No Series: Read, Discuss, Debate: Evaluating Arguments


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 8: 
    Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing
    whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient;
    identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Read, Discuss, Debate: Evaluating Arguments

Lesson Objective: Evaluate two sides of a debate
Grades 9-12 / ELA / Analysis


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does the graphic organizer help students?
  2. Notice the components of the writing assignment. What makes the assignment effective and engaging?
  3. What can you learn from Ms. Davaney-Graham about making lessons relevant to students?


  • Private message to George Ellis
Great work! This video was inspiring.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Jennifer Miller
I don't see that the students are EVALUATING arguments. They are actually using their own experience and aligning it with the argument that they agree with. It's a nice lesson for looking at two sides of an argument, but how are they evaluating the quality of evidence provided?
Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Mildred Perez
Mildred Perez I enjoyed how the students were engaged in presenting their arguments on a topic that can be discuss and presented with evidence from either side.
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  • Private message to Mrs. Benderas
I also like the engaging topic and the rigor of thinking about why we read what we read.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Mrs. Benderas
This lesson is a great scaffold for decoding arguments. Some feedback: maybe rather than posing who's right vs wrong, we can ask for strengths and weaknesses of each, since most arguments are multifaceted. Also, working on trying to say students' names as they pronounce them is more empowering than imposing our American accent on their names (e.g. Estrada). Anglo-ising students' names is a type of microaggression.
Recommended (0)


  • [00:00]
    Interviewer: Kids feel that parents don’t understand what they’re going through.

    Interviewee: The books and stuff that kids are reading

    Interviewer: Kids feel that parents don’t understand what they’re going through.

    Interviewee: The books and stuff that kids are reading nowadays, that it can distort their minds.

    Interviewee: The way they grew up then and the way we grow up now is different.

    Interviewer: Yeah, so do we agree?

    Today’s goal was to evaluate two sides of a debate about the value of adult literature, and relationship to about will that we just complete it. They are doing this by reading two different articles, and discussing the two opposing viewpoints.

    We are going to be reading two articles today. The first one is by a woman whose last name is Gerdin 00:47, I think that’s how you pronounce it. She wrote this article called Darkness to Visible. And in it she’s trying to argue that like young adult fiction, things like The Hunger Games or Absolutely True Diary are way too dark and sinister, and talk about such negative things. That students shouldn’t—like they’re too young to understand it, and it’s actually negative for students.

    Sherman Alexie got really mad about it, so he wrote an article countering it. He had this kind of literary debate saying this isn’t true, and here are the reasons why it’s important that we actually read books like this. So we’re gonna read these, and we’re gonna try to figure out what are the two sides of a argument. Then we’re gonna open it up for you guys to add like your own words in as if you were jumping into this argument.

    So the next big part is a guide at reading, and then we stop from time to time to discuss the big ideas.

    Interviewee: Contemporary fiction for teens is writhe with explicit abuse. Violence and depravity, why is this considered a good idea.

    Interviewer: I’m gonna stop you right there. First of all does someone think that based off of those first two paragraphs they can make a statement like what is she trying to say about young adult fiction right now?

    Interviewee: She’s trying to say like a long time ago they didn’t have like all those books and like music that we listen to that have like bad words and stuff in it, R rated, like kids can’t listen to this, but we still kinda do. So she’s thinking that books should be like that.

    Interviewer: Perfect. So she says this line, “If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. First of all, we see some figurative language in there. Can somebody tell me what type of figurative language it is in that sentence? I should be seeing a lot of hands going up right now. Edgar Ashada 02:36, what’s the correct answer?

    Interviewee: Simile.

    Interviewer: It’s a simile. What makes it a simile? Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Jamie, what makes it a simile?

    Interviewee: The word life and its comparison.

    Interviewer: Yeah, what does it compare in there Jamie?

    Interviewee: Life and mirrors.

    Interviewer: Yeah, but what type of mirrors, let’s be specific?

    Interviewee: Funhouse mirrors.

    Interviewer: Funhouse mirrors. What do we think that simile might mean? What do we think Leslie?

    Interviewee: The funhouse mirrors is like being described like the books are changing the kids like perspective on the world, like it’s distorting it and making it ugly.

    Interviewer: Excellent. So we’re gonna go onto Mr. Alexie’s argument in a minute, but before we do I want you guys to have an opportunity to organize some of your thoughts. On the back of today’s handout you actually have a graphic organizer. Now that we actually have something, we’re gonna be able to start comparing and contrasting.

