Chris Adcock
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Argument
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Language
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    How is an argument structured?

    How is an argument structured?


    What is the best way to convince people that you are right? In this lesson, students will look at the structure of the Declaration of Independence, examining how the argument is constructed.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and what differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Prepare a claim that your students can write about for the Task 1.
    • Decide on assignments for the Task 1 categories, create a shared class page for each category, and share them with the appropriate students.

    Claims, Reasons, and Evidence

    Teach the terms claims, reasons, evidence, and counterclaims as part of a well-developed argument. Talk about how when trying to convince someone, it is necessary to incorporate all these aspects into your argument. In particular, discuss why you might want to address counterclaims: why bring up reasons that someone might disagree with you?

    • ELL: This is a great place for ELLs to practice keeping track of vocabulary terms, even creating a glossary of definitions that they can use throughout the year.

    Remind students that these will all be important parts of their arguments both for their presentations and for their final papers.


    Read the terms you’ll use to discuss well-developed arguments.

    • Claim: What do you want your listeners/readers to believe?
    • Reasons:Why should they believe what you tell them?
    • Evidence: Whatfacts andspecific examples prove that your reasons are true? Remember, the more specific and objective your evidence, the more convincing your argument. Your readers or listeners should not be able to doubt that your evidence is true, even if they initially disagree with yourclaim or yourreasons .
    • Counterclaims : What is the opposing argument?

    Making a Claim

    • Choose a claim that is relevant and engaging to your students: for example, students should have an open campus for lunch, students should not have to wear uniforms, cell phones should be allowed in school, etc. Display it so all students can see it.
    • Assign one-third of the class to each category: reasons the claim is correct, evidence that proves it's correct, or reasons for disagreeing with the claim.
    • The larger groups can break into smaller groups if that works better logistically.
    • Lead the class through a discussion of the responses.

    Work Time

    Read the claim your teacher has chosen.

    Your teacher will assign you one of the following categories.

    • Reasons this is correct,
    • Evidence that proves this is correct, or
    • Reasons someone might have for disagreeing with the claim.

    Remember that reasons are statements explaining why your claim is correct or incorrect. Evidence includes the facts to support your claim.


    With your group, brainstorm ideas for your category.

    After you look over your classmates’ ideas, discuss with the class how these responses would work together if you were trying to convince someone.

    Declaration Argument Structure

    • Start by modeling the annotations; complete a few sentences with your students before sending them to finish the work with their partners.
    • Remind students that sometimes counterclaims are not addressed explicitly (“While some may believe... this is not true because...”), but rather implicitly (“Students who are almost old enough to vote and serve in the military should be allowed to leave campus for lunch” might address the implicit counterclaim that students are too young to be trusted to leave school in the middle of the day).
    • Only share the Declaration of Independence with notes about argument structure after students have had a chance to identify the structure themselves.
    • When appropriate, students will have the option to work independently, in pairs, or in a group. Explain that they should choose how they think they will work most effectively on any given day. Circulate as students complete the reading.
      • SWD: For many students, having a digital or print resource that explains the elements of argument can be especially helpful during this task. Students can use this resource as they work on identifying these elements in the texts they encounter during this unit.

    Work Time

    Return to the Declaration of Independence.

    Read it a second time, trying to break down the argument to follow its logic and structure.

    As you read, use the following annotations.

    • Mark claims with black.
    • Mark reasons with green.
    • Mark evidence with blue.
    • Mark implied or explicit counterclaims orresponses to counterclaims with red.
    • Highlight any lines that you find particularly convincing.

    You Have a Choice

    Determine how you will approach the work: you can choose to work independently; work with a partner; work with a group; or confer with the teacher.

    Dialectical Journal

    • Circulate as students work: if you see a particularly good example of a Dialectical Journal entry, consider pausing to share it with the class.
    • Invite several students to share their work when most appear finished.
      • ELL: This can be a good opportunity to check for understanding with ELLs and to identify whether they might be comfortable sharing with the class during the discussion.

    Work Time

    Determine the most convincing lines in this argument.

    • Look back at what you marked, and choose two to three quotations.
    • Create and complete a Convincing Lines Dialectical Journal entry for each, explaining why you found the quotation particularly convincing.


    Declaration Response

    • If necessary, take a few minutes to brainstorm reasons a colonist might disagree with the Declaration of Independence. Make sure students understand that there were Loyalists who opposed the movement for independence.
      • ELL: This is a good opportunity to review the etymology of the term "Loyalist," and whom they were being loyal to, if you have not already done so.


    Imagine that you are a colonist who disagrees with the Declaration of Independence; you believe that the colonies should remain loyal to the king.

    • Compose a response to the Declaration from the point of view of this colonist. Your response should refer to at least one specific argument from the Declaration. Use your annotations to help you.

    Open Notebook

    Independent Reading

    Monitor students' progress with their Independent Reading and Dialectical Journals.

    • SWD: Some students with executive function difficulties may find the organization required for ongoing assignments difficult. Check in with students to make sure that their pacing on these ongoing projects is appropriate and offer support and guidance as needed.


    For homework, do the following.

    1. Finish your Declaration of Independence response.
    2. Continue working on your reading and Independent Reading Dialectical Journal entries for your Independent Reading selection.