Analyzing the Model Essay: Studying Argument | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2B:U2:L11

Analyzing the Model Essay: Studying Argument

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. (W.8.1)
  • I can identify the argument and specific claims in a text. (RI.8.8)
  • I can analyze how an author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints. (RI.8.6) 

Supporting Targets

  • I can explain what it means to write a coherent argument essay with appropriate structure and relevant evidence.
  • I can analyze the argument in a model essay.
  • I can analyze how the author of the model essay acknowledges and responds to a counterclaim.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Supporting Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer
  • QuickWrite


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Writer and Reviewing Learning Targets (5 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A. Reading and Analyzing the Model Essay (35 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

     B.  Previewing Homework (3 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  QuickWrite: Explain the meaning of the essay prompt.

     B.  Continue your independent reading.

  • As part of their homework in the second half of this unit, students are usually reading in their independent reading book. Consider launching the independent reading expectations and routines by adding days to this unit, or you could pause and launch the program before starting Unit 3 and adjust the Unit 3 lessons accordingly. See two separate stand-alone documents on The Importance of Increasing the Volume of Reading, and Launching Independent Reading in Grades 6-8: Sample Plan, which together provide the rationale and practical guidance for a robust independent reading program.
  • Preview the lessons in this unit and consider what structure you will use for the independent reading check-in scheduled for Lesson 14; as you review homework daily with students, make sure they are clear about what they need to have completed before and bring to class that day. Understanding the in-class routine for checking in on independent reading will both motivate students and hold them accountable.
  • In this lesson, students begin the writing process for the End of Unit 2 Assessment, an argument essay on A Midsummer Night's Dream. The following criteria were used to define argument writing:

-   The goal of argument writing is for the reader to acknowledge the validity of the claim (not necessarily be persuaded by it).

-   Appropriate evidence is used and analyzed logically to support the claim. This evidence is usually organized into reasons.

-   The author considers the reasons and evidence for the reasons before articulating the claim.

-   The author acknowledges and responds to a counterclaim in his or her writing.

  • Lessons 11-13 focus on the thinking that students need to do before crafting their own argument essay. It is important to take this time because argument thinking and writing is hard--in a sense, the writer is trying to work with a complicated question that often has many aspects to consider. First, writers know the issue well, then they carefully consider all the relevant ideas before coming up with a good claim. Once they've done that, they acknowledge other ways of thinking about it so the reader can grasp the full depth of the writer's good thinking.
  • The argument essay in this module focuses on crafting a clear, logical argument. This is a writing skill that will be developed further in Module 4 when students study argument writing in greater depth.
  • The model essay is about Shakespeare's message that it is not possible to control someone else's actions because the results are unpredictable and temporary. The model essay is intentionally written about the same text (A Midsummer Night's Dream) that students also will write about, so that they are familiar with the context. However, the model essay does not use exactly the same examples and information that the student essay will use.
  • Students will need the model essay in subsequent lessons, so ask them to keep their copy.
  • The writing process for the argument essay is similar to that of Module 1. The rubric for this assignment is based closely on the NY State Grades 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric. Because students are already familiar with that rubric, the rubric analysis built into these lessons will not be as in-depth as it was in Module 1.
  • Remember, writing is really about thinking. To be successful with a writing assignment, students need to know the content well and understand the structure in which they work. Students have been developing a clear understanding of content; today is the day they build their understanding of what an argument essay is. Let students know that writing an argument essay requires a lot of thinking before any essay writing happens. The thinking they do before they begin writing is a very important part of the process. Just as a good car mechanic would never try to fix a car's engine without a deep understanding of engines and all the factors that could be involved, so an argument writer would never try to write an argument essay off the top of her head. Students must consider all the evidence first, then make a claim based on the best evidence.
  • There is space on the Supporting Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer for three pieces of evidence per paragraph, but there are only two pieces of evidence per paragraph in the model essay. This is intentionally done in order to allow flexibility in the writing of the essays. It also shows students that the quantity of evidence is not the only thing to consider when supporting an argument--it is more important to have the best possible evidence.
  • Post: Learning targets.


argument, coherent, relevant evidence, opinion, counterclaim, conflicting viewpoint, analyze, logical