    On your left side I want you to put down her argument. I want you to kind of give the highlights of what is her argument. So on this side what is her argument, and like what’s her evidence?

    They’ll venues those graphic organizers again later this week when they’re writing their final essays for the book. They’ll be asked to pull in one of those arguments, and include that as part of their final paper.

    So I’m handing out right now Sherman Alexie’s response. He read this, and he wrote back. He said, “That I disagree.” So they had a debate through their writing.

    Interviewee: Does she believe that a wily novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape.

    Interviewer: I’m gonna have you guys talk with the people at your table and decide what is his argument? What is his counterargument about why authors should do this—should write about these types of books. I want you to get it onto your graphic organizer. You can talk to the people at your table or if you’re like ready to write, go ahead and write it down, but I’m gonna come pop around.

    As I do that, I make sure I go to tables where I haven’t necessarily heard from a student that day, so that I can make sure that that student is participating, and that they’re actually engaged in the work.

    Interviewee: The teenagers are already going through what’s in the book, so it’s really not gonna hurt them at all.

    Interviewee: Well, yeah, you are right because it does give ‘em like a better perspective on what life is kinda.

    Interviewer: What is he saying is wrong with her argument?

    Interviewee: Sherman Alexie is like taking it from the kids’ perspective. I mean if no one got raped in this world or killed, he wouldn’t write a book about it.

    [05:00] Because no one has ever faced it, but he wants to get the truth out about what life is like.

    Interviewer: Yeah, he grew up like on the reservation dealing with racism. Like all this tough stuff was going on, so I think that speaks to all of what you guys were saying. As people are saying things, I would write down on your graphic organizer which side that they go on, so that you know the two sides of the debate because you’re gonna be asked to write about it at the end of today.

    I’m gonna go ahead and open it up, what do you guys think? Whose argument is right and why?

    Interviewee: I think Sherman Alexie’s argument is right because like I feel like if I was him, and I didn’t get to like read a book like this book when I was younger, I believe that I would have difficulties growing up. ‘Cuz like we had a book like this to read, and we know what’s coming to face in the—when we get out in the real world, so we have a general idea of what’s gonna go on when we get older.

    Interviewer: Excellent. Let’s get some more points out there. I love that I see people writing on their graphic organizers, that’s gonna make your life easier in a few minutes, and it’ll help you keep your ideas straight.

    Interviewee: I would rather read a book that completely covers all delusional worlds because for a lot of people that could help them like escape their problems that are reminding them of the problems that they actually have.

    Interviewer: Good. Thank you guys all for your insightful comments. What we are going to do is you are gonna pick two of these. You’re gonna state your argument and explain your two reasons that support it. You’re really gonna explain like what side of the argument do you come down on, so that’s one paragraph you can write.

    You can argue why the opposite side is wrong. So you could say like Sherman Alexie is wrong for all of these reasons. Then your third option is that you can reflect on like class today, like what you liked, what you disliked about like the discussion, about other people’s thoughts, that type of thing. So you need to pick two out of three, and I am going to give you guys only about 10 minutes.

    What do you think the outcome of that was? What was the message he wanted you to get, that like life is hard, but what?

    Interviewee: Like you can overcome if you just like—not make it a joke, but like if you just like don’t take it seriously all the time. It’s like the message I kind of got.

    Interviewer: I think that’s a great message. What if this kid wasn’t gonna go to war, should he still be allowed to read whatever he wants? Or if he had one of those sheltered, privileged lives, should he be restricted?

    Interviewee: In my opinion, yes, because everybody has their own choices of what they read. I mean it’s not the fact that he’s not going to war or if he is, there are still people that are going.

    Interviewer: Okay, I love that. So it’s like we need to have this shared experience. Good thinking. All right, could I please have everyone’s eyes back up here. Thirty seconds, what I would like you guys to do is please turn to the person next to you, and I would like you to say—tell them what was your final thought about today.

    I try to connect things to their own lives as much as possible and have them see the relevancy of whatever we’re reading to their own lives. I think today was very personal for them.

    Interviewee: If we don’t ever get to do something with our life, and we keep the past hidden, how will we ever get better and make a change. For example when Alexie said, “I write in blood because [inaudible 08:22] to bleed.” What he means is is that if we don’t know what went on with people or how these things began to happen, how would we be able to face the problems we have.

    Interviewer: Please make sure I get your essays, notes go up in your binder.

    [End of Audio]

School Details

Will Rogers High School
3909 East 5th Place
Tulsa OK 74112
Population: 692

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Emily Davaney-Graham


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