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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy See All Teacher Resources



Grade 9-10

Writing WHST.9-10.1

Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

  • Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
    • This point is all about helping students to structure their argument around a clear claim or thesis statement. As this is an argument paper, the thesis must be a claim with more than one possible side, so the student should clearly be arguing against the opposing claims or counterclaims. Teacher: Students shouldn’t be allowed to use cell phones in class. Student: Yes we should. That sort of thing.
    • The paper’s structure should be thesis-driven, meaning that all parts of the argument (reasons, evidence, rebuttals to counterarguments) should clearly relate to one another and back to the thesis or central claim which, of course, holds the entire argument together.
  • Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form and in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
    • This point asks students to be fair and to understand and develop all sides of their argument. Students need to understand that their claim has limits and that counterclaims have strengths, and they should be able to present evidence that demonstrates these strengths and limitations. A fair argument is one in which the writer makes a case for his/her claim while acknowledging all the facts, limitations, and counterarguments.
    • The second part of this point is about audience awareness. Students must know to whom they are making this argument, and they need to develop their argument in a manner that educates the audience when needed andthat shows awareness of the audience’s primary concerns. For example, in an argument about public school reform addressed to teachers, the writer would need to consider what knowledge teachers already have on the subject and what teachers are likely to be concerned about (salaries, workload, working conditions, class sizes, etc.) when considering education reforms.
  • Use words, phrases, and clauses 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.
    • This point asks students to use effective transition words and phrases to structure and connect their ideas within and between paragraphs. Transitions show relationships between ideas, and they help readers navigate the various points of an argument.
    • Here are some examples of transitions and their purposes:
      • To show cause/effect relationships – as a result, therefore, consequently
      • Addition of ideas – additionally, furthermore, equally important
      • To give an example – for example, for instance, in fact
      • Comparison – similarly, likewise, in the same way
      • Contrast – however, in contrast, on the other hand,
      • To summarize or conclude – in conclusion, therefore, in other words
  • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
    • This point is all about genre and style. Students need to be aware of the genre expectations for the type of writing task and the discipline or field in which they are writing. These expectations might govern the type of research that’s appropriate, the citation style, document design, and tone of the writing.
  • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from or supports the argument presented.
    • This one is pretty obvious; students need a strong conclusion to end their argument. They need to reiterate their central claim and drive home the call to action or belief that is the purpose of their writing.

Set the Stage

Okay, we know that’s a daunting amount of information to pack into just one standard, but this standard basically asks students to write effective argument papers on discipline-specific topics. All those scary bullet points are just a breakdown of the skills needed to write an effective argument.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard


Dress Rehearsal

Here’s how this standard might play out for students in a history class. History teachers, feel free to steal some ideas for possible assignments.

In the early 1830s, workers in factory jobs joined together to reduce the number of hours employers required them to work and to increase wages. Fewer hours and more money? Yes please! As your history class discusses the activities of labor unions, you’re asked by your teacher to argue whether the worker reforms of the time were revolutionary achievements or Band-Aid fixes that ultimately failed. 

As you read the chapter in your textbook, you’re asked to determine the main or central idea of the reading by noting the working conditions for employees in various industries. For example, workers were on the job for 12-16 hours a day, often six or seven days a week. Much of the work was repetitive and, at times, quite dangerous: “In 1882, an average of 675 laborers were killed in work-related accidents each week” (Danzer 450). Gulp. Okay, so you DON’T have it so bad at Ricky’s Rib Joint. Workers’ safety is definitely going to be a major point in your essay.

Since wages were so low, every family member was forced to work, even children, which created a generation of uneducated citizens. Employers hired children, as young as five or six, because they were willing to work for less, able to climb into cramped spaces to fix problem machinery, and easier to train. The issue of child labor definitely deserves strong consideration in your paper.

With the creation and growth of unions, employers finally gave in to demands for better working conditions, but not without a battle. Laws proposed and passed in Congress benefitting workers were often declared unconstitutional by the courts. The courts argued that such laws interfered with a business’s right to make a profit. Not until the New Deal in 1938 did we have a regulated eight-hour workday. 

Chalk one up for the worker!

But hold on; there’s always a flip side. In spite of these reforms, women continued to be pegged into certain types of jobs, such a housekeeping, childcare, factory work, and clerical positions. They were paid less than their male counterparts performing the same job. Certain immigrant groups also faced discrimination and harsh treatment.

