Thursday, 24 March 2016

Argue Like a Lawyer

I've mentioned the struggle that students have with supporting evidence in the past. So what is an authentic situation where supporting evidence is vital?  As teachers, we have probably all gone to the example of a teenager arguing with his or her parents.  If you want to extend your curfew, how can you convince your parents?  I don't know about you, but that approach has never garnered great results for me.  When I was watching TV one night, an idea came to me.  Sidebar - isn't that always the way?  A teacher's brain is never fully "off"!  You can barely turn on the television without catching a courtroom drama.  Lately, my students have been into The People vs. O.J. Simpson and Making a Murderer.  This means that your students have likely watched a lawyer - real or fictional - make a strong argument.  Why not use that experience to your advantage in the classroom?

I use this activity as an alternative to writing a plan or outline for an essay.  First of all, the students need a strong position or thesis statement.  What are they trying to prove?

Now they need to think like a lawyer.  How will they convince the jury, or the teacher, that they are right?  I tell them that they need to give me three reasons.  These three reasons need to be in their own words, and a reason is not a restatement of something that happened in the novel that they read.  Finally, students need to make a counterclaim.  They need to think of a strong reason that someone might disagree with them and disprove it.  Finally, they need to come up with a strong closing argument.  I might have students watch some examples of opening and closing arguments to see how lawyers use language to their advantage.

Food for Thought... How do you get your students to use strong supporting evidence?

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