Building Evidence-Based Arguments Unit: Search Warrant

WISELearn Grant Lesson Plan
Title:  Building Evidence-Based Arguments Unit: Search WarrantAuthor:  Engage NY Grade 10
Subject(s): English Language Arts  
Grade Level(s):  10Total Time:

Overview / Description:  This unit focuses on aspects of argumentation involving evidence, reasoning, and logic, rather than on persuasive writing and speaking. Students are first expected to understand objectively a complex issue through exploratory inquiry and close reading of information on the topic, then study multiple perspectives on the issue before they establish their own position. From their reading and research, they are asked to craft an argumentative plan that explains and supports their position, acknowledges the perspectives and positions of others, and uses evidence gleaned through close reading and analysis to support their claims.

Learning goals/objectives:

In this unit, students engage in the writing process with the goal of synthesizing and articulating their research into argument writing. The end product of this unit is a final draft of a research-based argument paper that articulates the arguments and conclusions gleaned from research throughout the unit. In order to do this, students must synthesize and craft independent claims and conclusions from information across multiple texts and articulate their position in an organized, cogent, and formal argument essay. 

After completing this activity, students should be able to . . .

· Create outlines 

· Organize claims, counterclaims, and evidence in a logical manner 

· Draft effective introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions 

· Create cohesion within and between paragraphs 

· Adhere to MLA citation conventions 

· Write in a formal, objective tone 

· Adhere to conventions of argument writing

Workplace Readiness Skill: 

    Social Skills  x Communication 
   Teamwork     x    Critical Thinking
   Attitude and Initiative  x  Planning and Organization
    Professionalism    Media Etiquette

Content Standards:

W.9- 10.1.a-e Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. Explore and inquire into areas of interest to formulate an argument. 

a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence. 

b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns. 

c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims. 

d. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing. 

e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented. 

W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 

W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. 

W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation. 

W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 

L.9-10.1.a Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


All materials for this unit can be found at the following link:

Click on the "building evidence based arguments unit zip file of all documents."

Learning Activities:

The unit activities are organized into five parts, each associated with a sequence of texts and writing activities. The parts build on each other and can each span a range of instructional time depending on scheduling and student ability. 

Part 1 introduces students to the concept of evidence-based argumentation in the context of societal issues. Students read and write about a variety of informational texts to build an understanding of a particular issue. 

Part 2 develops student ability to analyze arguments through direct instruction on a set of terms and close reading skills for delineating argumentation. Students read and analyze several arguments associated with the unit’s issue. 

Part 3 deepens students’ abilities with arguments, moving them into evaluation. Students begin to synthesize their analysis and evaluation of other arguments into the development of their own position. 

Part 4 focuses students on identifying and crafting the structure of their own arguments, including their sequence of claims and their supporting evidence. 

Part 5 engages students in a collaborative, question-based process to develop and strengthen their argumentative essays. Students work with their teachers and peers to draft, revise and publish their own argumentative essay on the unit’s issue. 

WHO (T=Teacher Focus Lesson; WG=Whole Group\; SM=Small Group; I=Independent)

Learning Activity Task                                                Where can this be found in the resource?Approximate time
for task
Part 1:  Understanding the Nature of an Issue
Activity 1:  Introducing the Unit
see pgs 9-10
Activity 2:  Exploring the Issuesee pgs10-13
Activity 3:  Deepening Understanding of the Issuesee pgs 14-16
Activity 4:  Questioning to Refine Understandingsee pgs 17
Part 2:  Analyzing Arguments
Activity 1:  Understanding Argumentative Position
see pgs 20-21
 Activity 2:  Identifying Elements of Argumentation see pgs 21-22 
 Activity 3:  Delineating Arguments see pgs 22-23 
 Activity 4:  Understanding Perspective see pgs 23-24 
 Activity 5:  Comparing Perspectives see pgs 24-27 
 Activity 6:  Delineating Additional Arguments see pg 27 
 Activity 7:  Writing to Analyze Arguments see 28 
 Part 3:  Evaluating Arguments and Developing a Position
Activity 1:  Evaluating Arguments
 see pg 30 
 Activity 2:  Developing a Perspective and Position see pg 30-31 
 Activity 3:  Deepening Understanding see pg 31 
 Activity 4:  Using Others' Arguments to Support a Position see pg 31 
 Activity 5:  Responding to Opposing Arguments see pg 32 
 Part 4:  Organizing an Evidence-Based Argument
Activity 1:  Identifying Supporting Evidence
 see 34 
 Activity 2:  Determining a Logical Approach see pg 34 
 Activity 3:  Developing and Sequencing Claims as Premises of the Argument see pg 35 
 Activity 4:  Organizing Evidence to Support Claims see pg 35 
 Activity 5:  Reviewing a Plan for Writing an Argument see pg 36 
 Part 5:  Developing and Strengthening Argumentative Writing
Activity 1:  Strengthening Writing Collaboratively-  Principles and Processes
 see pg 41-42 
 Activity 2:  Focus on Content--Information and Ideas see pgs 43-45 
 Activity 3:  Focus on Organization -- Unity, Coherence, and Logical Sequence see pg 45-46 
 Activity 4:  Focus on Support -- Integrating and Citing Evidence see pgs 46-47 
 Activity 5:  Focus on Linkages -- Connections and Transitions see pg 48 
 Activity 6:  Focus on Language -- Clarity and Impact see pg 49-50 
 Activity 7:  Focus on Conventions -- Punctuation, Grammar, and Spelling see pg 50 
 Activity 8:  Focus on Publication -- Final Editing and Formatting see pg 51 


