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Full Essay Structure

CERCA: Claim, Evidence, Reasoning, Counterargument, Audience

 

 

 

Introduction           Hook/ Lead

                                Transition/ Bridge

                                Claim/ Thesis (SOaR - Subject, Opinion, and Reason(s))

 

Each Body             Reason (topic sentence) from your Claim/ Thesis

Paragraph             Evidence from the text

                               Reasoning – explanation of evidence and connection to the topic sentence

 

Conclusion           Counterargument – address what the opposition would say

                              Concluding sentence – Restating (not repeating) your point

 

Using ThinkCERCA sentence stems to write a

one-paragraph response.

enlarge

the video

Outline for a One-Paragraph Response

1. Claim (Topic Sentence - Subject and Opinion)

2. Reason

3. Evidence

4. Explanation

5. Counter-Argument Explained

6. Rebuttal

7. Concluding Sentence

After the first nine weeks,

no one should be writing one-paragraph responses.

Outline for a Multi-Paragraph Response

1. Introductory Paragraph

     A. Lead / Hook (from Connect or Get Started)

     B. Transition / Bridge (from Summary)

     C. Claim (Subject, Opinion, Reason(s))

 

2. Body Paragraph 1

     A. Topic Sentence (Reason 1)

     B. Text Evidence

     C. Explanation

     D. Concluding Sentence

3. Body Paragraph 2

     A. Topic Sentence (Reason 2)

     B. Evidence (text based or other)

     C. Explanation

     D. Concluding Sentence

4. Concluding Paragraph

     A. Counter-Argument Explained

     B. Rebuttal (explain why counter-argument is wrong)

     C. Concluding Sentence(s)

 

ThinkCERCA

A minimum level answer in ThinkCERCA is very similar to an SAR.

IF you're aiming for a one-paragraph answer, it would look like this:

  • claim

  • reason

  • evidence

  • explanation

  • counter-argument / explanation (explanation of the other side's opinion)

  • rebuttal (you explaining why their argument is wrong)

  • conclusion

A sufficient one-paragraph answer is possible in ThinkCERCA,

but after the first nine weeks,

no one should be writing one-paragraph responses.

Don't confuse an introduction for a full answer.

A one-paragraph response is much longer than an introduction.

An introduction has three parts:

  • lead/ hook - This can come from ThinkCERCA Step 1: Connect

  • bridge/ transition - This can come from ThinkCERCA Step 4: Summarize

  • claim/ thesis - This is from ThinkCERCA Step 5: Build

Look at the examples below.

What was the bigger threat to the Everglades: draining the swamp or the Burmese python? 

Support your claim with evidence from the text. 

One-Paragraph Response

     (claim) Draining the swamp is definitely a bigger threat to the Everglades than the Burmese python. (reason) Though the Burmese Python does kill and eat a lot of animals, draining the swamp will endanger ALL of the animals.  (evidence) Not only has draining the Everglades for agricultural use decreased the animal habitat by 50%, the run-off of phosphorus from the farms has polluted much of the rest of the area. (explanation) Animals were forced to crowd into a smaller habitat area which increases their struggle for food as more animals are fighting for less resources. Add to that the problem of pollution, and it's clear that draining the Everglades was an environmental disaster. (counter-argument) Some people may argue that the Burmese Python is the bigger threat because they eat so many other animals and disrupt the food chain. (rebuttal) It's true that the Python spread rapidly and began to take over, but it was much easier to capture/ kill the Pythons than it is to rebuild over 5,000 acres of wetlands. (conclusion) Clearly destroying a natural habitat for man's use is a mistake that future (and current) generations should not make.

Notice the SEVEN parts.

One-Paragraph Introduction

     (lead)The Florida Everglades are a beautiful part of Florida that springs with life left and right. (bridge) Though still a beautiful wetland, the Everglades have faced many dangers in the past two- to three-hundred years. Two of the most significant challenges it has faced are the decision to attempt to drain the Everglades and the introduction of the invasive species of the Burmese Python. (claim) Though both were very destructive, the draining of the everglades has led to more destruction and its effects have been much much harder to reverse.

