How to teach counterclaim

13 Dec


I tackled counter claim for the second time in two years today….and this year it worked!

For anyone who doesn’t know, the new common core requires students to write argument papers that include students showing both sides of an argument, being able to counter the reasons why the opposite is wrong. This is called a counterclaim. This is really in depth, difficult material for middle school students. Just starting to write an argument paper is hard, let alone understanding the intricacies of an argument and counterclaim.

Last year I had a rather unsuccessful run with my 10th grades regarding counterclaim. They just.didn’t.get it. It definitely was clear in the final essays that they had no idea why they would be stating the opposite view’s reasons. This year I knew I had to REALLY spell it out for them. I put together a lesson that stressed guided practice with the strategy before I had them tackle it themselves. The procedure went as follows:

1. Teacher given example

2. Teacher led practice

3. Group work practice

4. Do it on your own

The notes and example with guided practice sheet can be found here.

Then, students got into groups and came up with claims and counterclaims regarding three different issues. I gave them this graphic organizer in which each group had to come up with

1. A claim or thesis about the issue.

2. What the opposite side would say (counterclaim).

3. How to prove the opposite side wrong.

The issues I chose were school uniforms, videogames, and smoking.

Students did great with this- it really was a simple way for them to come up with counterclaims. It really got them talking/arguing as well!

Then, students were given this note sheet instructing them to try to come up with a counterclaim for their OWN thesis.


Now………. Your own thesis and counterclaim

Claim/My Thesis: ____________________________________________________________________________



Counterclaim (what would someone who disagrees with you say?): ______________________________



Prove them wrong using evidence from one of your articles- According to ________________________________________________________ by ________________



Students used articles we previously read in class to prove the opposite side wrong. By the end of the class everyone had relevant evidence to prove the other side wrong. Phew! Crisis avoided!


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