Part 1:  As a formative assessment, and a building block for their final argument, in Activity 5, students draft a written, multi-part claim that: 1. Synthesizes what they have learned about the nature of the unit’s issue. 2. Presents their current way of understanding the issue and its components. 3. Cites evidence from multiple sources that explains and substantiates their perspective. 4. Represents their best thinking and clearest writing. Teachers can use an EBC Criteria Checklist to evaluate student writing as well as each student’s initial comprehension of the background texts and understanding of the issue. 

Part 2:  Part 2 presents many opportunities for formative assessment. The two most important proficiencies to assess here are a student’s: 1. understanding of and facility with the concepts for analyzing arguments; and 2. ability to analyze and write about other authors’ arguments Teachers can use the tools, claims, and conversations from Activities 2 and 4 to assess emerging proficiency with the analytic concepts without the interference of additional reading comprehension loads. These activities have been designed for development and assessment of these core literacy proficiencies in all students (including ELL and students reading below grade level). The claims and conversation from Activities 3, 5, and 6 add the opportunity to assess the proficiency in analyzing and writing about other arguments. The short essay from Activity 7 provides a mid-unit formative assessment on both proficiencies and the ability to link and develop analysis across several paragraphs. As a formative assessment of the text-centered discussions that have led to their claims, students might complete two TDC Checklists, one that rates their team’s overall performance and one that represents a self-assessment of their own participation. 

Part 3:  As formative assessments and building blocks for their final argument, students have now revised their evidence-based claim about the nature of the issue based on their developing perspective. In a paragraph, they have also expressed a position they wish to take on the issue, and they have written two multi-part claims that: 1. Present analyses and evaluations of two arguments related to the unit’s issue. 2. Establish the relevance of one argument’s position and evidence to their own argument. 3. Respond to a divergent or opposing argument in an appropriate and strategic way. 4. Cite evidence from both texts to support their analyses and evaluations. 5. Represent their best thinking and clearest writing. These pieces should be evaluated for students’ understanding of the issue, the clarity and relevance of the perspective and position, and their analysis of textual evidence. Student evaluations of the various arguments using the EBA Checklist should be evaluated for their conceptual understanding and the validity of analysis.

Part 4:  Students submit their Organizing Evidence-Based Argument tools or Delineating Arguments tools to the teacher for formative assessment and criterion-based review and feedback before beginning to write their final arguments in Part 5. 

As a formative assessment of the discussions in Part 4, students complete two TCD Checklists, one that rates their team’s overall performance and one that represents a self-assessment of their own participation.

Part 5:  Students submit their revised essays ready for publication. Teachers can evaluate the essays using the Evidence-Based Arguments Criteria Checklist. The Evidence-Based Writing Rubric can also provide guidance on proficiency levels demonstrated by various elements of the essay. 

Teachers can also evaluate each student’s participation in the collaborative writing activities in a variety of ways beginning with the Text-Centered Discussion Checklist. They also might collect student revision questions, various drafts illustrating their revisions, as well as feedback on their peers’ essay drafts.


Students will have spent significant time reading, thinking, and writing to produce their final written argument. A strong way to culminate and celebrate this work is through some sort of public or technology-based presentation: speeches/readings for community members, an in-class symposium on the issue, presentations to other students, or some form of argument-supported debate. The decision of how to best finish the unit in a meaningful way is left to the teacher.  

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