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Lesson Plan For Teaching Argumentative Essay

Teaching both tenth and twelfth grade presents its rewards and challenges. It is rewarding because I get to see so much growth and maturity in twelfth graders. It can be challenging when I just finish grading 50 tenth-grade argumentative essays at the end of the first semester only to turn around and grade 50 more twelfth-grade argumentative essays at the beginning of second semester.

The Purpose of Argumentative Writing

While the challenge is in the time it takes to grade the essays, the excitement is within teaching argumentative writing. The purpose of argumentative writing is to defend a position on a particular subject with the goal of persuading readers to accept or at least consider the argument.

Elements of Argumentative Writing

There are four big ideas to remember when teaching argumentative writing: claim, reasons, evidence, and counterclaim.

  • Claim – This is the main argument of the essay. It might also be called a thesis or thesis statement.

  • Reasons – These are the ideas that support the claim. In a traditional essay, there are at least three but this varies based upon grade level and complexity of the argument writing.

  • Evidence – These are the specific details in the argument writing. If students are conducting research, this is where the expert opinions would be included. If students are referencing data, it would be written here. If students are including examples, it would be included here. Any appeals a student used would be evident here.

  • Counterclaim – This is the other side of the issue. Addressing a counterclaim makes the student’s argument writing stronger.

Addressing Counterclaims

Students can address counterclaims a number of ways in argument writing. Here are some common approaches:

While it may be true that ____________; nevertheless, it turns out that ____________.

A common argument against this is ________, but _____________.

Skeptics may think that ____________, but ___________.

Focus Topics & Transitions in Argumentative Writing

Last November, I had the great pleasure of presenting at the National Council of Teacher’s of English Annual Convention with author, educator, and our special guest Core Grammar blogger, Dr. Beverly Ann Chin. In her presentation, Dr. Chin included the following questions to focus topics in persuasive writing:

  • Is the scope of my persuasive topic appropriate and manageable?

  • What is my thesis statement or claim?

  • What facts, examples, or details contribute to—or detract from—my persuasive topic?

  • How do my topic sentences and transitional devices help the audience see the unity and coherence in my persuasive writing?

  • Do the main ideas and supporting ideas address my audience’s questions about the persuasive topic?

The questions Dr. Chin shared during her presentation should also be asked when writing argumentative essays. Keeping in mind topic sentences and transitions, here are some key words that can help support students as they begin to write argumentatively.

To connect the first paragraph to the second paragraph, use phrases such as To begin with, In the first place, or The first reason.

To connect the second paragraph to the third paragraph, use phrases such as Additionally, Another reason why, or Next.

To connect the third paragraph to the fourth paragraph, use phrases such as Lastly, Yet another reason why, or Also

The conclusion also needs a transition, so remind students to use phrases such as In conclusion, To sum it up, or In the final analysis.

Graphic Organizer for Argumentative Essays

Argumentative writing is powerful and important. I've created two worksheets for download that can assist students in their argumentative writing.

The first is a graphic organizer to capture students’ thinking about a claim, reasons, and evidence. The second is a poster/tip sheet to remind students about the elements of argumentative writing. Download them now!

To read more about writing and revision, download Dr. Chin’s Teaching Meaningful Revision: Developing and Deepening Students’ Writing eBook!





Teaching Students the Many Purposes of Writing

Informative/Explanatory Writing In the Classroom

Teaching Narrative Writing in the Classroom

Teaching Persuasive Writing in the Classroom


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

For Argument's Sake: Playing "Devil's Advocate" with Nonfiction Texts

Students learn how to play "devil's advocate" by evaluating sports reforms, reading an engaging non-fiction article, and participating in a town hall meeting in which they represent the interests of various stakeholders to generate debate and develop critical thinking skills.


Grades   8 – 11  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

"Three Stones Back": Using Informational Text to Enhance Understanding of Ball Don't Lie

Students engage in a close reading of a passage from Matt de la Pena's novel Ball Don't Lie before researching important background information to assess the accuracy of the claims made by a character.


Grades   7 – 10  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Picture This: Combining Infographics and Argumentative Writing

After researching topics that the students have chosen, students write argumentative essays. Then, using Piktochart, students create their own infographics to illustrate their research.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

And in Conclusion: Inquiring into Strategies for Writing Effective Conclusions

While drafting a literary analysis essay (or another type of argument) of their own, students work in pairs to investigate advice for writing conclusions and to analyze conclusions of sample essays. They then draft two conclusions for their essay, select one, and reflect on what they have learned through the process.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Reading Shakespeare's The Tempest through a Postcolonial Lens

Students take a postcolonial perspective on the portrayal of Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest by comparing it to a modern adaptation of the play.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda? Analyzing World War II Posters

Students analyze World War II posters, as a group and then independently, to explore how argument, persuasion and propaganda differ.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments

Students are often asked to perform speeches, but rarely do we require students to analyze speeches as carefully as we study works of literature. In this unit, students are required to identify the rhetorical strategies in a famous speech and the specific purpose for each chosen device. They will write an essay about its effectiveness and why it is still famous after all these years.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Modeling Academic Writing Through Scholarly Article Presentations

Students prepare an already published scholarly article for presentation, with an emphasis on identification of the author's thesis and argument structure.


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