Series Evidence & Arguments: Evidence & Arguments: Ways of Experiencing a Text


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-\x80\x9312
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 2: 
    Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course
    of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific
    details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • W:  Writing Standards 6-12
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 6: 
    Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update
    individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology'\x80\x99s
    capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • SL:  Speaking and Listening Standards 6-\x80\x9312
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 1a: 
    Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions
    (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-\x80\x9310
    topics, texts, and issues, building on others'\x80\x99 ideas and expressing their own
    clearly and persuasively.

    a. Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under
    study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from
    texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful,
    well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

    b. Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making
    (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of
    alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.

    c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the
    current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate
    others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and

    d. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of
    agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their
    own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the
    evidence and reasoning presented.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Evidence & Arguments: Ways of Experiencing a Text

Lesson Objective: Identify the main idea and make arguments about a text
Grades 9-10 / ELA / Literary Analysis
12 MIN
ELA.RI.9-10.2 | ELA.W.9-10.6 | ELA.SL.9-10.1a


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Notice the distinct parts to this lesson. How does Mr. Hanify scaffold and differentiate this lesson?
  2. How does the fishbowl strategy promote rich discussions?
  3. Why does Mr. Hanify choose to have students write a blog?


  • Private message to zhannat tutbayeva
An ideal lesson with a caring teacher!
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Dalena Spencer
I'm sure these students enjoy class and learn because of the many ways of interacting with each other.
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  • Private message to Joy Price
This is an fantastic lesson that I will use in my class. I love multiple ways of learning for our children!
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  • Private message to Patricia Kallianis
What version of the letter did you use? I didn't see it in the resources? This is still one of my favorite lessons on TC!
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  • Private message to lisa madden
This is a wonderful example of engaged learners having an opportunity to discuss a piece of text in-depth. Thank you!
Recommended (0)


    Common Core: ELA
    Evidence & Arguments
    Multiple Ways of Experiencing a Text

    Common Core: ELA
    Evidence & Arguments
    Multiple Ways of Experiencing a Text
    00:02:05 TJ HANIFY: My name is TJ Hanify. I teach class of ninth and tenth graders at the International School in Bellevue, Washington. TEXT:
    T.J. Hanify
    9th & 10th Grade ELA Teacher
    International School, Bellevue, WA
    00:02:11 So, over the next two days, my students are going to read a very important text, a Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. TEXT:
    Read and analyze text
    00:02:18 TJ HANIFY: They're gonna work collaboratively in groups to analyze the text and explore its central idea. They'll present their findings to their class. They'll engage in a class-wide Socratic Seminar discussion. TEXT:
    Explore central idea