  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (book; one per student)
  • Document camera
  • Frayer Model: Control (from Unit 1, Lesson 7)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream model essay (one per student and one to display)
  • Supporting Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer (one per student and one for display)
  • Supporting Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer (answers, for teacher reference)
  • QuickWrite (one per student)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Writer and Reviewing the Learning Targets (5 minutes)

  • Make sure students have their copies of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Using a document camera, display and review the from Unit 1, Lesson 7. Cold call students to read the Definition and the Characteristics/Explanation sections. Ask students to Think-Pair-Share to brainstorm examples and non-examples of characters from A Midsummers Night's Dream exhibiting attempts to control another character.
  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets. Cold call a student to read the learning targets:

*   "I can explain what it means to write a coherent argument essay with appropriate structure and relevant evidence."

*   "I can analyze the argument in a model essay."

*   "I can analyze how the author of the model essay acknowledges and responds to conflicting viewpoints."

  • Ask students to identify one word that they think is really important in the learning targets. When they are ready with a word, ask them to give you a thumbs-up. When most students are ready, cold call individuals and ask them to share their word. Underline the word in the learning target and write what it means next to it. Listen for students to suggest:

-   coherent: when something such as a piece of writing is easy to understand because its parts are connected in a clear and reasonable way

-   relevant evidence: quotes or details from the text that direct relate to the claim the author is making

-   counterclaim: a different interpretation of the text; an opposite claim--also called a conflicting viewpoint

-   argument: when students suggest this, explain that the lesson will focus on helping them understand what "argument" means in writing

  • Discussing and clarifying the language of learning targets helps build academic vocabulary.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reading and Analyzing the Model Essay (35 minutes)

  • Have students meet with their Syracuse Discussion Appointment. Distribute the A Midsummer Night's Dream model essay. Point out the prompt at the top of the essay:

-   "In A Midsummer Night's Dream, does Shakespeare make the case that it is possible to control another person's actions or not? Choose two characters from the list below and give evidence from the text to support your thinking. Be sure to take into account what people who disagree might say."

  • Ask students to turn to their partner and explain what the essay will be about. Cold call pairs to share their ideas. Listen for students to say: "This essay needs to be about how two characters in the play tried to control others and the effects of their attempts to control other people, whether or not they were successful in controlling them."
  • Invite students to read along silently while you read the model essay aloud.
  • Ask students to turn to their partner and talk about the gist of the essay.
  • Explain that this is an argument essay, like the one that they will be expected to write. Ask students to turn and talk:

*   "What kinds of thinking do you think the author did before writing this essay?"

  • Listen for students to say: "The author needed to think a lot about how characters tried to control others and what happened as a result," "The author had to look for the best evidence to decide on a claim," and "The author needed to figure out what reasons would go in the body paragraphs."
  • Explain to students that in writing, there is a difference between argument and opinion. In speaking, we often say that we had an argument because we had a difference of opinion; but when we refer to writing, the meaning of the two words is different. Often, we have opinions about something that don't necessarily require evidence. For instance, we can have a difference of opinion about how good vanilla ice cream is. However, writing an opinion piece means that it's something a person believes, whether or not they have evidence to prove it. However, in a written argument, the author will make a claim, support it with reasons, and develop her reasons with evidence. The author will also acknowledge and respond to another valid point of view. In this lesson, students will use this essay to help them understand how to make a claim and support it in an argument essay.
  • Ask students to reread the model essay, underlining the claim that the author makes, the reasons that support the claim, and the acknowledgment of the counterclaim.
  • After about 5 minutes, refocus the class. Cold call pairs to share the claim of the model essay and the reasons to support it. 
  • Listen for students to say something like:

-   Claim: "Shakespeare makes the case that it is not possible to control another person's actions because the results are unpredictable and temporary."

-   Reason 1: "The results of trying to control another person's actions are unpredictable."

-   Reason 2: "The results of trying to control another person's actions are temporary."

-   Counterclaim: "Shakespeare makes the case that it is possible to control another person's actions."

