Lesson Plan

How to Revise the Claims of an Argument

Students review how to revise claims to make them substantial and compelling.
Mary A.
Classroom teacher
Turlock High School
Turlock, CA
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My Grades 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts
Objectives

Students will be able to...

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.5

Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.A

Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Subjects
English Language Arts
Grades 11 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Review Argument Claims

Claims are arguable conclusions (main points) that serve as the foundation of an argument.  However, my definition of claim is that it should be written as a substiantiated claim, one that provides a conclusion and premise - not just a conclusion, which is what most claims would provide. I have found that my students are better able to write claims if they can recognize the arguable portions of the claim immediately.  The premise provides the arguable portion that is easily recognizable.  The point here is that the reason should be included in the claim so that it is one statement.

EXAMPLE

  • claim (conclusion) - You should loan me your car. (this is a claim of policy)
  • reason (premise) - I am a safe driver.
  • substantiated claim - You should loan me your car because I am a safe driver.

Teach claim review by having students watch "Parts of an Argument...," an Ed-Portal video.  They should focus on the claim and reason portion of the argument because together, the claim and reason are the foundation of a basic argument - the main point the writer makes in an argument.  In addition, showing students two segments of Aaron Dewald's videos on critical thinking will be helpful in cementing the ideas presented in the Ed-Portal video because it breaks down arguments into its component parts:  first - premise + conclusion: segment 1.2, "Understanding Arguments."  TubeChop the part of the video that explains a basic claim construction (about two minutes); otherwise, the entire ten-minute segment covers more than is needed for this first step. Second - evaluate the parts of the claim:  segment 1.5, "What is an Argument."  Again, TubeChop the segments that deal with evaluating the premise + conclusion. Embed this "chopped" video into Vialogues and write a guiding question so that students focus on understanding parts of a claim. For the clearest understanding of claim, I ask students to see the claim as the main, arguable point of the essay - the statement that requires a premise (reason) + a conclusion (the main point the essay should make). 

Post videos to your class website.

Ask students to take notes on the Give One/Get One graphic organizer - and then discuss their notes with five different students so that they clarify the main points of the video.

Student Instructions
  1. Watch, listen to video on writing claims from the following videos:
    • Parts of an Argument
    • Understanding Arguments
    • What is an Argument
  2. Take notes on the Give One/Get One handout.  Discuss main ideas of claim writing with at least 5 different students.  In one column of the grahic organizer, write what you learned.  In another column, take notes (and discuss) what others told you. Also share what you wrote. Discuss the aspects of the video notes that are different from your mates' notes. The point of the discussion is that you understand how to construct a claim that includes a premise and conclusion and that you can evaluate the parts.Clarify your notes by discussing how well you understood the videos.

 

2 Clarify Key Words in Claims

Activity: Other — Isolate and locate keywords in the claim and explain part of the argument.

Once students are reminded of what argumentative claims are (see "Review" above), they should then lift their claims (and explanations) out of their essays and determine what the MOST IMPORTANT words, the KEY WORDS of the claim are.  

I teach students a four-part argument:  claim, explain, evidence, and commentary.  The explanation should help clarify the claim. Students should lift out the claim and explanation in order to determine the key words in the main claim.

EXAMPLE

  • (conclusion or claim) - You should loan me your car. (this is a claim of policy)
  • (premise or reason) - I am a safe driver.
  • (explain the claim - give the reader a logical explanation about why the claim makes sense) - I just found out that my car is broken, and I have to get to work within 30 minutes, and since we are friends who live next door to each other, I thought I'd ask to borrow yours. 

Sometimes students do not discuss KEY aspects of the claim because they're not sure what the keywords are. Other times, students write claims but do not include KEY ideas to discuss - though they've used the same word a few times.  In their claims, they may use a few words more than others but may not have chosen words that contain important ideas.  By isolating keywords, students can define and question these words to determine whether they contain substance, whether they contain ideas they intend to discuss in their paper.  

Having students type their claims (AND explanations) into a word cloud platform such as Tagul, students can not only see a visual of the keywords that are used but will be provided with a diagnostic of the number of times the words were used.  Students can even import their entire essay (I recommend the introduction and first body paragraph) into Tagul.  This will isolate the keywords in their one-claim arguments, as opposed to all of the sub claims in the argument.

Once keywords within the claim and explanation are isolated, ask students to determine what THEY mean by the words.  Explain to them that the reader may have a different understanding of the keywords, so it is the writer's job to clarify definitions of key terms - and then be sure to keep a focus on the words throughout the paper. These are the important concepts that the rest of the paper will argue.  In my example above, I might have a very different idea of what car, loanborrow, and/or safe mean to me vs. to my reader.  For example, I might want to borrow my neighbor's NEW car or her minivan - or a loan might mean that I will return the car at some point in the future - but will not specifiy a time - or that safe means that I have a reasonably good driving record vs. zero moving or parking violations.  These keywords will help to develop the argument and will require the student to have a keen understanding of his terms so that he can clarify them throughout the paper for the reader. Word clouds force this type of isolation.  Once words are isolated, students should provide a definition.