    Socratic Seminar
    00:02:30 TJ HANIFY: And, then they'll do some argumentative writing where they consider the ideas that King wrote about and bring in their own views, as well. TEXT:
    Argumentative Writing
    00:02:40 TJ HANIFY: When I start the day, the first thing I do is present a question to the students. TEXT:
    Day 1:
    Start With a Question
    00:02:44 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Okay, welcome to class. Our question for todays is how can a writer craft her or his language to develop a main idea and reach an audience? Let's have a quick refresher of some of the context of the reading. We talked about this a little bit last time. TEXT:
    Give students context
    00:02:57 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: What was going on in 1963 that caused Dr. King to be sitting in that jail cell, writing this letter?
    00:03:03 STUDENT SOUND UP: Jim Crowe laws.
    00:03:04 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Okay, so what were Jim Crowe laws?
    00:03:05 STUDENT SOUND UP: They were the laws to do with segregation between blacks and whites.
    00:03:10 TJ HANIFY: Before students arrive, they should have read Dr. King's letter from Birmingham Jail, and used a strategy that we have called metacognitive markers, or just thinking notes. GRAPHIC:
    “Thinking Notes”
    00:03:18 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: So, your homework was to read through and use the thinking notes. So, we didn’t just want highlighted text, we wanted some of those particular thinking notes for your reactions to it. So, let's start with the last one there, just something that was confusing. TEXT:
    Use thinking notes to help draw out evidence
    00:03:31 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Did anybody put down a double question mark because it raised a question you wanted clarified today, something that was confusing to you? TEXT:
    Thinking Note:
    ?? Something is unclear or confusing
    00:03:37 STUDENT SOUND UP: Well, I was just wondering if that was also, like, if you don’t know, like, what certain words mean?
    00:03:43 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Sure, absolutely.
    00:03:44 STUDENT SOUND UP: So, it's on the third page in the third paragraph. And I don’t know really how to say it. It's, like, zzzaa. Z-E-I-T.
    00:03:56 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Zeitgeist.
    00:03:57 STUDENT SOUND UP: Yes, that word.
    00:03:58 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Right. Anybody here familiar with the term zeitgeist?
    00:04:02 TJ HANIFY: What they do is they mark on the text significant areas and also their reactions. So, what is something I had a positive reaction to? What raised a question for me?
    00:04:10 STUDENT SOUND UP: So, on the first page on the very last paragraph, it says, it is rather strange and paradoxal to find us consciously breaking laws. So is that basically, like, do people naturally break laws or?
    00:04:25 TJ HANIFY: I really enjoy working with ninth and tenth graders because they engage in the ideas and not just the task. I really expect them to spend a lot of time considering some of these challenging ideas about when is it a just act to break a law?
    00:04:40 TJ HANIFY SOUNDUP: I want you to write down what do you think King's main idea is? What's the central idea he's trying to express in Letter from Birmingham Jail? TEXT:
    Common Core:
    Determine central idea
    00:04:53 TJ HANIFY: Next, I have students get into small groups and I have pre-selected these groups with tasks that are differentiated for their skill level in analysis of informative texts. I want students to be able to find those elements of the text, those specific moments that help build towards that big idea. TEXT:
    Small Group
    00:05:09 STUDENT SOUND UP: I feel, like, this whole paragraph is just, like, really, really, really, like, challenging them. TEXT:
    Common Core:
    Students use evidence to determine central idea
    00:05:14 STUDENT SOUND UP: It’s through the letter he's trying to tell them that he's not going to stop until equal rights are realized. But I think, what he's really, like, also trying to say in the letter is, like, why he's doing all of it. So, that would be logos.
    00:05:31 TJ HANIFY: The reason why I have the groups differentiated is to center on their strengths. Some students are really ready to jump into some rhetorical analysis of an informational text and look for elements like ethos, pathos, and logos.
    00:05:45 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Are there any particular ethos, pathos or logos there are a little more difficult than the others or?
    00:05:50 STUDENT SOUND UP: Yeah, ethos.
    00:05:50 STUDENT SOUND UP: Ethos.
    00:05:51 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Ethos is when King demonstrates that he's someone we should listen to. So, if you show you have expertise, that's ethos, that's creating an ethos effect on the reader.
    00:05:59 TJ HANIFY: Some of the students who had struggled so far I gave a writing focus like, identify tone and identify imagery that has a strong crossover between a literary text, where they're more in their comfort zone.
    00:06:09 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: So, you're looking for specific word choices and things like that?
    00:06:12 STUDENT SOUND UP: Yeah, I'm, like, big tone shifts.
    00:06:15 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Okay. Are you finding those?
    00:06:16 STUDENT SOUND UP: Kind of. We found one or two so far.
    00:06:19 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Okay. Good. Right. He's not going to change tone every few sentences or anything, so if you find a couple over the course of the letter, than I think you should be…
    00:06:26 STUDENT SOUND UP: My question is it he’s, it's not actually his words. He's quoting someone else. So, does it still count as him employing imagery? TEXT:
    Group discussion provides another opportunity to explore text
    00:06:38 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Sure. He's just employing somebody else's imagery.
    00:06:40 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: So, for the next part, you're going to make a brief presentation. You're just going to make a one-slide PowerPoint, that's going to be all just one particular slide. And, this is all the content that's going to be on there. First, what did you agree on? TEXT:
    The Presentations

