Writing an Argument Essay: Developing Claims and Reasons | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2B:U2:L12

Writing an Argument Essay: Developing Claims and Reasons

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • With support from peers and adults, I can use a writing process to ensure that purpose and audience have been addressed. (W.7.5)
  • I can select evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (W.7.9)

Supporting Targets

  • I can develop and choose relevant and compelling reasons, supported by strong evidence from Pygmalion, to support the claim I am making in my argument essay.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Eliza Character Tracker


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Unpack Learning Target/Model Reason Generation (1 minute)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Generating Reasons: Eliza's Identity (14 minutes)

     B.  Weighing the Reasons: Eliza's Identity (15 minutes)

     C.  Making a Claim (10 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Formalize Claim and Review Learning Targets (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Review the New York State Expository Rubric.

  • In this lesson, students develop, weigh, and choose the reasons that will lead to the claim they will make in their argument essay (that Eliza Doolittle's internal identity has, or has not, changed over the course of Pygmalion). This is hard, thought-intensive work; students who need additional support may benefit from a small-group approach to each work time and/or slowing down the pace in general by spreading the work over two lessons.
  • Students carefully review their Eliza Character Tracker, on which, throughout the unit, they have gathered and analyzed textual evidence about Eliza's identity.
  • Students then synthesize the evidence they have gathered to create reasons why Eliza's internal identity has or has not changed. This is a critical step in crafting their arguments.
  • This lesson is a decision point for the students. By the end of the lesson, they will be ready to write their claim and will have identified their reasons that support it. To help students decide which claim to argue, they weigh the reasons and text code their Eliza Character Tracker. Be prepared to return these trackers with feedback in Lesson 14 and to use the data they provided to inform your instructional decisions over the next several lessons about where students may need additional support.
  • Weighing reasons is critical and difficult work. Keep reminding students that they need to decide which reasons seem the most compelling and that they need to support those reasons with evidence from the text.
  • To teach students how to choose the most compelling and well-supported reasons for their essay, this lesson includes the Take a Stand protocol that they first did in Module 1, Unit 2, Lesson 4. For this lesson, the protocol is changed in small ways. Instead of using it to agree or disagree, students will move depending on whether they think Statement A or Statement B is stronger (see Work Time A). This is a chance for students to physically move around while learning this crucial step in the argument writing process.
  • At this point, students have rotated more than once through all of the appointments on their Diversity Discussion Appointments handout. From this lesson on, select the appointment, making sure to vary it so that students have the opportunity to meet with a variety of their classmates.
  • At the end of this lesson, collect the Eliza Character Trackers for review, returning them in Lesson 14 with feedback. This is the primary opportunity for you to provide formative feedback to students and check to see whether additional support is needed. While reviewing the trackers, consider making lists of groups of students who need extra support and think ahead about how that support will be provided, particularly in Lesson 16, when the essay will be planned formally. Suggestions for differentiation can be found in the Meeting Students' Needs section in Lesson 16.
  • In the homework, students refer to part of the NYS Expository Writing Rubric (argument version). The section they need to use is embedded in the entry task. In this lesson, students analyze two rows of the argument essay rubric. This is because the argument essay rubric is based on the NYS Expository Writing Rubric, which students analyzed in depth in Module 1. Therefore, students focus only on the criteria that have changed. The full rubric for the essay is attached to Unit 1, Lesson 18. It is also repeated for student reference in the Pygmalion Essay Planner in Lesson 14.
  • During Work Time A, review students' Eliza Character Trackers to see which students may need additional support today.
  • Post: Learning targets.


compelling, counterclaim, relevant, irrelevant, well-chosen


  • Pygmalion (play; one per student
  • Eliza Character Tracker (from Lesson 3; one per student)
  • Document camera
  • End of Unit 2 Assessment: Pygmalion Argument Essay Prompt (one per student and one to display)
  • Take a Stand Teacher Guide (for teacher reference)
  • Take a Stand Statements (one to display)
  • New York State Expository Writing Rubric Homework (one per student)



A. Unpack Learning Target (1 minute)

  • Direct students' attention to the learning target and read it out loud:

*   "I can develop and choose relevant and compelling reasons, supported by strong evidence from Pygmalion, to support the claim I am making in my argument essay."

  • Ask students to volunteer how their work yesterday connects with this target today. Listen for answers such as: "We were beginning to use our evidence to figure out the reasons for change in Eliza on our Eliza trackers."

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Generating Reasons: Eliza's Identity (14 minutes)

  • Direct students to work with a partner to complete Part II of the Eliza Character Tracker if they haven't done so already. Circulate as students work and prompt them to connect their reasons to specific textual evidence. Have them refer to their Pygmalion texts where necessary.
  • Refocus whole class. Call on students to share their reasons, asking each to explain the piece of textual evidence that connects to that reason. Document reasons using the document camera. Listen for students to say:

-   Reasons to support the claim that Eliza has changed internally: She is more confident in her ability to make decisions for herself; she has a stronger sense of self-respect and can stand up to Higgins's bullying; she "can never go back" to her way of life, now that she knows how to be "a lady"; on the other hand, she understands now that upper-class society has its own weaknesses, and by learning their values, manners and speech, she is left "between two worlds."

-   Reasons to support the claim that Eliza has not changed internally: She has had a sense of self-worth from beginning to end; she remains an energetic, outgoing person; she has always had a sense of what she wants from relationships with people (kindness and tenderness); she has always had a sense of disapproval about her friends and family, especially her father.

