Logic and Argument: Evaluating the Argument in “Beyond the Brain” | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M4A:U2:L2

Logic and Argument: Evaluating the Argument in “Beyond the Brain”

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can identify the argument and specific claims in a text. (RI.7.8)
  • I can evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text for sound reasoning and relevant, sufficient evidence. (RI.7.8)

Supporting Targets

  • I can evaluate an argument's use of evidence and reasoning in an excerpt from "Beyond the Brain."

Ongoing Assessment

  • Neurologist's Notebook #6 (from homework)
  • Answers to Text-Dependent Questions: "Beyond the Brain"


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Reviewing Learning Target/Evaluating a Flawed Argument: Argument A (5 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Evaluating an Argument: Argument B; Relevant and Sufficient Evidence and Sound Reasoning 
(10 minutes)

B. Text-dependent Questions for "Beyond the Brain" (20 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Preview Homework: Tracing an Argument Note-catcher for "Beyond the Brain" (10 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Finish page 1 of the Tracing the Argument note-catcher for "Beyond the Brain." 

B. Continue independent reading (at least 20 minutes).

  • This lesson draws on students' understanding of main idea and supporting details from the previous unit but marks a shift in genre that students are reading. In Unit 1, students read text written to inform or explain. Now, in Unit 2, students prepare to read argument writing. In argument writing, the main idea is called "claim" and supporting details are called "reasoning," and "evidence." Be sure to explain that although the terminology changes, the skill of determining and analyzing the main idea (or the central "claim" is the same).
  •  Students also draw on their learning from Module 2 about what makes evidence relevant. This lesson offers a review, which will help any who may not have been present in Module 2. It also develops further understanding by adding the concepts of sufficient evidence and sound reasoning to support the claim, as students begin to trace an argument and identify and evaluate claims and evidence in different informational texts. If your students do not do Module 2, consider how the lesson might need to be adapted. Review Module 2 instruction on argument writing (M2A Unit 1 or M2B Unit 2).
  • In Work Time B, students use the criteria they built for evaluating evidence to trace a central claim and the use of evidence in an excerpt from the text "Beyond the Brain." This skill will be reinforced throughout the next several lessons through the use of the Tracing the Argument note-catcher, which is introduced today. Students will use this note-catcher repeatedly to trace and evaluate arguments in texts and videos.
  • "Beyond the Brain" also plays an important role in the module as it reminds students to read arguments based on brain science with a bit of skepticism and to be wary of texts that oversimplify the neuroscience. Given the newness and the complexity of neuroscience, this is important advice.
  • "Beyond the Brain" is a complex text. The Close Reading Guide focuses on only the most salient paragraphs for mapping out its argument. Consider assigning the entire piece as a challenge for your academically proficient readers.
  • "Beyond the Brain" also very briefly references the culturally sensitive topic of sexual arousal. The piece remains a strong, well-organized argument, and it is felt that its benefits outweigh its risks in that regard. Bear in mind that this phrase exists within the text and plan for managing any potentially distracting student reactions.
  • In advance:

-   Create a blank Evaluating an Argument anchor chart (see supporting materials).

  • Review:

-   Fist to Five in Checking for Understanding Techniques (see Appendix).

-   Close Reading Guide for "Beyond the Brain."

  • Post: Learning target.


argument writing, informational writing, claim, evidence, evaluate, sound reasoning, unsound reasoning, relevant, sufficient, logical; captivate, refute


  • Document camera
  • Argument A (one to display)
  • Argument B (one to display)
  • Evaluating an Argument anchor chart (new; co-created with students in Work Time A; see blank example in supporting materials)
  • Evaluating an Argument anchor chart (model, for teacher reference)
  • "Beyond the Brain" (one per student and one to display)
  • Text-Dependent Questions: "Beyond the Brain" (one per student)
  • Close Reading Guide: "Beyond the Brain" (for teacher reference)
  • Tracing an Argument note-catcher (one per student and one to display)
  • Tracing an Argument note-catcher (answers, for teacher reference)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reviewing Learning Target/Evaluating a Flawed Argument: Argument A (5 minutes)

  • Read aloud the learning target or invite a volunteer to do so:

*    "I can evaluate an argument's use of evidence and reasoning in an excerpt from 'Beyond the Brain.'"

  • Explain that students will read a different kind of writing today. This text is argument writing, which means it is trying to use reasons and evidence to persuade us to think like the author. Up to this point in the module, they have read informational writing, which has been giving them information. When they read informational texts, they look for main idea and supporting details. Remind them that when they read argument writing, however, the central idea is called the claim and the claim is supported by evidence, as they learned in previous modules.
  • Tell students that since they eventually will write an argument (position paper) on the prompt they read in Lesson 1, they will look primarily at texts in Unit 2 that also make arguments about children and screen time. This will help them prepare their own arguments.
  • Tell students that today's lesson will help them learn to trace and evaluate arguments. Explain that when we evaluate an argument, we assess whether it is strong and successful at proving its claim.
  • Using a document camera, project Argument A. Invite students to evaluate this argument as you read it aloud:

*    "I should not have to limit my video game playing. First, I love my video games more than I love my own family. Plus, it's annoying to have to turn my Xbox off. I finish my homework before I play any games anyway, so it shouldn't matter if I limit my screen time or not. How dangerous can it actually be for me?"

