“Are you ready for writing workshop?” Head teacher Soo Kim asked her pod of intrigued third graders. “You’ll need your writing folders and graphic organizers.”
As students pulled out colorful folders and sharpened pencils, Ms. Kim explained that they would be continuing their work on persuasive pieces of writing. “Remember how we’ve been talking about issues important to us in our writing?” She prompted.
In earlier lessons, the young writers learned to use convincing language and how to make pieces more powerful. Today, they would discover a new technique to further enhance their skills: Counterclaims.
Before diving into the topic at hand, Ms. Kim encouraged students to reflect on what they learned that makes a writer good, specifically, the use of detailed nouns and verbs.
“Instead of saying animals, you can mention seagulls or fish,” Ms. Kim said, referring to one student’s piece about ocean pollution. They also briefly went over the definition for and use of a thesis – a bold statement that serves as the main idea for a piece of writing.
“Okay writers, today we will add counterclaims to your graphic organizer,” Ms. Kim explained. “Does anyone know what that is?”
“An argument against your main point,” one student stated.
“Exactly! And you, as an author, should respond or address people’s possible thoughts.” Ms. Kim noted that people may not always think the same way as you – and that’s okay. However, as a writer, you can use your persuasive skills to inspire others to read your work, even if they think the topic doesn’t apply to or interest them, and can use supporting details and claims to convince your reader of your stance.
To help explain the new concept, Ms. Kim showed a short video and shared a piece of her own writing to serve as an example. As she shared her screen, she reminded students of her thesis: “Asian Americans should be treated fairly without being judged on race.”
“Some people may say, ‘Well, I have Asian friends, so I don’t need to read this.’ What could I counter?” She asked the class. After a turn and talk with a partner, students astutely suggested: “If it hurts your friend, you should care,” “Imagine if that was you,” and “You should be an ally.”
Ms. Kim nodded encouragingly. “I’ll give you two minutes to add some counterclaims that support your own thesis.” With that, the students quickly began putting their thoughts onto paper as Ms. Kim circled the room to aid with any questions.
When they came back together as a group, one student shared a counterclaim for her thesis “Reducing pollution will help the Earth and all living things” saying, “You’re probably thinking ‘I don’t pollute the Earth,’ if you don’t, that’s great! But you can still help by giving reminders to someone who litters.”
Another said, “I know you might not want to get a shot – it might hurt but you will be okay and it will help others! You can take some Tylenol or Advil,” to enhance her thesis of “We can stop COVID by wearing a mask, social distancing or getting vaccinated.”
The students spent the final 15 minutes of class working on their independent pieces. “Remember, you can always elaborate with more detail,” Ms. Kim said. “And if you think you’re done, write about a new topic!”