  • Give students specific positive feedback about their careful thinking about evidence. Tell them that the process they just used--gathering evidence, thinking about it, relating it to the question, synthesizing it--is an essential part of forming a claim. Strong readers and writers do just this. They don't jump right to a claim, but really think carefully about all of the evidence before deciding what they will argue.
  • Be prepared to run this as a whole-class activity if students are struggling to generate reasons in pairs. It is critical that they have a clear list of reasons to draw on when they start to plan their essays.

B. Weighing the Reasons: Eliza's Identity (15 minutes)

  • Remind students that they have worked very hard as a class to gather and analyze relevant and specific evidence from the text. Praise them for filling out their Eliza Character Trackers so diligently.
  • Point out that the class has used the evidence to generate reasons to support both claims: that Eliza both has and has not changed internally.
  • Explain to students that although they have many relevant pieces of evidence and a number of reasons, not all of these are equally strong. Some of the reasons are weaker or not as convincing as others. Other reasons are compelling--that is, they are very convincing. They make sense and are supported by strong evidence from the text.
  • Emphasize the importance of finding compelling reasons by giving an example from the students' experience. Consider this example, and modify and/or substitute as your professional judgment dictates:

*   "I'm trying to convince you to go see a movie. I might say, 'You should go because it's a short movie--it's only 90 minutes long.' The reason is true and it is supported by evidence (90 minutes long), but it isn't very compelling. Brevity isn't usually a reason someone strongly likes or dislikes a movie. But if I said, 'You should go to the movie because nine out of 10 teenagers say it's a great movie,' that might be a more compelling reason. What peers think of a movie usually does influence whether or not someone sees it, and it is supported by evidence--a statistic."

*   "Here is a tricky one: I might say, 'Meryl Streep is in it.' Is that a compelling reason for you personally? No, because it is only a piece of evidence, and it is not connected to a reason. You don't know who Meryl Streep is. So even though that's relevant, it isn't compelling. But if I explained, 'The acting in this movie is fantastic! Meryl Streep is in it, and she is a really good actress who has won numerous awards!' then that reason becomes more compelling to you."

*   "Here is another tricky one: I might say, 'I saw this movie before, and it's funny! I'd like to see it again.' You might ask, 'What happened in it that is funny?' If I can't answer you, then my reason isn't compelling. Even if you like funny movies, a reason that I can't support with evidence is unlikely to convince you."

  • Explain that to write a convincing argument essay, students need to select compelling reasons and support those reasons with evidence in a way that their reader will understand why they are compelling.
  • Distribute the End of Unit 2 Assessment: Pygmalion Argument Essay Prompt or project it on the document camera. Invite students to read along while you read the prompt aloud. Remind them that the prompt focuses on Eliza, not any other character. Other characters' changes are irrelevant details.
  • Remind students that they have learned a lot about Eliza's character from reading the play. They now know a lot about her character traits and her values, which make up her internal identity. Therefore, when they are thoughtfully considering their evidence, they should ask themselves: "Given what I know about Eliza in the beginning of the play and Eliza at the end, is there strong evidence that she has changed internally--or strong evidence that she has not changed internally?"
  • Direct the students' attention to the reasons under the document camera. Say something like the following:

*   "Now let's practice weighing the reasons. For example, one of the ways Eliza changed that we wrote down is that "she has a stronger sense of self-worth." Now, that may be true. However, it's also true that in order for her self-respect to be stronger, she still has to have self-worth from beginning to end--and in that way, she hasn't changed at all. Because of this, I might argue that this is one of the weaker pieces of evidence that she has changed internally."

  • For the rest of Work Time B, refer to the Take a Stand Teacher Guide.  You also will need to refer to Take a Stand Statements (in the supporting materials).

C. Making a Claim (10 minutes)

  • Direct students to their Eliza Character Tracker Part II. Ask them to review the reasons for claiming that Eliza has and has not changed and choose the three most compelling reasons and circle them. Direct them to the Part II boxes on the left, labeled "Reasons."
  • Remind them that for a reason to be compelling, it must be supported by evidence, which should be found on their trackers. If necessary, they can add evidence to their trackers, but they should not circle any reasons for which they do not have evidence.
  • Instruct the students to turn and explain to a partner the reasons they think are compelling. Give students a few minutes to discuss. Circulate to check how well students are choosing evidence. Provide guidance as needed.
  • Instruct students to put a star on the top of the Eliza Character Tracker Part II chart (internal change, or no internal change) where they found the most compelling reasons. Say:

*   "Because this is where you found the most compelling reasons, this will be the side you will argue."

  • Instruct students to reread the Eliza Character Tracker Part II and find reasons they did NOT circle. Ask them to star the reason that almost persuaded them to choose this side. Remind them that part of writing an argument essay is acknowledging the counterclaim. Point out that a counterclaim includes reasons and evidence that do not support the claim of the essay but are not irrelevant. This is good to include in an essay because it shows the reader that the author has seriously considered many possible arguments.

Closing & Assessments


A. Formalize Claim and Review Learning Targets (5 minutes)

  • Tell students they will now sum up their argument with one sentence. This will be their claim, and they will write it in the box at the bottom of their Eliza Character Tracker. Give students a few minutes to write. Circulate to help with the language.
  • Depending on the needs of your students, consider posting some sentence shells if they are having difficulty crafting a claim:

-   "Because of ________, Eliza has/has not changed internally."

-   "Eliza has/has not changed because _______."

-   "The most compelling reasons that Eliza has/has not changed are ______________."

  • Ask students to turn to a partner and ask how formalizing their claim just now has helped them reach their learning target. Cold call two or three students. Listen for statements such as: "I have to have solid reasons for my claim before I can write the claim."
  • Collect the Eliza Character Trackers for review.
  • Congratulate students on having successfully completed a very academically intense, important lesson.
  • Distribute the New York State Expository Writing Rubric Homework.


  • Complete the New York State Expository Writing Rubric homework.

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