Crafting Claims and Counterclaims for Argumentative Essays

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SWBAT develop a claim and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each by examining alternative answers to their essential question.

Big Idea

Students will revise their claim and develop counterclaims to create a stronger, more well-rounded argument.

Let's Get Started: Peer Evaluation of the Draft Claim

5 minutes

As the students arrive for class, the powerpoint on claims and counterclaims tells them to find a partner. They will work with this partner for all the activities in class.  For homework, students had to finish crafting a claim. Today they should have their essential question for their research project, a draft of the claim, and at least four reasons they believe in their claim (W 9-10. 1a and b) .  

Now their partner will function as their peer evaluator.  On the back of their homework, the peer evaluator is ask to respond to the following prompts: 

  • ™Does the claim clearly answer the question?  Explain why or why not.
  • ™Does each of the four reasons logically support the claim? If no, how can s/he fix it?
  • ™Rank the four reasons in order of importance.  1 is the strongest reason and 4 is the least strong reason.  

 We are still at the initial planning stages of their argumentative essay(W 9-10. 5). I want them to really explore how they craft their question and the claim. At this point, time remains for them to make adjustments and revisions to their claim as they begin to develop the rationale and organization of their argument.  Hopefully the feedback on the quality and strength of their claim and reasons will help them when we get to the library to gather evidence and eventually organize their essay.  

As they wrap up their feedback, the second slide on the powerpoint reviews the foundations of argumentation.  They need to access their prior knowledge before I introduce the concept of the counterclaim. 

Building Knowledge: Counterclaims: What are Other Credible Possibilities?

10 minutes

Slides four through seven explain counterclaims and how it fits into argumentation.  It becomes their fifth foundational element of argumentation.  

Slide four defines counterclaim and why it is important in an argumentative essay (W 9-10. 1b). I want to emphasize that a counterclaim, like the claim, must logically answer the research question.  It has to be a credible possibility.  

Slide five uses "Three Ways of Meeting Oppression" by Dr. Martin Luther King as an example.  The students read this essay in their unit on rhetoric. The claim and counterclaims are on the slide. It emphasizes that for each counterclaim a writer has to (1) provided evidence to demonstrate the validity of the counterclaim and (2) explained using evidence why the claim is preferred. 

Side six poses a research question.  I chose this question because our district recently contracted with the city police department to have armed police on campus to address the security concerns raised by parents and staff. A police presence was not the solution the community wanted; however, it is what we got.  It is a hot issue right now, so I know my students have an opinion on the topic.

Question: ™How should Tucson High address the increased violence on campus?  

Claim: Tucson High needs armed security on campus to reduce incidences of violence.

I give two counterclaims.  One of them does not respond logically to the prompt.  I pose the question: Are both examples logical counterclaims?  Ideally, a brave volunteer would say no. The second counterclaim is on the topic of violence in school, but it does not answer the question. It cannot be a counterclaim. 

The final slide for this section reinforces the need for the counterclaim to logically respond to the prompt.  It is the Gold Five rule for writing that reminds students that successful writers STAY ON TARGET!


Applying Knowledge: Counterclaim Crafting Practice

10 minutes

I can't sit for too long, so I know by this point my students need to move.  The next slide is a counterclaim activity.  I give them four prompts on slide 8.  With their partner they choose a prompt and collaborate to write a quick claim and counterclaim (SL 9-10. 1). 

Once they have finished drafting a claim and counterclaim, one of the student's writes their claim and counterclaim on the board (W 9-10. 1a and b).  By creating a visual of all the pairs' claims and counterclaims, I can pick and choose examples that illustrate strong claims/counterclaims and examples that need revision to hit the target.  It also allows students to see a variety of perspectives on a topic. 

Hopefully, going over the claims and counterclaims will elicit comments and questions from the class. They need to be ready to produce potential counterclaims for their argumentative essay.  

Applying Knowledge: Crafting Counterclaims for Our Essential Questions

15 minutes

Now, it is time for students to draft a counterclaim that responds to their essential question (W 9-10. 1b).

I pass out the worksheet on crafting a counterclaim.  They have to write their essential question and claim again. I want them to stay focused on what they have already accomplished as part of the pre-writing process (W 9-10. 5).  Next I ask them to write at least three potential counterclaims.  They will have to use two in their final essay.  

Applying Knowledge: Peer Evaluation of Counterclaims

10 minutes

Finally we return to where class began with peer evaluation.  Once they finish their counterclaims, they exchange papers with their partners.  On the back of crafting a counterclaim are prompts for evaluating counterclaims. They are similar to the prompts for claims. 

1. Do the counterclaims clearly answer the question?  Explain why or why not (suggestions for improvement).

2. Does each of the three counterclaims fit at least one of these descriptors 1. the opposite of your claim 2.  the extremes of your claim 3. a nuanced difference from your claim (label them)?  If no, how can s/he fix it?

3. Rank the three counterclaims in order of importance.  1 is the strongest counterclaim and 4 is the least strong counterclaim.  

Just like the claim, we are still in the preliminary stages of writing an argumentative essay. Student still have some time to revise and/or rework their claims and counterclaims (W 9-10. 5). 

Wrap Up: Research Proposal Reminder

5 minutes

For the next class, students have to bring a 250 word research proposal with a flyer that advertises their essential question. I take the last few minutes of class to remind them of the assignment and answer any lingering questions.