to finish the graphic organizer.  Students will place the outlines in the try on their way out the door. Now I will have time to evaluate them and provide feedback on their relevance and structure before they write their essays.