Teaching Argument Writing: Capture the Idea

Teach English Argument Writing

This one hour lesson helps ESL students improve their English writing skills by learning how to identify, articulate and judge arguments using a simple critical thinking framework.

The lesson has four parts:

  1. a quick review of the critical think framework
  2. a 5 minute TED video ideal for this type of writing exercise
  3. a ten minute pair work discussion that helps students flush out the main ideas and allows teachers time to provide personalized feedback while circulating around the class
  4.  student writing time

Step 1 The Critical Thinking Framework

If your students are unfamiliar with the structure of arguments, this lesson provides a short introduction. Teaching arguments can be complex, which is not always a good thing for the ESL class. Sometimes teachers need to simplify. That’s what this lesson does.

Here is a simple critical thinking framework. It helps students build an argument by asking four questions.

  1. Question: What is the main question the speaker/writer wants to answer?
  2. Claim: What is the main idea? What does the person think?
  3. Evidence: What is the proof? What are the reasons?
  4. Warrant: Why does the proof and the reasons support the claim?

Step 2 Watch the TED Video

Ask students to watch the video and make notes. They should pay close attention to answering the four questions in the critical thinking framework and ignore most of the other material in the video.

Step 3 Pair Work Discussion

Students work in pairs or small groups to create answers for the four questions. Review answers with whole class.

Step 4 Writing

The writing task has two parts.

  1. Summarize the speaker’s argument using the four question framework. This is probably one or two paragraphs.
  2. Students evaluate this argument by agreeing or disagreeing. Each student’s evaluation should follow the same four part framework. Students should provide at least one fully developed argument to support their own ideas.

Expansion: Warrants

Some students have a hard time grasping the idea of argumentative warrants. If your students could use a little practice with this difficult writing concept, check out this short lesson. It has several short passages which demonstrate how warrants work in an argument.


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