Cornerstone Defending Literary Arguments
Lesson 11 of 21
Objective: Students will be able to form literary arguments by citing evidence supporting claims with commentary in discussion and written arguments.
There isn't any dialogue today, but we did review how one uses punctuation with introductory clauses and compound sentences as well as homonyms, hyphens, and apostrophes in possessives and contractions.
Yesterday, we had a brief discussion about which character would have the best advantage going into the games based on Chapters 1 through 11, but focusing on Chapters 7 through 10. We considered the major tributes like Foxface, Rue, Katniss, Peeta, Thresh, and the Career Tributes. Today, students were given one of four characters--Katniss, Peeta, Rue or the Career Tributes (pick your own). It was pretty much random, but if I knew a student needed or wanted an extra challenge, I gave them Peeta or Rue. I also did my best to give one group all four different characters. No student was given Thresh because that's the character I used for my own modeling.
Once students had their assigned character, I gave students seven minutes to read through the list of evidence for their character and rate the pieces of evidence. Of course, we used the check plus, check minus, check system. This was done individually.
Debating the Evidence
Once students had evaluated the evidence independently, I asked students to relocate and sit with two or three other students who had their same character. I placed 'tents' with the characters' names so it students wouldn't waste time with "Where's Katniss? Where's Peeta? Where's Rueeeeeeeeeee?"
The students' task for these groups was to defend the evidence they'd selected in a discussion. Yes, they're defending the evidence, but I made it clear that they could change their minds at any time. The goal was to get the best evidence, not simply prove their point. If those two things collided, fine. If not, fine.
The next step, of course, is to respond in writing. Nobody saw that coming, right? For this assignment, students wrote a paragraph that I used as a formative assessment. I chose formative, not summative, because this is one of the first times students have worked with debate and arguments. They've certainly written topic sentences for informative and literary analysis paragraphs, but not argumentative. We're also adding in a component--the counterclaim.
The what? First, here's your argument reference sheet. A counterclaim is when a writer presents the other side's evidence and says why it's in correct. You might think that it makes your argument weaker, but it actually makes it stronger. Presenting counterclaims suggests that you have considered all sides of issue, have chosen the strongest side, and have the evidence and commentary to justify your claim.
Now let's consider two different arguments. The two paragraphs below are about the same topic. Which one is strongest? (Here's a Word document with both of these paragraphs).
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the pink paragraph is strongest. What makes it strongest? It's not because it's longer and has more detail or explanation. Not really. It's the presence of a counterclaim. I specifically chose to write about a minor character that not much is know about--Thresh. I claimed that he had the advantage going into the arena, even though most people wouldn't even think of him. He's not mentioned very much, and most readers are focusing on the Career Tributes and Katniss. Those are the characters that are more likely to have the advantage. So if I want to convince others that I'm right, that Thresh has the advantage, then I need to confront the other side head-on. I need to explain why the Career Tributes don't have the advantage even though it seems as though they would. The presence of my counterclaim actually makes my position stronger because I've made my opposition weaker.