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Teacher Tips and Answers

Warm-Up for Argument Writing

Not all arguments are created equal. Some involve people screaming at each other and throwing chairs. Others involve people rationally and logically analyzing an issue in order to come to an effective conclusion. When you write an argument essay, you need to do the latter, not the former. Tantrums only convince readers that you are a child. A logical argument that recognizes all sides but presents and supports a specific position can convince readers about an important issue.

In order to build a logical argument, though, you need to first understand what "logic" means.

What Is Logic?

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Writing Literary Analysis
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The word logic derives from the Greek word logos, which means simply "word." So in its simplest form, logic is using words to build a case for a specific position. Logic is a technique for using words, just as math is a technique for using numbers.

In fact, the two intersect. In geometry, you may have learned how to create logical proofs. You start with "givens" (statements accepted to be true) and something you are supposed to prove. Then you make a series of statements about the givens, providing reasons that those statements are correct, in order to prove the conclusion.

When you write an argument essay, you use a similar, stepwise approach. Along the way, you provide reasons supported with facts, statistics, examples, quotations, and other forms of evidence. You also address key objections to your position.

You can start thinking about arguments by exploring controversial issues around you.

Thinking About Controversy

Effective argument essays focus on controversial issues. A controversy is a subject about which people disagree. Facts don't leave much room for disagreement because they can be directly proven. Controversial topics involve the following:

  • Opinions are personal preferences such as the best rapper or the right kinds of pizza toppings. One person states an opinion and provides reasons to support it, but someone else can have an opposing opinion.
  • Proposals are suggestions about what should be done in the future. Since no one knows for certain the future outcome of any action taken now, proposals cannot be directly proven until after they have consequences.
  • Hypotheses are explanations for how something might be working. They are "educated guesses" about what is going on. Arguments and experiments can provide reasonable support for them, but hypotheses only become scientific theories or laws after extensive experimentation.

You can think about these three kinds of controversies among your friends and family members. They present differing opinions, proposals, and hypotheses all the time. For example, one student gathered the following controversies from his friends, family, and teachers:

Controversies

 

Opinions (I think . . .)

Proposals (We should . . .)

Hypotheses (Something is happening because . . .)

Myself

I think we've had enough superhero movies.

We should create a dog park in the city.

Students are burned out because of too much testing.

Friends

They think Facebook is for old people.

We should get longer holiday breaks.

Schools struggle because of bad politicians.

Family

They think the best TV is reality TV.

High schoolers should have jobs.

My room is a mess because I spend too much time with friends.

Teachers

They think students are too tied to technology.

We should upgrade the gymnasium.

My writing is underdeveloped because of Snapchat.

Write down one controversial position that interests you:

We should upgrade the gymnasium.

What reasons do people give to support this position?

The gym is old. It is used by gym classes and by sports teams. The wrestlers have to haul their mats out before every practice and put them back afterward.

Do you agree or disagree with this position? What reasons do you have?

I agree that the gymnasium should be upgraded, but I don't agree that it is the highest priority. Our auditorium is old also and cannot fit an all-school assembly. New freshman orientation has to happen in the gym because freshmen and parents can't fit in the auditorium. Also, our arts need a better space for plays, bands, and choirs.

Think about your controversies.

In a gathering grid of your own, write down opinions, proposals, and hypotheses that you, your friends, your family, and your teachers have. Then think about the reasons they hold these positions. Ask yourself if you agree, and think of your reasons. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

Teaching Tip

This activity helps students think about controversial topics in their everyday lives. As they consider the differing opinions, proposals, and hypotheses that they hear from those around them, they'll become more comfortable dealing with similar controversies in their communities, nation, and world.

This lesson is a part of the Writing Argument Essays unit.

Click the title to view more information about this unit and a full list of lessons that are included.

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