  • Clarify as necessary.
  • Tell students that now that they have identified the major pieces of the argument in the model essay, they will analyze the argument more closely. Distribute and display the Supporting Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer using the document camera. Point out on the graphic organizer that there are places to record the claim and reasons students identified in the model essay. Model adding the claim, reasons, and counterclaim to the displayed graphic organizer and invite students to do the same. (See Supporting Evidence-Based Claims graphic organizer (for teacher reference).
  • When students have written in the claim, reasons, and counterclaim, turn their attention to the boxes under "Reason 1." Explain that they are going to look at how the author uses evidence to support the first reason. Continue to use the displayed graphic organizer and do a think-aloud about the use of evidence in the first body paragraph of the essay: "First, I'm going to look for evidence in the first body paragraph. I found a quote, and I know that a quote is evidence, so I'm going to add it to the first evidence box on my graphic organizer. Now, I'm going to reread the sentences around the quote to see if I can figure out how that quote supports the reason. I can see that after the quote, the author explains what the quote shows, so I will write that in the box underneath the evidence I just added. This means that the author is analyzing the evidence. Since her analysis makes sense with the text, the analysis is also logical." Repeat with the second piece of evidence.
  • Invite students to continue to work with their Discussion Appointment partner to complete their graphic organizers. Circulate as students work and push them to notice the kinds of phrases the author uses to explain how the evidence supports the reasons, such as "this shows" or "this demonstrates." 
  • When students have completed the graphic organizer for the second body paragraph, refocus them whole class. Cold call pairs to share their work. Clarify as necessary and encourage students to revise their graphic organizers based on the class responses. 
  • Point to the section on "Counterclaim" on the displayed graphic organizer. Because this is a different kind of body paragraph, do another think-aloud to help students begin the analysis. As you read the paragraph aloud, only add to the "evidence" and "response to counterclaim" box. Also, point out where the author uses the word "However ..." as an introduction to the reason for the counterclaim. Let students know that this is one way to introduce a conflicting viewpoint in an essay. Encourage students to write on their own graphic organizers as you add to the displayed copy.
  • Then, ask students to find how the evidence supports the counterclaim, as well as how the author shows that her claim is stronger than the counterclaim. Explain to students that to answer the question, "Why is your claim stronger than the counterclaim?" they will need to make an inference based on what the author says in the essay. Encourage them to do their best to answer it, but let them know that the class will have an opportunity to talk about it.
  • Once students have finished, cold call pairs and add to the displayed graphic organizer. Encourage students to revise their own graphic organizers based on the class understanding. Make sure to spend time talking about the response to "Why is your claim stronger than the counterclaim?"
  • Listen for students to say:

-   "The counterclaim isn't as strong as the claim because the author points out that in the play, people are not really able to control others without the help of a magic flower," and

-   "The author used the counterclaim to strengthen her own claim by connecting it to a reason she gave in the second body paragraph that Demetrius only changed his mind about Helena due to the magic flower and that effect is temporary."

  • Ensure that students see that they can make this inference because the author writes, "Helena only gets to marry Demetrius because of the influence of the magic flower." 
  • Refer students back to the prompt for the model essay and reread it. Ask students to turn and talk about what the author of the model essay needed to do to address that prompt. Listen for them to say:

-   "She needed to make a claim that was about how characters in the play tried to control others."

-   "She used two reasons to support her claim."

-   "She acknowledged and responded to a counterclaim."

-   "She used evidence from the text and explained how it supported her reason." 

  • When reviewing the graphic organizers or recording forms, consider using a document camera to visually display the document for students who struggle with auditory processing.
  • Providing models of expected work supports all learners but especially challenged learners. 

Closing & Assessments


A. Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the learning target:

*   "I can analyze the argument in a model essay." 

  • Using the Glass, Bugs, Mud Checking for Understanding technique, have students identify their understanding of the target using the windshield metaphor for clear vision. Glass: totally clear; Bugs: a little fuzzy; Mud: I can barely see. Call out each category and students may raise their hand to indicate their level of understanding.

B. Previewing Homework (3 minutes)

  • Tell students that they get to synthesize their understanding of what an argument essay is by explaining what they will need to do in their own argument essay. 
  • Distribute the QuickWrite and clarify the task as needed.
  • Encourage students to keep reading their independent reading book.


  • QuickWrite: Explain the meaning of the essay prompt.
  • Continue your independent reading.

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