  • Ask:

*    "What is the claim?"

  • Cold call a student to share out. Listen for: "The claim is that the writer shouldn't have to limit his screen time."
  • Ask:

*    "What reasons does the writer give to support the claim?"

  • Cold call students and listen for: "He loves his video games," "It's annoying to turn off the Xbox," and "He finishes his schoolwork before he plays, so it shouldn't matter if he limits his screen time or not."
  • Ask:

*    "What is the problem with these reasons?"

  • Listen for: "The reasons are based on his feelings and don't have to do with facts or evidence."
  • If students struggle to see this, you can probe their thinking by asking:

*    "Does he give solid evidence for his reasons? What are his reasons based on?"

  • Then ask:

*    "What is wrong with this argument? Does it make sense overall?"

  • Cold call students and listen for responses such as: "It's based on his feelings but not evidence," "It has unrelated supporting details," or "It isn't logical."
  • Explain that the proper use of reasons in an argument is called the argument's reasoning. If an argument makes sense, it is considered sound. If an argument does not have solid reasons and evidence to support the claim, or if it uses reasons and evidence that do not make sense, it has unsound reasoning. Remind the class that the prefix un- means "not."
  • Invite students to turn to a partner and discuss:

*    "Do you think the reasoning in this argument is sound or unsound?"

  • Give them 30 seconds to discuss, and then get their attention and cold call a pair to share out. Listen for: "The argument is unsound."
  • Ask students to discuss with their partners for 30 seconds:

*    "Does this argument provide any evidence?"

  • Cold call a different pair. Listen for: "It offers statements that could be considered evidence, but they're all based on feelings, and none of them are facts" or "There is very little supporting evidence, if any."
  • Students may struggle with the idea that a good argument is not based solely on one's personal feelings; be prepared to give additional instruction on this point if needed. For example, just because a student might feel very strongly about being able to play unlimited video games doesn't mean that the student has made an effective argument. Consider drawing an analogy to a young child who wants to touch a stove and when asked why says, "Because I want to."


Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Evaluating an Argument: Argument B; Relevant and Sufficient Evidence and Sound Reasoning (10 minutes)

  • Tell students:

*    "Now we will look at an argument that is stronger. As we analyze it, I want you to think about why this argument is stronger than the first one."

  • Display Argument B and invite students to follow along as you read it aloud:

*    "It's important to limit your video game playing. First, playing video games isn't good for your mind. It exposes young people to violence. Violent video games have been linked to aggression in kids. Also, it isn't good for your health. The more video games you play, the less physical activity you are getting. Obesity and levels of video game playing are linked in research. Finally, playing video games limits the important social interactions you have in real life with friends and family. We miss talking with you around here because you're always playing games!"

  • Ask students to identify the claim. Cold call someone who hasn't been called on. Listen for: "The claim is that it's important to limit video game playing."
  • Ask:

*    "What reasons does the writer give?"

  • Listen for: "It exposes kids to violence," "It cuts down on your physical activity," and "It limits the face-to-face interaction you have with real people."
  • Ask:

*    "Does the writer give any specific evidence to support those reasons?"

  • Listen for: "Yes. Video game violence and aggression have been linked" and "Obesity and video game playing are linked."
  • Then ask students to turn to a partner and discuss:

*    "What does relevant evidence mean?"

  • Cold call a student to share out. Listen for: "Relevant evidence is something that relates to the claim and helps to prove it accurately."
  • Use the Fist to Five Checking for Understanding technique to have students rate the relevance of the evidence given in this argument. Look for them to hold up 4s or 5s. If any have 3s or lower, ask them to explain their reasoning so you can clarify their understanding.
  • Define the term sufficient for students. Explain that sufficient evidence is high in both quantity and quality. For there to be sufficient evidence for a claim, there needs to be enough supporting pieces of evidence to convince the reader. There is not a set amount of evidence that is "enough"; this depends very much on the task and the audience. However, a good rule of thumb for beginning argument writers is "more is better."
  • Prompt students:

*    "Discuss with your partners whether the evidence provided here is sufficient to prove the claim."

  • After a minute, cold call some students who have not yet spoken. Listen for: "The writer provides different reasons and pieces of evidence that all support the claim, so for a short piece like this, that is sufficient."
  • Next, tell students to look at the reasoning, or logic, provided in the argument. Ask them to look for sound reasoning, or solid logic, in which the reasons and evidence connect and work together to prove the claim.
  • Ask:

*    "Can you find any examples of sound reasoning in this argument?"

