Evaluating an Argument: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA 2012 G7:M4A:U2:L3

Evaluating an Argument: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

You are here:

Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can outline a speaker's argument and specific claims. (SL.7.3)
  • I can evaluate the reasoning and evidence presented for soundness, relevance, and sufficiency. (SL.7.3)
  • I can identify and then evaluate an argument and specific claims in a text for sound reasoning and relevant, sufficient evidence. (RI.7.8)  

Supporting Targets

  • I can evaluate the arguments in "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

Ongoing Assessment

  • Tracing an Argument note-catcher, Part 1 (from homework)
  • Thinking Log


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Revisiting Homework (10 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Tracing an Argument in "Is Google Making Us Stupid--YES" (15 minutes)
B. Tracing an Argument in "Is Google Making Us Stupid--NO" (15 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Adding to the Brain Development Anchor Chart: "Is Google Making us Stupid?" (5 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Fill out your Thinking Log for Lesson 3. How did today's reading help clarify your thinking about the issue of screen time?

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

  • In this lesson, students read an argument text which links neuroscience and digital media. This lesson continues the implementation of the Tracing an Argument note-catcher, which students will use twice in order to evaluate both sides of a yes/no debate piece on the question "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"
  • "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" walks a potentially confusing line between educational and entertainment screen time. Remind students that they are only considering the benefits and risks of entertainment screen time.  If they want to use some of the information presented in this article as evidence in their own papers, they need to contextualize the information carefully.
  • Work Time A guides students through using the note-catcher on the "YES" portion of the "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" article.
  • Work Time B gives them another opportunity to practice using the note-catcher on the "NO" portion of the article, this time independently. Students will turn in their note-catchers for this work time so you can review them and provide feedback. If possible, return them with feedback before Lesson 5, when students will again fill in a Tracing an Argument note-catcher as part of their researcher's notebook.
  • In advance: Determine pairs for the Closing activity.
  • Post: Learning target.


sound reasoning, unsound reasoning, relevant, claim, reason, evidence


  • Tracing an Argument note-catcher (for "Beyond the Brain"; answers for Part 2, for teacher reference)
  • "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (one per student)
  • Document camera
  • Tracing an Argument note-catcher (from Lesson 2; two new blank copies per student)
  • Tracing an Argument note-catcher (for "Is Google Making Us Stupid--YES?"; answers, for teacher reference)
  • Tracing an Argument note-catcher (for "Is Google Making Us Stupid--NO"; answers, for teacher reference)
  • Brain Development anchor chart--student version (from Unit 1, Lesson 2)
  • Model Brain Development anchor chart (for teacher reference)



A. Revisiting Homework (10 minutes)

  • Have students get out their homework and copies of "Beyond the Brain" from Lesson 2.
  • Review the correct answers for evidence and evaluation of evidence from Paragraph 7 and the entire section of Paragraph 8. Display the Page 1 teacher reference version from Lesson 2 if needed. Ask students to volunteer their answers.
  • Have students make corrections on their note-catchers as needed.
  • Ask students to turn to page 2. Refer to the Tracing an Argument note-catcher Page 2 (answers, for teacher reference, provided in the supporting materials, as needed. Together, consider the questions one by one, asking them to volunteer to answer and/or cold calling:

*    "Did the author provide sufficient evidence? Explain why or why not."

  • Listen for: "Yes. He provided at least one piece of evidence for each of the reasons he gave in each paragraph." Note here that the author also provided evidence in Paragraphs 9 and 10, even though students didn't read them in class.

*    "Was the reasoning sound? Explain why or why not."

  • Listen for: "Yes. Each reason connected strongly to the claim."

*    "Overall, does the author successfully prove the claim? Why or why not? Refer to what you wrote above about relevant and sufficient evidence and sound reasoning."

  • Listen for: "Since the author's evidence was relevant, sufficient and sound, he successfully created a valid argument."
  • If questions have not otherwise arisen, ask students if there was any point for which they felt the reasoning and evidence was not sufficient, relevant, or sound. Discuss these points of critique as a whole class.
  • Finally, direct students to the last paragraph of "Beyond the Brain" and read it out loud.
  • Ask students where, in this last paragraph, the author restates his claim. Listen for: "In the sentences about 'being skeptical' and 'the brain is not the mind.'
  • Remind them that restating the claim is a solid and effective way to end an argument piece.
  • Refer students to the learning target:

*    "I can evaluate the arguments in 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?'"

