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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 9-10

Reading RH.9-10.8

RH.9-10.8. Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.

NCIS (Needs Cheese If Stable… just read it)

Imagine you have a plethora of Jell-O cubes at your disposal. You also have many frozen cheese cubes of equal size. Now imagine you have to build a base out of these materials to hold up your grandma’s glass statuette of Marilyn Monroe. Obviously you would want to go for the cheese cubes as they will be more dense and stable, unless you really don’t like your grandma. A solid support structure like this is equally important in logical argumentation (did you see this one coming?). If the justifications or reasons behind an argument are shaky like Jell-O, then the whole thing will fail; however, if the reasoning and evidence are sturdy like a cheese cube, more than just the well-known movie star will be held up confidently. The task at hand is to determine whether the argument is full of Jell-O or cheese, respectively.

Example

Bones

First things first: let’s break down the vocab in this standard.

  • Author’s claim: This is the writer’s essential argument or statement they are trying to convey or prove. This is important because if the claim is ambiguous or incomplete in any way, then the entire point is difficult to understand. When tested on this standard, the first item on your agenda should be to identify the claim of the author.
  • Supporting Evidence: This is the valid information the author references or discusses to prove his or her point. If the evidence doesn’t seem to connect, is poorly explained, is insufficient or biased in any way, or is absent from the overall argument (loaded with just opinion and no back-up), then the argument is all Jell-O. However, if all of these things are in order, then it is an argument worthy of the metaphorical cheese cube.
  • Reasoning: Errors in reasoning are literally logical fallacies (fancy term). There are heaps of logical fallacies or breakdowns in the logical structure of the argument. It comes down to the connective tissue between the author’s point or purpose and the evidence he/she uses to support those points. Let’s break it down this way: The claim bone is connected to the evidence muscle, and the tissue that connects it is the reasoning tendon… so if the argument has tendonitis then there is a problem. Got it?

Castle

This all sounds incredibly complicated. You may end up looking at an argument thinking, where do I start? Ask yourself, is this castle made of sand or something more solid?

  • Write down the claim. But wait, where is the claim? I’m glad you asked; the claim in an argument will be presented as a topic sentence or thesis, so just look for the big idea.
  • List the opinions/sub-points/ideas that could constitute as reasoning for the claim or thesis. You could go crazy and have two columns under the claim, reasoning or justification in one column, and support for that reason in the next column.
  • Determine if every point has evidence, and if the point makes sense by the evidence. In other words, do we have Jell-O, or do we have cheese?

Drill

The following questions relate to a found article. Students must locate an article relating to the following topic: The Space Race and The Cold War. The article can be electronic (legit!) or a printed source and should be between 2 and 5 pages in length. This article must discuss America’s involvement in the Space Race by either justifying its involvement or criticizing it (it may behoove you to look for a piece published during or shortly after this time period in history). Answer the following questions as they relate to the article you read. 

1. Identify the author’s central claim in the argument and explain it in your own words. [Easy]

2. After identifying the article’s claim, scan back through the writing and identify any sub-claims or ideas the author presents in subsequent paragraphs. Explain those sub-points in your own words and relate them to the central argument. [Medium]

3. According to the article, what specific supporting evidence does the author use or reference to justify his or her essential claim and sub-claims? Identify the support and discuss its connection to the claims. Support may include citations from outside sources, specific data referenced, and the like. [Medium]

4. In your opinion, does the author give legitimate reasoning in his or her discussion of the essential claim, and does that reasoning include a clear and valid connection between the support presented and the claim? Use evidence, such as the specific lines you are discussing, to support your analysis of the article. [Hard]

5. Write a counter-argument to the article’s point. This counter-argument must reference the historical time period accurately and must use at least two sources to support the argument. Consider the structure and organization of the article you are arguing against as you may attempt to mimic the style. This response should be 4 to 6 paragraphs in length. [Hard]

Aligned Resources