Teaching Arguments to ESL Students

Teach Arguments in Writing

This is another exercise that helps ESL learn how to write arguments in English. The four part framework for this activity is as follows:

  1. Question: Great ideas usually try to answer a question. In this speech, what is the question?
  2. Claim: What is the speaker’s main idea? What does he want us to believe?
  3. Premise: What are the reasons, or evidence, that make the main idea (claim) believable?
  4. Warrant: What proof or reasons does he provide to make us believe the premise is good proof for the claim?


ESL Writing Activity

Here is a practice exercise to watch, listen and write arguments. Ask students to:

  1. Listen to this one minute Steve Jobs speech.
  2. Deconstruct the argument by writing out the four part framework: question, claim, premise(s) and warrant.
  3. Evaluate this argument by describing his/her response (e.g. agree or disagree and why with a specific argument and warrant).
  4. Put the whole thing together in a well-written one page analysis.

More Writing Activities

There are other writing activities that help ESL students to recognize arguments and warrants:

Possible Answers

BTW, my answer looks like this:

  1. Question: How can we live well?
  2. Claim: Follow your heart when thinking about the big decisions in life.
  3. Evidence: There really is nothing to lose.
  4. Warrant: We are all going to die. Remembering this fact makes things like fear of failure, pride and outside expectations less important. When we are free from these external barriers, the only person stopping each of us from achieving something important is ourselves.

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