Students should have their introductions completed, as well as their first and second body paragraphs. They have used the language frame lesson to get ideas about formatting and content. Now they are ready to insert their counterclaim paragraphs.
I pass out the Counterclaim Paragraph Outline and place one blank outline under the document camera. I read aloud the outline, most students understand how to fill in the blanks immediately. I explain we'll be working in groups of three to discuss and then write our counterclaim paragraphs. Once students are put in small groups (based on who I think would work productively together), students will aid one another not only to write their counterclaim but to think critically about where a counterclaim paragraph logically belongs in the argument essay. I put these directions on the board and direct kids to spread out around the classroom to work in their small groups. Kids should read their arguments aloud to their small group; the other group members should be actively engaged in listening, so when it comes time to write their counterclaims, group members can support each other.
The small group element of this lesson worked out so well! Some really amazing, high-level conversations popped up around the room, based on some of the topics kids were arguing.
In this high level of discussion, students were being very honest about their thoughts on homework. A student chose to write his topic on "homework does more harm than good," but here, his group members help him to uncover a solid counterclaim.
Here students are finding the counterclaim-Pets Belong in the Classroom
One thing I've noticed about writing these paragraphs, is that students often struggle with the bigger picture. Why do we need to include evidence to support the opposite side? It makes no sense! Aren't we helping the other side to with the argument? When a student uncovers this question in a small group and I overhear, I'll pause the class and repeat the question. We come up with some possible reasons. Maybe it is because by proving and then disproving the other side, our claim is strengthened.
2 Sample Refutation Paragraphs
(Each these samples have 2-paragraph refutation; some essays may only have a 1 paragraph refutation while other essays, like research papers, may require a much longer refutation)
Charter Schools Vs. Public Schools (School Choice)
By Mark Liles
Thesis: School choice turns out to not only be a bad idea; it’s also a violation of our constitution.
Refutation: ...[Introduce Opposing Arguments] Considering the many challenges facing public schools, it’s understandable that many people would be eager to pursue new options. Supporters of school choice point out that under the current public school system, parents with economic means already exercise school choice by moving from areas with failing or dangerous schools to neighborhoods with better, safer schools. Their argument is that school choice would allow all parents the freedom, regardless of income level, to select the school that provides the best education (Chub and Moe). Schools would then have to compete for students by offering higher academic results and greater safety. Schools unable to measure up to the standards of successful schools would fail and possibly close. [Acknowledge Valid Parts] Activists within the school choice movement can be applauded for seeking to improve public education, but the changes they propose would in fact seriously damage public education as a whole.
[Counter Arguments] One of the biggest dangers of school choice is the power behind large corporations specializing in opening and operating charter schools. Two notable companies are Green Dot, which is the leading public school operator in Los Angeles (Green Dot), and KIPP, which operates 65 schools in 19 different states [KIPP]. These companies represent a growing trend of privatization of public schools by large corporations. It is feared that these corporations could grow to a point that public control of education would be lost. Education policy would be left in the hands of entrepreneurial think tanks, corporate boards of directors, and lobbyists who are more interested in profit than educating students [Miller and Gerson]. [Begin Concluding] Education should be left in the hands of professional educators and not business people with MBAs. To do otherwise is not only dangerous, it defies common sense.
What I liked about this refutation: The writer calmly and clearly outlines the true concerns and reasons why people oppose the opinion. He makes sure the reader knows that he is outlining opposing viewpoints because he gives hints like "Supporters of school choice point out that..." or "Their argument is that...". This is a nice way for readers to be aware of what others think.
Also, towards the end of the first paragraph, and throughout the second paragraph, the writer spends time clearly attacking these opposing views. He helps the reader feel like the opposing views might SEEM good on the surface, but they are indeed not good enough. He helps the reader see this with hints like "One of the biggest dangers of school choice is..." or "It is feared that...". This paragraph particularly draws in any hostile readers; the writer cunningly draws them in by complimenting their views when he says "Activists within the school choice movement can be applauded for seeking to improve public education," but he immediately points out the flaws, saying that " the changes they propose would in fact seriously damage public education as a whole." Complimenting the opposing argument really invites all your hesitant readers; they’re not threatened, and they’re now more willing to listen to the arguments.
Finally, at the end of the refutation, there is a clear conclusion.
Safe Traveler Cards
Taken from College Writers pg. 733-734
........[Introduce Opposing Arguments] As attractive as Safe Traveler Cards or national ID cards are, they are not without drawbacks. For one thing, as Easterbrook notes, these cards would expedite security procedures only for travelers who do not mind volunteering such information to obtain a card. Moreover they would not prevent passengers with "clean" backgrounds from bringing weapons or explosives on board, as was the case in the September 11 attacks. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that some people believe that these cards would deprive people of their privacy and that for this reason, their disadvantages outweigh their advantages (168).
........However, there are many who disagree with these contentions. [Acknowledge Valid Parts] While national ID cards could lessen a person's anonymity and privacy, [Counter Argument] this is a small loss that would be offset by a great increase in personal security. To Dershowitz--a self proclaimed civil libertarian--this tradeoff would be well worth it. According to Dershowitz, the national ID card would be only a little more intrusive than a photo ID card or social security card. Best of all, it would reduce or eliminate the need for racial profiling: "Anyone who had the [national ID] card could be allowed to pass through airports or building security more expeditiously, and anyone who opted out could be examined much more closely" (590). Such cards would enable airport security officials to do instant background checks on everyone. [Begin Concluding] The personal information in the system would stay in the system and never be made public. The only information on the card would be a person's "name, address, photo, and [finger]print" (Dershowitz 591).