What our Evaluating Opinions and Arguments lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Evaluating Opinions and Arguments prepares students to effectively evaluate opinions and arguments, as well as to differentiate an opinion and argument based on facts and supporting evidence. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to define an opinion and argument; evaluate opinions and arguments; use strategies to better understand the differences between facts, opinions, and arguments; distinguish claims supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.
Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The only supplies you will need are the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can put students in groups of three for the activity and copy the handouts.
Options for Lesson
Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One optional addition to this lesson is to have students use their current reading content to practice identifying and evaluating arguments. You can also hold a class “argument” on various topics, where students will identifying and evaluate the statements made by their classmates; they will identify which statements are emotional or unsupported. You can also show arguments from videos, TV news, or other sources and have students evaluate them as weak or strong.
The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.
EVALUATING OPINIONS AND ARGUMENTS LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
What is an Effective Argument?
The Evaluating Opinions and Arguments lesson plan includes two content pages. The lesson begins by asking students if they have ever been in an argument with someone and, if so, what they argued about. People argue about things all the time. This lesson defines an argument as a conclusion based on evidence. Many arguments do not include the evidence necessary to make it a strong argument. Weak arguments usually include personal opinions that you can’t support with facts or are not actually related to the topic. Strong arguments usually include statements that you can support with reasons, facts, or examples related to the topic.
Distinguishing between strong and weak arguments is an important skill, whether you’re reading stories on the internet, in magazines, on blogs, or from other sources. You might also hear someone give an argument in a speech or conversation.
The lesson provides two sample paragraphs and asks the students to decide which includes an effective argument about smoking and which does not. The second paragraph is the one with an effective argument, because their argument is based on facts. These facts are things like secondhand smoke being harmful to others and smoking being less accepted in society as time goes on. The first paragraph is the one without a strong argument, because they used opinion-based supporting evidence.
Identifying and Evaluating Arguments
The next section of the lesson lays out five steps for identifying and evaluating arguments. The lesson notes that these are simply guidelines, but are likely useful when you write your own arguments or opinions on various topics. You can use these rules as a checklist for your own writing.
The first step is to focus on the purpose. This means that you should focus on the purpose of the argument instead of your own opinions on the topic. It’s important to note that you can’t disagree with an argument simply because you don’t like the opinions that are stated.
The second step is to identify the claim of the argument. You should ask what the author or speaker is trying to prove. Arguments often include persuasive statements in order to try to get the reader on their side.
The third step is to review the reasons for the argument. Ask yourself a few questions: What reasons does the author have for making their claim? Do the reasons make sense and can they be supported with facts? Is there proof and is the evidence relevant? Evidence that you (or someone else) can’t prove is not evidence.
The fourth step is to check for fairness and balance. Does the author take both sides of the issue into consideration? Is their argument based on emotion, with few relevant facts? Is their tone serious, sarcastic, or overly dramatic?
The fifth and final step is to investigate the author. Find out what their background is. Do they have a biased opinion? What credentials do they have and do they actually know about the topic? Do they have experience related to the topic and what are their qualifications? Are they an authority on this particular subject?
Other Facts About Arguments
Arguments and opinion pieces are varied in topic and format. Longer arguments are not always better or more effective, and writers can sometimes try to confuse the reader with facts that are not relevant, by becoming overly emotional, or by going off topic. Someone can put together a well-written argument, but they might not actually be able to back it up with facts and examples. You should look out for well-written arguments that are actually weak arguments. You can do this by examining the facts in an argument, and by not getting caught up in the emotional side of the argument.
It’s also important to note that just because someone is speaking the loudest or most often, that doesn’t mean they have the best argument. Being louder doesn’t mean you argument is better.
The most important thing is to remember that, though everyone has opinions that they will argue, you should evaluate the actual argument. Arguments can be weak or strong. A strong argument contains evidence. You can back them up with reasons, facts, and examples.
EVALUATING OPINIONS AND ARGUMENTS LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Evaluating Opinions and Arguments lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.
ARGUMENT ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
Students will work in groups of three for this activity worksheet. Each group will work together and practice “arguing” with each other. The students will first spend 10 minutes talking about various topics in order to discover what they have different opinions on. They will pick three topics that might cause an “argument”. They will then practice arguing with each other about these topics, writing down some of the reasons or facts that they use to make their argument. Students can also use the internet to find additional supporting facts. Each students will write down the topics, reasons or facts that they used to support their argument, and any addition research they did on the topic. Finally, they will each write a paragraph for each topic that sums up their side of the argument.
Students may also work in pairs to complete this activity if you’d prefer.
EFFECTIVE ARGUMENT PRACTICE WORKSHEET
For the practice worksheet, students will complete two exercises. The first asks them to review pairs of statements and place and X next to the more effective one. The second asks them to read several paragraphs. They will underline effective statements and cross out ineffective ones. Some sentences are neither; students can leave these sentences alone.
EVALUATING OPINIONS AND ARGUMENTS HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
The homework assignment asks students to complete two short exercises. For the first, they will write one effective, one ineffective, and one argument statement for each of the given topics. The topics include “driving age changed to 18” and “a curfew for all kids under 16”. For the second, they will read two arguments and evaluate each of them. They will tell which argument is more effective and why, and which is less effective and why.
Worksheet Answer Keys
This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.