Notice the introduction

only has THREE parts.

Full ThinkCERCA Essay

(introduction)     The Florida Everglades are a beautiful part of Florida that springs with life left and right. Though still a beautiful wetland, the Everglades have faced many dangers in the past two- to three-hundred years. Two of the most significant challenges it has faced are the decision to attempt to drain the Everglades and the introduction of the invasive species of the Burmese Python. Though both were very destructive, the draining of the everglades has led to more destruction and its effects have been much much harder to reverse.

(first body paragraph - supports claim)     After the draining of the Everglades, people began to "reclaim" the land as if it were ever theirs to begin with. The land was then sold to farmers who knew they could take advantage of the very fertile soil that was all over the everglades. As these farms got bigger and more widespread across the Everglades, the Northern half of the wetlands became polluted with phosphorus, a dangerous chemical used in war to make incendiary rounds and skin-burning gas which now been banned. Fortunately, the people of Florida took notice of the destruction caused by the state's legislature and took action. They supported saving the Everglades and their efforts succeeded because Congress heard their voices and in 1947, created The Everglades National Park. A few decades later, starting in the late 1970s, people from across the globe decided to turn their attention to the Everglades and it was classified as one of the most important wetland environments in the world. Though the conservation efforts of people around the globe caused great improvement and kickstarted the healing process, the Everglades will still never be the same as it once was.

(second body paragraph - present opposing opinion)     Others view the Burmese Python as the main threat to the Everglades. The Burmese Python was never native to the area or to North America. It is believed that pet owners released Burmese Pythons into the Everglades. People usually purchase the snake when it is small but they grow very large leading to owners getting rid of the snake and deciding that a good place to do that was the Everglades. The Pythons flourished in their new habitats. The Burmese Python has been know to eat anything in its path from mice to raccoons to deer to bobcats and they will not stop. It didn't help when Hurricane Andrew hit, destroying pet stores and releasing even more pythons into a food paradise. Realizing what had begun to happen, Floridians once again banded together to save their home state wetlands. Studies have shown that places where the Burmese Python had not yet conquered had much less population loss. Hunters were given permission by the state been to hunt the deadly snake. Today hunters have reported catching over 5000 pythons. This goes to show that though the Burmese Pythons haven’t been in the Everglades for long, conservation efforts have already managed to wrangle up quite a bit of them. 

(conclusion - rebuts opposition and wraps up essay)     Though the python impact on animal life in the Everglades was significant, it was quickly controlled and was never as big as the draining and destruction of over 5,000 acres of wetland. The Florida Everglades have been hit hard many times before and always people have come to its defense. They have truly stood the test of time and have gone to show people all over the world to respect their environment and protect it because without it we would be nowhere at all.

 

Multi-Paragraph Argumentative Essay Outline

"Thank You, Ma'am"

 

I. The Introductory Paragraph has three parts:

                A. Lead / Hook – The lead is a broad idea that introduces the overall theme of the paper.

                                ex: The mistakes we make in life often give us empathy for others who find themselves in

                                similar situations.

                B. Transition / Bridge – The transition tightens the focus of the essay. It could be a one-sentence

                     summary of the source text.

                                ex: In “Thank You, Ma’am,” a woman shows empathy to a young boy and redirects his

                                path in life.

                C. Claim – The claim (thesis) is the central argument of your paper. It’s the opinion you have

                     based on the text and that you are going to support with the text.

                                ex: In this story, the empathy shown by Mrs. Jones toward Roger will likely have such a

                                positive impact on his life that he turns away from his life of crime.

 

II. Body Paragraph 1 – The body paragraph is where you prove your point.

                A. Topic Sentence/ Reason – Your topic sentence is one of the reasons why you believe your claim.

                                ex: Roger had never had any one care for him before he met Mrs. Jones.

                B. Evidence – Textual evidence supports your topic sentence. It’s your proof.

                                ex: When Mrs. Jones asks Roger, “Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your

                                face?”, he replies by saying no. Later he says that there’s “nobody home” at his house to

                                feed him, either.

