As noted in my previous post (ARGUMENT VS. EVIDENCE, THE BIG PICTURE), Step 1 is to ensure that when given a list of statements, students can distinguish the arguments from examples of evidence.
First, it’s important to clarify that in this context, the word “argument” does not mean people yelling or throwing plates but instead refers to a claim, opinion, or debatable statement that requires proof/evidence for support (NOTE: It also requires explanation, and we’ll get to that in a later post). Your students may have had some exposure to “fact vs. opinion,” which is useful background knowledge. Facts are often evidence, and opinions can be arguments.
I recommend this simple approach: give students a list of sentences about whatever content you’re dealing with at the moment. Some of those sentences should be facts (i.e., evidence), some arguments. Model and explain a few examples, then solicit input from the class on a few, then let students try some on their own. Here are a few examples:
On J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye:
- __________________________ Allie, Holden’s brother, is dead. (FACT, so it has to be EVIDENCE)
- __________________________ Losing his brother causes a major impact on Holden’s life. (NEEDS EVIDENCE/EXPLANATION TO PROVE IT, so it has to be an ARGUMENT)
On Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR):
- __________________________ In 1905, FDR and his fiancée/6th cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, chose St. Patrick’s Day 1905 as their wedding date for the sole reason that it was the only day that FDR’s 5th cousin and Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, could attend. (FACT, so it has to be EVIDENCE)
- __________________________ Eleanor Roosevelt can take credit for converting her patrician fiancé, Franklin, from a noblesse oblige steward into a sensitive and empathetic populist when she showed him the wretched state of the poor in New York City’s slums. (NEEDS EVIDENCE/EXPLANATION TO PROVE IT, so it has to be an ARGUMENT)
See the TLC “Connecting Reading, Writing, and Test Prep” page for more exemplars.
*This entry is adapted from The Literacy Cookbook, which is available for pre-order HERE.
FOR MORE ideas about how to teach Step 1, check out this post on Argument vs. Evidence: Step 1 Revisited.