Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy
ELA - Literacy.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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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Using this Standard
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 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Match the letter of the description to the correct word.
- Teaching Abolitionism: Document Analysis: Was the Constitution a Pro-Slavery Document?
- Teaching Abolitionism: Document Analysis: David Walker's Appeal
- Teaching the Spanish-American War: Document-Based Writing Assignment: Self-Interest and Idealism in American Foreign Policy
- Teaching the Spanish-American War: Quotation Analysis: Roosevelt on the Duties of Conquerors
- Teaching Women's Movements: Discussion and Writing Assignment: Image and Document Analysis: Women's Suffrage
- Teaching Women's Movements: Document Analysis: "What's Wrong with Equal Rights for Women"
- Teaching World War I: Document Analysis: The Sinking of the Lusitania
- Teaching World War II: Statistical Analysis: Participation and Fatality Rates
- Teaching World War II: Home Front: Image Analysis: Women in World War II
- Teaching World War II: Home Front: Document Analysis: Japanese Internment
- Teaching Causes of the Civil War: Primary Source Analysis: Slavery as a Positive Good
- Teaching Church and State: Quotation Analysis: George Washington on Religion and Morality
- Teaching Church and State: Quotation Analysis: Original Meaning
- Teaching Church and State: Text Analysis: Intelligent Design versus Darwin
- Teaching Church and State: Issue Analysis: School Vouchers
- Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era: The Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era Activity: Image and Document Analysis: the Watts Riot/Revolt
- Teaching Civil Rights Movement: Desegregation: Image Analysis: The Power of Images
- Teaching Civil Rights Movement: Desegregation: Statistical Analysis: Measuring Progress
- Teaching Civil Rights Movement: Desegregation: Document Analysis: Brown v. Board
- Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Detente: The Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Détente Activity: Speech Analysis: President Kennedy Announces the Blockade
- Teaching Cold War: McCarthyism & Red Scare: McCarthyism & the Arts: Elia Kazan vs. Arthur Miller
- Teaching Colonial New England: Research and Writing Activity: The Salem Witch Trials
- Teaching Colonial Virginia: Image-Based Activity: Virginia Pastimes
- Teaching the Constitution: Document Analysis: The Constitutional Convention Considers the Executive
- Teaching Equal Protection: Document Analysis and Debate: Women and the Draft
- Teaching Equal Protection: Statistical Analysis: Gay Marriage
- Teaching Equal Protection: Policymaking Activity: Affirmative Action
- Teaching Equal Protection: Quote Analysis: Chief Justice Earl Warren
- Teaching the Executive Branch & Presidents: Image Analysis: Cultivating a Presidential Image
- Teaching the Executive Branch & Presidents: Document Analysis: The War Powers
- Teaching the Executive Branch & Presidents: Timeline Exercise: Cleaning up some Constitutional Details
- Teaching FDR's New Deal: Statistical Analysis: Was the New Deal a Success?
- Teaching FDR's New Deal: Image Analysis: Interpreting Political Cartoons