                C. Explanation – ThinkCERCA calls this “reasoning.” Explain how the evidence supports your reason.

                                ex: With no one at home to feed him or tell him to wash his face, Roger is probably

                                experiencing the first act of kindness he’s had in a long time.

                D. Concluding sentence – This concludes the paragraph by connect the topic sentence/ reason to

                                the claim.

                                ex: This act of kindness on the part of Mrs. Jones will influence Roger’s future in a

                                remarkable way.

 

III. Body Paragraph 2 – The second body paragraph follows the same format as the first. In this example, I need to continue supporting my claim. So far, I’ve only demonstrated that Mrs. Jones was nice to Roger. Where’s my evidence that he will change his way?

                ex: Roger’s thoughts during the second part of the story show that he will change his ways. When they got to her room, Mrs. Jones intentionally left the front door open giving Roger the opportunity to escape, but he “looked at the woman—looked at the door—and went to the sink” to wash his face. The story also said that Roger “did not want to be mistrusted now”. Both of these instances demonstrate that Roger is already turning over a new leaf. He wants to do the right thing

 

IV. Concluding Paragraph – The concluding paragraph has three parts: The counterargument, your rebuttal, and a concluding statement. I don’t like starting with “Some readers might think…” because it lacks originality. Here are some alternatives. 

                ex: Some might argue that such a short interaction is not enough to change a person’s life, that Roger will just laugh at how he fooled Mrs. Jones, but one look at their final interaction with each other proves otherwise. Anyone who’s ever had a really bad day knows the impact having someone say or do something nice to them can have. For Roger, who has had a rough life, the impact was even greater. As he left the building, Roger looked back wanting to say “something else other than ‘Thank you, ma’am’,” but that’s all he can manage. He doesn’t know how to express his gratitude in any other way than to change his life and “behave” himself.

Full Essay

          The mistakes we make in life often give us empathy for others who find themselves in similar situations. In “Thank You, Ma’am,” a woman shows empathy to a young boy and redirects his path in life. In this story, the empathy shown by Mrs. Jones toward Roger will likely have such a positive impact on his life that he turns away from his life of crime.

          Roger had never had any one care for him before he met Mrs. Jones. When Mrs. Jones asks Roger, “Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?”, he replies by saying no. Later he says that there’s “nobody home” at his house to feed him, either. With no one at home to feed him or tell him to wash his face, Roger is probably experiencing the first act of kindness he’s had in a long time. his act of kindness on the part of Mrs. Jones will influence Roger’s future in a remarkable way.

        Roger’s thoughts during the second part of the story show that he will change his ways. When they got to her room, Mrs. Jones intentionally left the front door open giving Roger the opportunity to escape, but he “looked at the woman—looked at the door—and went to the sink” to wash his face. The story also said that Roger “did not want to be mistrusted now”. Both of these instances demonstrate that Roger is already turning over a new leaf. He wants to do the right thing.

         Some might argue that such a short interaction is not enough to change a person’s life, that Roger will just laugh at how he fooled Mrs. Jones, but one look at their final interaction with each other proves otherwise. Anyone who’s ever had a really bad day knows the impact having someone say or do something nice to them can have. For Roger, who has had a rough life, the impact was even greater. As he left the building, Roger looked back wanting to say “something else other than ‘Thank you, ma’am’,” but that’s all he can manage. He doesn’t know how to express his gratitude in any other way than to change his life and “behave” himself.

 
ThinkCERCA rubric pg 1.jpg
Argumentative Rubric CCSS.W.7.1-page-002

Read this essay and identify its strengths and weaknesses.

7th Grade Example: School Policy Writing Module

 

Writing prompt: Do dress codes create a more positive school environment than uniforms or no policy at all? 

 

      “Uniform or Dress Code: There’s a Difference” explores the benefits of having a school dress code policy compared to having  school uniforms or having no policy at all. According to the text, a dress code can be defined as “a set of guidelines about what you can't wear. A uniform is a set of hard-and-fast rules about what you must wear.” Dress codes create a more positive school environment than uniforms or no policy at all.

