Approaches to the Common Core: ARGUMENT VS. EVIDENCE, THE BIG PICTURE

One of the things students struggle with the most—and it’s relevant to every grade and subject—is distinguishing between argument and evidence.  This problem manifests itself in both reading and writing: in reading, students often cannot pick topic sentences or thesis arguments out of a lineup; and when writing, they tend to construct paragraphs and essays that lack arguments.  I have no doubt that many, many students have become turned off to writing after spending countless hours drafting an essay, only to be told that they would have to completely rewrite it because it lacked a thesis (PS—One way to prevent this disillusionment is to check students’ draft introductions before they go any further: it only takes a minute and can save hours of agony.)

Textbooks have contributed to this problem because they often fail to model good writing.  Typically, they lack arguments; instead, they offer strings of facts that are occasionally indented.  So we need to provide better models.  But more broadly, we need to be strategic about teaching students how to distinguish between argument and evidence and how to build effective arguments with evidence.

So, let’s consider the specific skills that students must master.

1. Given a list of statements, distinguish the arguments from examples of evidence.
2. Given a list of statements, identify arguments and their relevant evidence.
3. Given arguments, support them with your own relevant evidence and explanation.
4. Given questions, answer them with arguments and relevant evidence and explanation.
5. Generate your own questions that warrant research and debate.
6. Generate your own questions, then research and build arguments supported with evidence and explanation.

In college, professors expect students to be able to start with #4 during class discussions. Number 5 is used in seminar discussions (and online discussions, etc.), and number 6 is also known as writing a paper.

The sooner we in K-12 begin giving students opportunities to practice these skills, the better.  But first let’s make sure they can do numbers 1, 2, and 3.

In the next few posts, we’ll look at how to teach 1-6.


About theliteracycookbook

In addition to this blog, I am the creator of THE LITERACY COOKBOOK Website ( and ONLY GOOD BOOKS Blog (, and the author of THE LITERACY COOKBOOK: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and LITERACY AND THE COMMON CORE: Recipes for Action (Jossey-Bass, 2014). Check out my Website for more information about my consulting work.
This entry was posted in Argument, ELA Common Core Standards, Evidence, Reading, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Approaches to the Common Core: ARGUMENT VS. EVIDENCE, THE BIG PICTURE

  1. Pingback: Approaches to the Common Core: ARGUMENT VS. EVIDENCE, Step 1* | The Literacy Cookbook blog

  2. Pingback: Seven Simple Steps to Better Student Writing | MiddleWeb

  3. Pingback: ARGUMENT VS. EVIDENCE: Step 1 Revisited | The Literacy Cookbook blog

  4. Pingback: SEVEN SIMPLE STEPS TO BETTER STUDENT WRITING | The Literacy Cookbook blog

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