Tuesday, September 5th

Day 5 - Tuesday, September 5th

Lesson Objectives

To introduce and practice using the formal elements of response/argument (claims, reasons and evidence); to look at a sample essay as an example of how to put these strategies into practice.

Connection to Course Goals

Working with the formal elements of response (claims, reasons and evidence) will help students transform their unstructured essays into more thoughtful and convincing responses. Taking time to examine a sample essay will provide students with a model of how to structure their essays, which in turn will help reinforce the idea that writers make conscious choices about how to shape texts in response to rhetorical situations.

Take Attendance and Introduce Class (3 - 5 minutes)

After taking roll, you may want to announce that the first portfolio is due in one week from today. . Remind students that you are available during office hours to meet with them if they have questions about their writing. Also, remind them that the Writing Center (in Eddy room 6) is a great resource.

Additionally, let them know that on Tuesday they'll need a draft of their portfolio one essay for class workshop.

Check-in about Response Drafts (10 minutes)

Plan a short activity designed to get students talking about their experiences drafting a response to one of the articles. You might plan a WTL or a short discussion about challenges, successes, and/or questions they might have; you might prepare a mock-quiz about the reading from the PHG.

***Note to GTAs: You'll notice as we move through the syllabus that the daily lessons will gradually get less and less specific. This is intentional - it's your class, and we want you to take ownership of it. To this end, you'll begin to see more and more prompts like this to design your own activities, make homework assignments, allocate class time, and so forth. If at any time you feel "stuck" or worried about the choices the syllabus asks you to make, please feel free to chat with one of the lecturers, bring up your concerns in E684, or brainstorm with your peers.

Transition: Develop a transition here.

Discuss How to Develop a Structured Response (15 - 20 minutes)

Tell students that in order to structure their responses, they need to consider their purpose, thesis claim, reasons and evidence. Define/reinforce these terms and have students apply them to their homework responses.

Purpose - What the writer is trying to accomplish. This is the writer's goal. (i.e. I want to agree with Wilson. Or, I want to show how the issue of reconstructing New Orleans is more complicated than the writer of "New Orleans Blues" thinks).

Ask students to write out their purpose for responding to their chosen article (perhaps on the back side of their homework).

Thesis Claim - A claim is a debatable statement which summarizes the argument or response. The claim should directly reflect the purpose. (i.e. If my purpose is to disagree with Early, my claim would be: I disagree with Early). Claims are typically stated near the beginning of a writer's response. This lets the reader know where the essay is headed.

Ask students to see if their homework responses already include a claim. If they do have a claim, they should underline it. If they do not have a claim, they should write one out beneath their purpose.

Reasons - These are statements that support the claim. They answer the question: Why? (i.e. My claim is: I disagree with Wilson. My reason is: Because he wrongly assumes that addressing the so-called "social weaknesses" of disadvantaged New Orleans residents should be a priority for policy-makers). Reasons often immediately follow the claim. Ideally, they should provide a "map" for the essay, letting readers know which points the paper will address and in what order. For shorter essays (like the ones we write in CO150) students should limit their reasons to 3 to maintain a clear focus.

Have students think about the reasons they gave to support their response to their chosen article. They should label these in their paper "reasons." If they cannot find any reasons, tell them to list out one or two reasons that would support their claim.

Evidence - Evidence supports the writer's reasons. While reasons explain or tell why the claim may be true, evidence shows why it is true. Evidence may come in the form of personal experience, cultural observations, outside texts/research, or the text itself. Evidence is what makes a writer's opinions credible. Without evidence, a response is no more than a reaction or a rant.

Ask students to find any evidence they included in their responses and to label it "evidence." If they didn't include evidence, tell them to list out what kinds of evidence they might need to include to support their points.

Transition: Develop a transition.

Present Claims, Reasons and Evidence on the Board (10 - 15 minutes)

The aim of this activity is to examine possible responses to the three articles. Ask two or three students to put their claim, reason(s) and evidence on the board. See if anyone will volunteer (If they're hesitant to volunteer, tell them that it's like getting free "expert" assistance with their writing for the first paper).

Once the sample arguments are outlined on the board, ask other students if they would find these arguments convincing. Also, what suggestions might they have for making these arguments more convincing? Is there additional evidence, for instance, that they would advise using?

During this discussion, you might also reinforce what counts as evidence and where student's can find evidence. Also, explain that their responses should be focused and cohesive. They need to limit their essays to just one or two clear points. Similarly, their claims, reasons and evidence should all be connected. The reasons should logically follow from the claim and the evidence should logically follow from the reasons.

Transition: Develop a transition. You might say, "Now that we've discussed how to use claims, reasons, and evidence to structure a response, let's take a look at how one student used these strategies in the sample essay."

Examine the Sample Essay (15 minutes)

Provide students with a few moments to read back over the sample essay. Keep in mind that the sample is not a model essay. It is likely to be effective in some ways an ineffective in others.

It may be useful to put the sample essay on overheads for this activity. Make sure to keep the font large enough to read from the back of the room.

Look first at the summary to see if it meets the criteria for academic summary (point students back the PHG for that list or quickly throw up your overhead of it). Then, ask students to identify the sample essay's claim. You might underline this on the overhead, or even ask a student to serve as "scribe" and make notes on the overhead as the class goes through it. Point out that the essay includes a brief transition between summary and response - the summary serves to set up the response, and the two pieces work together as a cohesive whole. Ask the class to identify the reasons offered in support of the claim; note these on the overheads. Then, as time allows, discuss how the writer used evidence to support their claim. Ask students what they would change or continue to develop in this essay.

Transition: Develop a transition. You might say, "In many ways, what we've just done with this sample essay is what you'll be doing with your own essays when we workshop them on Thursday. Remember that this essay isn't perfect, but that it does show one way to use claims, reasons, and evidence to develop a response. Let's take a quick look at the P1A assignment to remind ourselves what the parameters of this assignment are."

Review the Portfolio I Assignment Sheet (5-7 minutes)

Have students take out and read their assignment sheet for Portfolio I - Part A. Ask them if they have any new questions/concerns. Tell them that they have now gained the tools to successfully complete this assignment and highlight any important requirements. You may also choose to review all Portfolio I - Part A materials that you plan to collect so students can start to organize their work and prepare to turn it in. If you have a workshop policy (i.e. paper grade is lowered for missed workshops), remind them of this as well.

Conclude Class and Assign Homework (2 minutes)

Pass back graded summaries. This could also happen at the end of class on Thursday if necessary, but it's good to get them back to students soon enough that they can use your feedback to work on their P1A drafts. Remind students that this is one small assignment out of many this semester.

Write a conclusion for class.


  1. Complete a draft of your Portfolio I - Part A (summary and response) paper and bring a clean copy to class for workshop.