      Dress codes create a more positive school environment than no policy at all because they create a safe and positive environment for students. In the article the author writes, “...which asks students to follow a few simple rules. These include avoiding any clothing printed with profanity or hateful language...Who needs to see bad language or racist comments coming through the halls? Any gang-related clothing is also prohibited. In many parts of the country, kids have been beaten up or even killed over gang colors or symbols. Both boys' and girls' pants must fit well enough that they aren't falling down, or ‘sagging.’ Visible underwear, strapless shirts or dresses, and anything with a very low-cut neckline are not allowed.” This shows how a dress code decreases instances of sexual harassment, violence, and bigotry, whereas a school with no policy at all cannot reduce the likelihood of threatening experiences. 

     Dress codes create a more positive school environment because they allow students to have more choices and self-expression. According to the text, “the typical uniform policy is more restrictive than a dress code. Though it does provide a guideline, the dress code also allows students freedom of choice. For me, being told what I absolutely can't wear still allows me a say as to what I can wear. It lets me take some control over how I present myself. On the other hand, strict uniform policies offer almost no freedom of choice. Being told exactly what we must wear is just too limiting.” 

      While it is easier to enforce either having no dress code or having uniforms, dress codes create consistent opportunities to improve decision making skills related to appropriateness and consideration of others. The critical thinking and learning that come from decisions related to a dress code can be transferred to other important situations in people’s lives.

Do the same thing with this essay and then decide which one is better than the other.

8th Grade Example: School Policy Writing Module

 

Writing prompt: Do school uniform policies and dress codes violate students' rights and undermine important values?

 

      According to the “Freedom of Choice: The Very Best Policy,” the author claims that dress codes and uniform policies limit students’ rights to free speech, self-expression, and individuality. After a careful review of the text and the author’s claims, it is clear that school uniform policies and dress codes do not violate students’ rights or undermine important values.

      School uniform policies and dress codes do not violate students rights and undermine important values because they promote good judgment and consideration for oneself and others. The author of this text uses faulty logic to discredit how uniform and dress code policies empower students’ rights and promote important values. Firstly, the text minimizes the sensibility or need for clothing that does not offend others.  Secondly, the author claims that uniforms and dress codes stunt self-expression without distinguishing that dress codes promote individual expression with consideration of respect and appropriateness. In the text the author writes, “I know that some people argue that dress codes and uniforms help to foster a more ‘ respectful’ school atmosphere by defining ‘appropriate’ clothing choices. But what do those words really mean? How does wearing the same color pants actually help build a more cohesive community?” The example that the author uses about same colored pants equates dress codes and uniforms as the same practice and irrationally asks the audience to reconsider the usefulness of appropriateness and respect without specifically addressing why the terms are not relevant to clothing in school settings. 

      School uniform policies and dress codes do not violate students’ rights and undermine important values because clothes are not the only way that a person can express free speech or individuality. Again the author of this text uses faulty logic and writes, “It's as if we are purposefully being trained to dress alike, think alike, and act alike. But isn't this still a diverse world we live in? To me, the inevitable result of dress codes and uniforms is a student body trained to celebrate conformity and rules as opposed to individuality and innovation. It seems like a contradiction to me. Day in and day out, I hear what a multicultural world we live in. I hear that we must celebrate our differences. Yet it strikes me that the real message of a uniform or dress code policy is ‘celebrate sameness.’" This shows that the author of this text has a narrow view about what constitutes diversity and confines individuality and self-expression to what a person wears, rather than also considering a person’s thoughts, values, ethnicity, or experiences. 

      Despite the fact that school uniforms and dress codes do restrict students’ choices to express themselves through their clothing, these policies also can prepare students for professional or industry-specific fields where certain types of clothes are needed to perform tasks, show unity as a company, or distinguish a business from a competitor. Additionally students can express themselves through their ideas in the classroom and their contributions to their peers and school community, all of which have nothing to do with the clothes that are on their bodies.