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Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 11-12

Writing W.11-12.1

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
  • Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

Some say all writing is an argument, and we won’t argue with that. This standard helps students generate a question worthy of discussion between opposing sides. Using their critical thinking skills, students will take a position and develop a thesis statement, design solid claims, and gather supporting evidence to bolster those claims. In addition, they’ll take a careful look at the opposing viewpoint, make certain concessions, and then, using their reasoning skills, discredit those counterclaims with competing and compelling proof that their side is the right side. Here’s a sample assignment that you might use with your class.

Example

Assignment Example

You’ve studied The Jungle by Sinclair Lewis. Remember, it’s the BIG book, not The Jungle Book, with the animal tales. You’ve been asked to develop an argument around one of the topics in the story. The realistic novel follows a Lithuanian immigrant family struggling with the discrimination and unsafe working conditions in Chicago’s meatpacking industry in the early 20th century. Think Rocky Balboa with an accent.

Your notes indicate that many appropriate topics are in the novel, such as women’s rights, immigration, worker’s reform, and unions. You are to choose one of these topics, develop a research question, and collect information. Finally, you’ll take a side on the issue and shape an essay into an effective argument.

Time to put on those boxing gloves, girls and boys! Your goal is to prove your viewpoint regarding your topic. You choose to debate whether or not unions are beneficial to the American economy. This subject is often in the news today as worker’s rights are being challenged in various state legislatures. You believe that unions, from their beginnings, have benefited both workers and the economy. They provide secure jobs, benefits, and pensions to those workers who then invest their wages into the American economy. Seems EVERYBODY wants those things, don’t they? A no-brainer, you say.

With that thesis in mind, you consider what sub-topics you want to include, and what arguments you will use. For example, you’ll want to include a brief history of unions, their purpose, why they are important, and the advantages they provide workers and the American economy. You’ll argue that these benefits…fair wages, safe working conditions, and evenhanded treatment…are good.

You also find counterarguments or reasons why unions are undesirable for some. NO WAAAAY!!! Businesses lose profits, non-union workers feel disadvantaged, demands from union workers would increase, and employers would have less control over them. Hmm… maybe there IS another side to the argument.

You expect your paper to be quite lengthy since you will have to fairly and thoroughly consider both sides of the argument, but through analysis and your brilliant powers of reasoning, you are certain you can solidly defend your thesis statement. Your research will provide facts, examples, statistics, and anecdotes to back up your argument.

To organize your paper, you will state your claims based on the research, listing your strongest arguments at the beginning and end of your body paragraphs. In the middle, you will present counterarguments to your proposal, but because you’re, well, YOU, you will thump your opponent by thoroughly proving your viewpoint is the correct one. You will introduce each claim and offer relevant and supporting evidence and specific details. Then, you’ll explain WHY the claim works or doesn’t work. Be sure to use transition words, phrases, and, clauses that show how your ideas are connected: although, of course, certainly, to be sure, even though, after all, and though Y might be true

The tone of the paper is clearly academic, so no slang allowed. DANG! Avoid the use of I in your paper; take on the persona of a woman in charge! Show those biceps! Instead of I believe unions are beneficial, simply write, Unions are beneficial. You can state a position and yet maintain an effective, objective tone. You’ll be more convincing if you remain unbiased, and when you reach that concluding statement that puts a final value on the unions, you’ll have everyone screaming, I’m a believer!

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

Mark each question as True or False.

  1. To reinforce your position, it’s helpful to use the pronoun I.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). The strongest position is to state your claim as fact.


  2. In writing the argument, your position is stronger by ignoring counterclaims.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). It may seem that way, but if you ignore obvious counterclaims, your reader might think you haven’t done enough research to be aware of them. Point out the counterclaims, and then explain why your position is right in spite of them.


  3. The argument depends upon strong claims backed by solid evidence

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). That’s pretty much the definition of argument.


  4. Slang is acceptable in an essay of argument.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). Slang is not acceptable in any academic or professional writing.


  5. Evidence should be discussed to show how it relates to your claims.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Don’t assume the relevance of the evidence will be obvious to your reader; discuss why the evidence matters and bring your point home.


  6. It is important to establish relationships between claims and reasons.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Your reader needs to understand WHY you believe what you believe in order to be convinced.


  7. An argument is best supported through so much evidence the reader becomes confused.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). A confused reader is never a good thing.


  8. Transition words are important for adding unity to your paper.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Those transitions are like the glue that keeps all the pieces of your essay together.


  9. Your paper should contain analysis, explaining why your position is the correct one.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Remember, readers need to know WHY.


  10. Bias has a place in the argument.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). Nope. Bias is going to make you seem like you aren’t a credible source on the topic.


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