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Unit 1, Lesson 5: So You Think You Can Argue

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No, David! Bookcover

No, David!

By David Shannon

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Students will now review/practice a foundation for argument writing through David’s case, and write a “brief” following the guidelines of argument writing. They will use their final briefs to share with fellow jurors and decide on a verdict with this case.

* Teacher Note: Juries do not write “briefs”. This is added in order to have students practice their argument writing.

Materials & Resources Needed

Standards Addressed

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

Text Types and Purposes
  1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

California English Language Arts Content Standards

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.4: Write persuasive letters or compositions:

Essential Questions / Issues


Students will show their understanding of the analysis and application of the rule of law as evidenced through argumentative writing.


Written Brief Quality Criteria Absolutely Almost Not Yet
Introduction and Statement of Claim

I included an introduction giving the background of the topic  and then included the claim with three reasons.

Claims Evidence

I made three strong claims and supported my reasons very clearly with credible sources (law vocabulary) and with details. I was organized by separating each reason for the claim in a separate paragraph.

Counter Claim

I recognized the counter claim and gave good arguments against it.


I used transition words like for example, another example, for instance, specifically, when giving evidence.  I also used other transitions words such as: in addition to, also, and another when I wanted to make another point.


I summarized my claim clearly, using supportive statements related to my argument, and an extra personal “push”.

Learning Activities (60–65 minutes)

Hook (5 minutes)

How many of you have ever had an argument? (Share out) Are arguments always bad or negative? Issues bring up several different points of view, and in the example of a court case, it is important that all sides be heard. We must learn to persuade others, and to argue in a civil way! We will practice this first with the simple idea of having an opinion about a cake that changes into a persuasive argument!

PowerPoint (15 minutes)

Show the PowerPoint (PPTX) and go through the steps that detail going from “opinion” to “argument”, using the cake as an analogy. This can be done as a whole group to model, and/or in small groups and share out. Complete the PowerPoint that moves to the persuasive argument of David’s verdict.

Depending upon the experience of your students with argument writing, you may want to provide them with a “process piece (PDF)” for this assignment. (There is also a Teacher’s Edition PDF of a full argument essay, if needed or desired)

Graphic Organizer (15 minutes)

After this, the graphic organizer (PDF) is used as a guide for students (as jurors) to write notes they may use in their argument “brief” regarding a verdict in David’s case, using the “cake argument” model (PDF), or the “process piece” that relates to the cake to assist them. Students should be told that jurors do not actually write “briefs” when serving jury duty, but the class will be doing so to practice their argument writing, and help organize their thoughts when they “deliberate” as jurors. Students may work in pairs to brainstorm and complete organizers.

First Stage of Argument Writing (30 minutes)

(continued revisions during additional English Language blocks or social studies time will be necessary). Students will use the graphic organizer and begin to write their own “brief (PDF)”, including each part of the argument: claim, counter claim, summary, and use of transitions. In order to meet the CCSS, there needs to be editing, and analysis of the argument to make sure it is complete before the final brief is accepted — this is just the beginning! Have students share their “briefs” with a partner — have them “talk-through” the sections of the brief using the Assessment as their guide, giving one another feedback.

Homework and additional class time may need to be dedicated to this essay before students complete this final brief. Give students feedback on their briefs, and have them make final revisions before the jury meets in the next lesson.

Related Student Work Samples:

Closure (2 minutes)

In our next lesson, you will become jury members and present your arguments, “deliberating”…to decide as a group if you can all agree David is “guilty” or “not guilty”. Make your revisions carefully and be prepared to be a responsible member of the jury!

Special Needs of Students Are Considered in This Lesson

Students can be called up as a small group for extra guidance, work in partners, using auditory clues for help with writing, use computers to complete the brief. In addition, the “process” brief may be used to give more guidance when needed. Small groups may need to meet with the teacher to organize thoughts and complete the graphic organizer, and/or brief.

Extension Ideas

Students may begin creating their own cartoon character — illustrating David (or another character) following the “rule of law” as it applies at school.