 

 

Student Instructions

Your goal is to clarify your claim by figuring out what the keywords of the argument are.  You'll need to watch these words throughout the paper to determine whether you are sticking to your claim or not.  Once you have determined the keywords, define the keywords to clarify them in your own mind.  What do YOU mean by the words in your claim?  Your understanding may be different from your reader's.  So, rewrite your claim in the simplest language. How might you explain your claim to a younger student, say a fifth grader?  If you can explain your claim to a fifth grader, and she understands it, then YOU REALLY understand it.  Isolating and clarifying keywords will help you have a clear claim that is easy to understand.  Look back at your claim often as you develop the argument it makes throughout your paper. 

Step One:  Import parts of your essay

  • Go to Tagul
  • Import the introduction and first body paragraph into Tagul - then click visualize.  It will show a visual of the most-used words.  It will also show you the number of times you've used the words.
  • If you find that these are NOT the most important words in your claim, then figure out what you meant to say and rewrite the claim to include the ideas you want to develop in your paper.
  • If the most-used words ARE what you intended to argue, then be sure that you are referencing them as you develop your argument.

 

3 Discuss Cohesion - Link the Claim, Explain, & Intro

Create a Piazza account.  Set up groups for your students.  I have written a Field Note about this website.  It will take about 15 minutes to set up.  You can invite your students to join by sending them a link, or you can add their emails yourself. The site is private.  You can also embed the discussions in your class website.  This feature is not available on Edmodo.

Set up student groups.  My students are in area groups (twelve students); quadrant groups (six students); and 3:00 a.m. groups (three students);  I also have a whole-class group.  

Once you've established groups, ask each member of a group to post and analyze the claim, explain, and introduction.  

They should look for an "old" idea from the first sentence - then see if it is linked to a "new" idea in the new sentence.  They should, then, comment on whether or not the sentences have cohesion and support each other if they do not.

Student Instructions

You will need to sign in to Piazza.  Your teacher will provide a link or may have already added you to the discussion.

Each member of your group should take turns posting and commenting on the cohesion of your claim, explanation, and introduction.  

Cohesion means that your sentences link together, they stick together with what I call "word glue" - each sentence connects to the next.  Here's the process:

  1. Post your claim.  Focus on the idea in the sentence.
  2. Post your explanation sentence.  Lift out the "old" idea from the claim and see if the "new" idea in this explanation sentence connects to the claim.  If it does not, comment on it.  Gently support the student who wrote the piece.  Offer advice about how to link the sentences.  If your mate's sentences are cohesive, if they all connect to what came before, offer a high-five note, and tell the student what he/she did well.  Discuss why the sentences are cohesive.
  3. Continue doing this until you have read each group member's work.

4 Do the "Claims Test." Must Answer "Yes" to each Question.

Use Piazza to set up a Poll.  Students can vote on which claims they believe pass the "claims test." Create a list of questions you would ask students to consider about their claims. Your questions should help students determine whether they have written arguable claims that are significant and compelling.

The students' votes in the poll will tell you whether or not they understand whether their claims are valid.  

Here is the "claims test" I wrote for my students.

Remember:  students must be able to answer “yes” to each question in order for their claims to be acceptable. 

_____  1. Is it arguable?

_____ 2.  Can most reasonable people disagree with it? 

_____ 3.  Is the topic logical and important?  Does it make sense to the reader?  Is it significant enough for a reasonable person to care about it?  Does it answer the “so what” question?  Does it explain what it has to do with the average person?  I ask students to remember that claims are written about the human condition – not the textbook characters.

_____4.  Is it specific?

_____5.  If it is a claim of policy, is it written in the affirmative? Are the words “not” or “never” eliminated?

_____ 6.  Is there enough evidence throughout the text to prove the claim – or does the evidence only exist in some parts?  Is there evidence in the beginning, middle, and end of the text to provide evidence to support the claim – or only in one small part at the end?

This is the best way I've helped students revise their claims.  

 

 

 

Student Instructions

Take the Piazza Poll.  Read each claim.  Answer the questions your teacher has asked in order to help you determine whether the claims you're reading are arguable, significant, and compelling.  If you can answer "yes" to each of your teacher's questions, you then have a good claim.  If not, you'll need to revise it.

Read each claim carefully before you vote.

Here is the "claims test."

Remember:  you must be able to answer “yes” to each question in order for your claim to be accepted. 

_____  1. Is it arguable?

_____ 2.  Can most reasonable people disagree with it? 

_____ 3.  Is the topic logical and important?  Does it make sense to the reader?  Is it significant enough for a reasonable person to care about it?  Does it answer the “so what” question?  Does it show a regular person what it has to do with him?  Remember that claims are about the human condition – not the textbook characters.

_____4.  Is it specific?

_____5.  If it is a claim of policy, is it written in the affirmative? Are the words “not” or “never” eliminated?

_____ 6.  Is there enough evidence throughout the text to prove the claim – or does the evidence only exist in some parts?  Is there evidence in the beginning, middle, and end of the text to prove the claim – or only in one small part at the end?

Answer "yes" to all of these questions, and you've got yourself a good claim.  If not, restart the revision process.