Information Literacy: Laying the groundwork for determining and evaluating evidence based claims (1 of 2)

7 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify a claim and evidence in a text and draw conclusions about them by analyzing and taking notes on a documentary.

Big Idea

Can students treat a documentary just like an argumentative print text?

Warm Up

10 minutes

This two day lesson begins with students reviewing argumentative terms.  I project these terms and instruct students to write down the term and the definition (L.9-10.4).  They will quiz over these terms in a few days.  


1.   claim – the debatable point you, the arguer, want to make

2.   reasons – arguments that help support the main argument

3.   evidence – facts, statistics, reports, or physical proof

4.   premises – ideas already held by the listener

5.   counterclaim – acknowledgement of the “other side” of the argument

6.   rebuttal – your response to the counterclaim

7. ethos – source credibility, authority

8. logos – reason-giving induction, deduction

9. pathos – emotional or motivational appeal


After students write them down, I ask them to highlight any of the terms the didn't already know.  This process helps them and me.  It helps them recognize terms they really need to focus on. The highlighted words are a quick visual tool for me to glance at and recognize how many terms my students don't know.  

Viewing the documentary

70 minutes

Today students are watching the PBS documentary "The Merchants of Cool."  The entire documentary can be seen on the PBS website.    Please be aware that parts of the film might be questionable for some audiences.  This video explains why this documentary is great and why I use it in my classroom. I typically don't watch entire films in class.  I'm a big fan of film clips.  This documentary is the one exception.  The film is shocking for students and thought provoking.  In addition, the film presents numerous arguments supported by great evidence.  It is one of the pieces of my curriculum that hasn't changed in years.  


I stop the film at 3:55 and ask students to brainstorm at their tables what they think the main idea is.  After they tell me the main idea is about marketing to teenagers, I will then explain that our job while watching the documentary today is to examine the argument.  Students have two tasks.  One, raise their hand when they have heard a claim.  Two, raise their hand when they have heard/seen evidence to support that claim.  So while the next 30 minutes of the documentary is playing, students are raising their hands and I will stop the film.  We will discuss whatever they saw and will take notes on the whiteboard so they have my support while practicing this skill.  We will identify arguments and evidence and discuss the validity of that evidence (SL.9-10.3) (RI.9-10.8).  We will do this consistently for the first 30 minutes of the film.  After half way through, I will explain to students that they have done a great job with the claims and evidence and now we will watch the rest of the film while they take notes on their own paper.  



After the Documentary

10 minutes

After the documentary is over, students look at their notes and we discuss what conclusions they can draw.  Their notes list the text's central idea and they analyzed its development over the course of the text (RI.9-10.2).  Now I want students to determine how the documentary's claims are developed by specific evidence (scene clips, music, celebrities, etc.).  I will ask them to get out a piece of paper and answer the following question:

Based on your notes, write a letter to PBS explaining at least one claim and one piece of evidence they used to support that claim (W.9-10.10).  Explain whether or not you think the evidence was sufficient for PBS' argument (W.9-10.9b).  We are going to read an article on this same subject tomorrow so this prompt also helps the students begin to evaluate the credibility of this first source (RI.9-10.8). 

Students will turn in this assignment and their notes when class ends.  I will review the notes and use this formative assessment to drive part two of this lesson tomorrow.