  • Cold call students and listen for them to point out the lines: "The link between video games and aggression is sound reasoning for saying it's not good for your health"; "The link between obesity and video games is sound reasoning that it isn't good for your body or your mind"; and "The family misses talking to the little brother because he plays so many video games, which is sound reasoning for the effect the video games are having on his social interaction."
  • If students struggle to understand the concept of "sound reasoning," you can explain it further as a way of organizing one's reasons and use of evidence in a logical and connected way so that, after taking into account everything the writer/speaker has presented, you view the claim as legitimate and valid, even if you don't agree with it.
  • Post the blank Evaluating an Argument anchor chart. Introduce it to students and explain that they will help you build the descriptors for each term. Chart student responses as you progress through the next few questions:

*    "Now that you have seen some examples of irrelevant and relevant evidence, how can we capture what 'relevant evidence' means on our chart?"

*    "How can we describe what 'sufficient evidence' means on our chart?"

*    "How can we explain what 'sound reasoning' means on our chart?"

  • Guide and prompt students as you fill out the anchor chart with appropriate descriptors, referring to the Evaluating an Argument anchor chart (model, for teacher reference) as needed.
  • Explain that if an argument has sound reasoning supported by relevant and sufficient evidence, it creates a valid claim.
  • Invite students to look over this chart and tell them that they will refer back to it throughout this lesson and in future lessons.
  • Consider assigning partners for the discussions in Work Time A and B so students can work with different classmates and stay focused.
  • Anchor charts offer students a visual cue about what to do when you ask them to work independently. They also serve as note-catchers when the class is co-constructing ideas.
  • For students who struggle with following multiple-step directions, consider displaying these directions using a document camera or interactive white board. Another option is to type up these instructions for students to have in hand.


B. Text-dependent Questions for "Beyond the Brain" (20 minutes)

  • Tell students that now they will apply what they've just learned about analyzing claims, reasoning, and evidence to their reading for today.
  • Distribute and display "Beyond the Brain" and the Text-Dependent Questions: "Beyond the Brain."
  • Have students find a partner.
  • Use the Close Reading Guide: "Beyond the Brain" to guide the class through a series of text-dependent questions. Let students know that they will be looking specifically for claims, reasons, and evidence in "Beyond the Brain." Their work in class will assist them in doing their homework.


  • Graphic organizers and note-catchers engage students more actively and provide scaffolding that is especially critical for learners with lower levels of language proficiency and/or learning.
  • When reviewing the note-catcher, consider using a document camera to display it for students who struggle with auditory processing.
  • For students needing additional supports, you may want to provide a partially filled-in note-catcher.

Closing & Assessments


A. Preview Homework: Tracing an Argument Note-catcher for "Beyond the Brain" (10 minutes)

  • Distribute and display the Tracing an Argument note-catcher. Refer to the Tracing an Argument note-catcher (answers, for teacher reference) as needed while working with students.
  • Give directions:
  1. Put your name at the top of this new note-catcher.
  2. Fill out the title of the text in the appropriate section.
  3. Write "David Brooks" under Author's Name.
  • Ask:

*    "What was the author's central claim? Use your text-dependent question notes to help you."

  • Cold call a student, or several, to get a sense of what they thought the claim was. Listen for responses such as: "The brain is not the mind" or "Looking at a brain scan does not predict a person's emotions or actions."
  • Ask students to write the claim in the appropriate spot on the Tracing an Argument note-catcher.
  • Then prompt students to talk with an elbow partner:

*    "You can see that the reason the author gives in Paragraph 6 to support his claim is filled in for you here. What evidence did the author use first to support this reason in Paragraph 6? Use your text-dependent question notes to help you. Remember the structure we discussed."

  • Give pairs a couple of minutes to discuss the evidence, then cold call a pair to share out. Listen for: "You don't know what you're seeing when you look at a brain scan because it could be many different activities" or "The amygdala or other parts of the brain handle different activities or emotions, so how do you know what you're looking at?"
  • Model writing the evidence under Supporting Evidence 1 on the note-catcher.
  • Now ask students to discuss whether the evidence is relevant and why. Remind them that relevant means "relates to the claim and helps to prove it." Refer to the Evaluating an Argument anchor chart if needed.
  • Before the discussion starts, note that the answer to this question is structured on the note-catcher as an "If ... then" statement. Remind students that they worked with "If ... then" statements in Unit 1, Lessons 6-8. Note that the "If ... then" statement is a good way to make sure the connection between the claim and the evidence is identified. 
  • Point out to students that the "then" portion of the statement has already been filled in. Ask whether they recognize it. Listen for: "It's the claim."
  • Cold call a student to explain why Supporting Evidence 1 is relevant. Encourage him or her to use the "If ... then" format.
  • Model writing down the appropriate answer in the correct space on the note-catcher.
  • Let students know that they will fill out the rest of Part 1 for homework. Specify that this means they will identify evidence for Paragraph 7, using their text-dependent questions, and determine whether that evidence is relevant. They will also read and analyze Paragraph 8 on their own.

Be sure students understand that the other questions, in Part 2, will be completed in the next class. Remind them to take their text-dependent questions home with them for assistance.


  • Finish page 1 of the Tracing the Argument note-catcher for "Beyond the Brain."
  • Continue independent reading (at least 20 minutes).

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