    “Presentation Requirements”
    00:06:51 TJ HANIFY: What do you think King's main idea is? And then second, just go ahead and let us know, because we all had different tasks, what was you task for your group? Graphic:
    “Presentation Requirements”
    00:07:00 TJ HANIFY: And, then we want you to pick two quotes and note and, tell us which paragraph it's from. Those quotes, how did they contribute to the main idea or purpose? Graphic:
    “Presentation Requirements”

    00:07:09 TJ HANIFY: After they've gone through the reading exercise, they would create a one-slide PowerPoint where they would include specific quotes from the text, their overall meaning. And, have to say explicitly; what is the connection between these quotes I've chosen and the central meaning of the text? TEXT:
    Students prepare presentations
    00:07:25 STUDENT SOUND UP: Okay, so, our task was tone analysis. We were looking through for, like, words that indicated tone and phrases too and then tone shifts, as well. And our main idea was that there is no excuse for injustice. Ignoring it, in fact, only promotes it. TEXT:
    Students present their interpretation of the central idea with evidence
    00:07:42 STUDENT SOUND UP: And, we thought that King was urging the clergymen to take action because they were intellectual people in their respective communities.
    00:07:50 TJ HANIFY: The reason to have this step where students are presenting their findings is it's a moment where I'm able to access their understanding in real time.
    00:07:57 TJ HANIFY: This gives them the ability to show their thinking, share the range of ideas and findings that the class came up with. And also to have a little bit of pride in the work that they've done.
    00:08:06 STUDENT SOUND UP: So, the main idea that we came up with as a group was, Martin Luther King wrote this letter to address the published statement by the clergymen, to help them understand his perspective on equality and justice for all that, for all. TEXT:
    Common Core:
    Speaking and Listening
    00:08:16 STUDENT SOUND UP: But the quote that we got for logos was, so the question is not whether we will be extremists for hate, but extremists for love. Will we be extremists for the preservation for injustice or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?
    00:08:31 TJ HANIFY: And also it's an opportunity for the other class members to show some high quality feedback and provide some constructive criticism for their peers. TEXT:
    Common Core:
    Students evaluate the speaker
    00:08:38 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: So, they're two kinds of feedback I'd like to see. Either kind is great. One, positive feedback is great, but specific positive feedback, or suggestions for improvement. GRAPHIC:
    “During Presentations – Audience Feedback”
    00:08:47 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Not just blanket criticism, but if you can think of something, you know, I know a way that this could be even stronger.
    00:08:53 STUDENT SOUND UP: For imagery, we said that quicksand represents the instability and how it is progressively getting worse and the rock portrays stability.
    00:09:03 STUDENT SOUND UP: I know. I thought that quicksand was really effective in showing the instability. TEXT:
    Provide specific feedback
    00:09:07 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: And we're going to have one more piece of feedback before we're done.
    00:09:11 STUDENT SOUND UP: Yes, so I noticed that in it when they were trying to, they were kind of just read what was up on the board. It wasn’t necessarily, like, elaborating on it. So, I mean, I'm not saying it wasn’t quality work. It was.
    00:09:26 TJ HANIFY: The next thing I have my students do is continue to engage in the same text but in a new way. Now they'll have a whole class discussion, called a Socratic Seminar. In particular, they'll be engaged in the fishbowl. TEXT:
    Day 2:
    Socratic Seminar
    00:09:36 TJ HANIFY: To do this, I have my students set up in two circles, one inner and one outer. And, every student has a partner. The inner circle will be the speakers and the outer circle will be note takers. GRAPHIC:
    Seating for the “Fishbowl” Seminar
    00:09:46 TJ HANIFY: There will be moments over the course of the strategy where the two partners will turn and talk, share ideas and also exchange roles, moving from the inner to the outer circle.
    00:09:54 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: We are just going to have the first person who wants to volunteer go and if you would like to follow up, you raise your hand and, they will call on you. And whoever's the last speaker, will choose the next speaker. TEXT:
    Students practice impromptu persuasive arguments
    00:10:05 STUDENT SOUND UP: I think you can, like, tell someone not to hate someone, but you can't make them not hate them.
    00:10:13 STUDENT SOUND UP: I have a question about that. How would you distinguish a moral law from an immoral law? Claudia.
    00:10:20 STUDENT SOUND UP: He says in the text, any law that degrades human personality is unjust. And he, like, talks about Martin Buber and about, like, I it and I thou relationships. And I think what he means is that, like, any law that makes a person less of a person is not a just law. TEXT:
    Common Core:
    Close Analysis of Text
    00:10:41 TJ HANIFY: What particularly impressed me with the students is that they were engaging in genuine dialog. They were addressing ideas of their peers and they were posing questions and talking about the ideas of other participants, rather than just each person taking their turn, just saying something to the circle.
    00:10:59 STUDENT SOUND UP: There's, kind of like, that mob mentality. So, like, even if someone doesn’t approve of it, then they're just going, they're still going to go along with it if, because, they're probably, like, afraid that people will turn on them, as well.
    00:11:11 STUDENT SOUND UP: We actually discussed a similar thing and we were talking about how, you know, in a larger group setting, people will do something that they wouldn’t normally do if they were on their own. And they'll be far more likely to act in a way that they would even think of doing. TEXT:
    Students use evidence to back up arguments
    00:11:27 TJ HANIFY: So, we saw a lot of ideas develop over the course of the conversation. Kids came away with a more sophisticated understanding of the text, because of the work that they did with each other.
    00:11:36 STUDENT SOUND UP: I don’t think that the main, like, whole organization, because it's called civil rights, I don’t think it's just towards racism but, all prejudice against people who are, so-called, different.
    00:11:49 STUDENT SOUND UP: I think we've come a long way but, I don’t think it's gone yet because there's prejudice against people who have different sexual orientations or it's not so much towards racial injustice but, more other.
    00:12:02 STUDENT SOUND UP: I'm going a little back to elaborate on your, the question you asked about if it will ever go away? I mean, I feel like the sad thing about the world is there'll always be negative influences.
    00:12:13 STUDENT SOUND UP: So, I feel like it, it'll never permanently go away, because people always have higher opinions of each other. Like, it's just like a natural instinct that, it's just sad but, that's the way people, a lot of people feel.
    00:12:26 TJ HANIFY: Next, I gave the students a writing task. It was time for them to relate their own ideas about Dr. King's text and produce a piece of argumentative writing. So, I took them to the computer lab where they were going to make an online blog with their opinionated writing. TEXT:
    Argumentative Writing
    00:12:40 STUDENT SOUND UP: I think I’m going to talk something about, like, how, especially, like, around in the early two thousands about with 9-11 and stuff and, how everyone's really prejudiced after that.
    00:12:53 TJ HANIFY SOUND UP: Do you think that, it still holds true today that people need to break unjust laws? And give an example of a time where they might need to.
    00:13:01 TJ HANIFY: This was more that can be accomplished in the day but, because they were writing online, I was able to get them up and running and, starting with their ideas and then finish the rest as homework.
    00:13:10 TJ HANIFY: Employing these particular standards while I plan and engage in a lesson has really helped me to see the inner connectedness between all of these skills. The reading builds the writing. The writing depends on the reading.
    00:13:21 TJ HANIFY: The speaking and listening engages students in the ideas and allows them different ways to share them and help develop them. So, all in all, it really makes transparent and clear some of the most essential experiences they'll have and, the things that we really value and cherish as English Language Arts teachers.
    00:13:38 TEXT:
    TCH Classroom Takeaways:

    Common Core
    1. Students develop their thinking through multiple experiences
    2. Students practice expressing ideas verbally and in writing
    3. Students learn how to use evidence to back up arguments

School Details

International School
445 128th Ave Se
Bellevue WA 98005
Population: 575

Data Provided By:



T.J. Hanify


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