These inequalities mark a lack of true workplace reform. So, did the labor unions truly make a difference, or were their reforms insignificant in light of the problems that still existed?
In looking at your notes, your claim will suggest that while some worker reform did soften the working conditions, the struggle was often painfully slow, and in the end, certain groups of people did not benefit equally. 

As you begin to draft, continue researching more evidence to support your claims. Statistics, data, and personal narratives will be particularly effective in demonstrating the truth of your claim while disproving any opposing viewpoints. Employers, of course, viewed the reform movement in a very different light than the workers, so you’ll need to research their perspective as well. Remember, a good argument should show an understanding of all sides of the issue.

Address these counterclaims, or differing viewpoints, but refute those points with credible evidence and logical arguments. Try to use all types of rhetorical appeals in your message, such as logos (logic), pathos (emotions), and ethos (values).

Be sure to connect all the parts of your argument (working conditions, child labor, and the treatment of women and immigrants) with transitions that show the relationships between your ideas. MUGS rules (mechanics, usage, grammar, and spelling) all apply, of course. You just can’t get away from it!

Since this is an academic paper, you’ll need to use more formal vocabulary and sentence structure. At the end of your paper, be sure to re-assert your claim through analysis of the information you’ve provided. Draw definite, believable, and strong conclusions to persuade your readers to agree with your argument.

And talk to your bros at the Rib Shack. How can you improve your situation?

That’s a Wrap

While the requirements of this standard are rigorous, your students will be armed with life-long skills. They’ll know how to make strong claims concerning issues they care about. They have learned to defend their claims with solid evidence. They also understand how to predict and address possible conflicting viewpoints. All that’s left to do is inspire them to get out there and use their powers of argument to change the world. 


Danzer, Gerald, et al. The Americans. Illinois: McDougall Littell, 2005.

Quiz Questions

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

Match the letter of the description to the correct word.

  1. ____ claim

    Correct Answer:

    an assertion of truth

    Answer Explanation:

    Tell the truth and the truth shall set you free! Or at least, it’s a good way to begin your argument. Your claim is what you believe is true.

  2. ____ counterclaim

    Correct Answer:

    an opposing viewpoint

    Answer Explanation:

    A counterclaim is someone else’s assertion of truth that’s in opposition to yours. Counterclaims are your opponents in an argument.

  3. ____ evidence

    Correct Answer:

    body of facts or information that supports the truth

    Answer Explanation:

    You can’t just say it’s true; you have to prove it! Evidence might be facts, data, examples, or expert opinions that support your claim.

  4. ____ formal

    Correct Answer:

    done in accordance with rules of convention

    Answer Explanation:

    Formal dining is a meal that follows all the proper fork and knife placement rules. A formal paper follows all of the rules and conventions of the given genre. In other words, it’s not casual; everything is in its proper place.

  5. ____ objective

    Correct Answer:

    not influenced by personal feelings or opinions

    Answer Explanation:

    Subjective is when you are swayed by your beliefs. Objective is when you just present the facts without bias. It can be tough to remain objective in an argument since you are fighting for something you believe in, but the more you can stick to the facts, the more airtight your argument is.

  6. discipline-specific

    Correct Answer:

    pertaining to a specific class or area of study

    Answer Explanation:

    You’ll find that there are discipline-specific rules for different kinds of writing. This means that you need to be aware of how the conventions of a scholarly paper in history might differ from a scholarly paper in science or psychology. Know the rules and follow them.

  7. ____ content

    Correct Answer:

    subject or topic

    Answer Explanation:

    What’s the content of your essay, or, in other words, what does your essay contain? It’s like saying what’s the main idea, the topic, the central point? You know, they’re like, synonyms, man.

  8. ____ relationship

    Correct Answer:

    the way in which two or more topics are related

    Answer Explanation:

    Relationship...related...come on, that was an easy one. Another way to put it is what do these two things have in common?

  9. ____ cohesion

    Correct Answer:

    forming a united whole

    Answer Explanation:

    Think cohesion...cohesive...adhesive...you know, like glue. Stuck together. Cohesive ideas are ideas that hold together well to create an unbroken or unified whole.

  10. ____ clarify

    Correct Answer:

    to make clear and understandable

    Answer Explanation:

    Clarify...clear...another easy one. When you clarify your ideas, you make them clearer or easier to understand.

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