  • Let students know that today, they will continue to "play" with arguments by tracing two sides of a debate about Google. Encourage them to see this activity as pertinent and interesting by connecting it to their everyday use of the Internet and Google, as well as criticisms they may have heard in real life about both of those activities. Remind them that both the technology and the brain science are very new to us as human beings, so both topics remain controversial.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Tracing an Argument in "Is Google Making Us Stupid--YES" (15 minutes)

  • Distribute "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and the two new blank copies of the Tracing an Argument note-catcher per student.Display one note-catcher under the document camera. Ask students:

*    What do you notice about this note-catcher?

  • Listen for students to recognize that this is the same note-catcher they worked with in Lesson 2 and for homework, when they were analyzing the article "Beyond the Brain." Reinforce the thinking behind this note-catcher: it is a tool to help students trace author's arguments.
  • Have students find a partner.
  • Explain that today, students will read a debate piece that asks two authors to write about opposing views on the question of whether Google, and the Internet in general, is negatively affecting our brains. Note who the authors are: Nicholas Carr, a writer who specializes in brain science, and Peter Norvig, the director of research for Google. You may wish to have a brief discussion here about why these authors were assigned which sides of the debate, and/or about bias.
  • Read "Is Google Making Us Stupid--YES" aloud. Have students read along silently in their heads as they listen.
  • Ask students to identify which sentence(s) is the claim of this piece. Remind them where a claim usually lies in argumentative pieces: toward the beginning. Listen for: "Google is doing something damaging to our brains" and/or "Google is distracting us, and so we think less deeply and understand less."
  • Have students record the claim on their note-catchers and model doing so under the document camera.
  • Ask students to discuss with their partners what supporting reasons are in this piece. Accurate answers may vary. Listen for: "We need to think deeply in order to think 'brilliantly,'" "When we're online, we are constantly distracted," and "Google encourages us to move superficially through information, because that's how it makes money."
  • Record two reasons on the note-catcher. (Explain that students are working with only two reasons for the sake of time.)
  • For each reason given or developed by the class, have partners discuss a piece of evidence the author uses to support the reason. Record accurate answers on the note-catcher along with the students. Examples may include: "Science has demonstrated that we need calm minds in order to think deeply," "The Internet is designed to bombard us with messages and interruptions," and "Google allows us to 'zip' through the net so that it can show us more ads."
  • Partners will now discuss whether the evidence is relevant, using the sentence stem "If ... then." Remind them that the "then" section is where they link the evidence back to the claim. Again, accurate answers may vary.
  • Listen for answers such as:

-   "If science has demonstrated that we need calm minds in order to think deeply, then Google is bad for us,"

-   "If the Internet is designed to bombard us with messages and interruptions, then we will struggle to think deeply while online," and

-   "If Google allows us to 'zip' through the net so that it can show us more ads and make more money, then Google is bad for us."

  • "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" is generally an accessible text for middle school students. However, for those with emergent literacy, considering previewing or pre-reading the text together in a small group before teaching it in class.
  • For students needing additional supports, you may want to provide a partially filled-in note-catcher. Consider also providing a fully filled-in note-catcher for Work Time A. This will allow students with emergent literacy to act as "experts" with their peer partners and/or in whole-class discussion.

B. Tracing an Argument in "Is Google Making Us Stupid--NO" (15 minutes)

  • Read "Is Google Making Us Stupid--NO" aloud two times.
  • The first time, students silently read in their heads as they listen.
  • The second time, have students begin to fill in their second note-catcher independently. 
  • Instruct them to fill out the remaining sections of the Tracing an Argument note-catcher and then turn it in to you. Circulate and offer assistance where needed, but with a "light touch," as this second note-catcher will serve as a formative assessment.
  • Collect the Tracing an Argument note-catchers. Use the Tracing an Argument note-catcher (answers, for teacher reference) to give written feedback and return in the next lesson if at all possible.

Closing & Assessments


A. Adding to the Brain Development Anchor Chart: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (5 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the Brain Development anchor chart--student version, and let them know that together, the class will connect the thinking in the lesson text to the brain science they learned in Unit 1. Remind them to record their connections in the researcher's notebook as you record them on the anchor chart, using the "if/then" format.
  • Discuss that the "if/then" format works in reverse in Unit 2. Instead of starting with the brain science and connecting it to its results in the real world, the texts begin with real-world arguments about screen time; students must think about how those arguments might connect to teen brain science.
  • Model, using the Model Brain Development Anchor Chart as a guide for yourself

*    "If we need calm minds to think, then overuse of technology such as Google might cause us to synaptically prune our brains to be distracted, and our thinking will be negatively affected."

*    "If we are exposed to more, and more diverse, information through Google, then our brains will synaptically prune to use better information to make decisions. This might also counteract the effect of the immature prefrontal cortex."


  • Fill out your Thinking Logfor Lesson 3: How did today's reading help clarify your thinking about the issue of teen brains and screen time?
  • Continue independent reading (at least 20 minutes).

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up