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Persuasive Essay Rebuttal Transitions Lenses

I teach a seventh grade ELA class and we’ve just finished reading Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. In fact, we’ve already written our argumentative essays on “whether Phoebe was a good friend to Sal.” Of course the writing prompt is a bit more complex. It’s my students first attempt at writing the argumentative essay. They are struggling with the counterclaim (counterargument) and refutation (rebuttal) as these are new Standards for seventh graders. The Common Core State Standards  for grades 7-12 include the counterclaim in the argumentative essay (W. 1.0).

Although writers use plenty of other options, I’m teaching the counterclaim and refutation in the final body paragraph.

The following sentence frames helped out my students considerably:

First Contrasting Transition + Name the Opposition + Strong Verb + Opposing Point of View + Evidence + Analysis + Second Contrasting Transition + Reference the Opposing Point of View + Turn

First Contrasting Transition +

However, But, Admittedly, Although, Alternatively

Name the Opposition +

others, some

Strong Verbs + Denial/Assertion or Assertion

Denial: reject, oppose,  disagree, question, doubt this view and Assertion: argue that, reason that, claim that, support, conclude that

Opposing Point of View +

State the opposing point of view.

Evidence +

Pick the best evidence to support the opposing point of view. Don’t pick a “straw man.” In other words, don’t pick a weak opposing argument that is too easy to refute.

Analysis +

Explanation, insight, example, logic to support the counterclaim evidence

Second Contrasting Transition +

Still, However, But, Nevertheless, Yet, Despite, Although, Even though

Reference the Opposing Point of View +

this argument, this position, this reasoning, this evidence, this view

Turn

Now you turn the opposing point of view, evidence, and analysis back to support your thesis statement. Various options can be effective:

1. Accept the criticism of the counterclaim. Tell why all or part of the opposing point of view may be reasonable, plausible, or valid, but minimize the opposing position. For example, This evidence may be true; however, the objection does not change the fact that…

2. Reject the counterclaim. For example, This view ignores the conclusive evidence that… This position is mistaken because…

3. Criticize the evidence and analysis of the counterclaim as being unimportant, irrelevant, or a misinterpretation. For example, this argument misses the key point that…

4. Criticize the reasoning of the counterclaim as being flawed, illogical, or biased.

Some of the above points adapted from the Harvard Writing Center. In addition to using Counterclaim and Refutation Sentence Frames, writing teachers may also be interested in these related articles: Why Use an Essay Counterclaim?, Where to Put the Essay Counterclaim, and What is the Essay Counterclaim?

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2 Sample Refutation Paragraphs
(Each these samples have 2-paragraph refutation; some essays may only have a 1 paragraph refutation while other essays, like research papers, may require a much longer refutation)

Charter Schools Vs. Public Schools (School Choice)
By Mark Liles

Thesis: School choice turns out to not only be a bad idea; it’s also a violation of our constitution.

Refutation: ...[Introduce Opposing Arguments] Considering the many challenges facing public schools, it’s understandable that many people would be eager to pursue new options. Supporters of school choice point out that under the current public school system, parents with economic means already exercise school choice by moving from areas with failing or dangerous schools to neighborhoods with better, safer schools. Their argument is that school choice would allow all parents the freedom, regardless of income level, to select the school that provides the best education (Chub and Moe). Schools would then have to compete for students by offering higher academic results and greater safety. Schools unable to measure up to the standards of successful schools would fail and possibly close. [Acknowledge Valid Parts] Activists within the school choice movement can be applauded for seeking to improve public education, but the changes they propose would in fact seriously damage public education as a whole.

[Counter Arguments] One of the biggest dangers of school choice is the power behind large corporations specializing in opening and operating charter schools. Two notable companies are Green Dot, which is the leading public school operator in Los Angeles (Green Dot), and KIPP, which operates 65 schools in 19 different states [KIPP]. These companies represent a growing trend of privatization of public schools by large corporations. It is feared that these corporations could grow to a point that public control of education would be lost. Education policy would be left in the hands of entrepreneurial think tanks, corporate boards of directors, and lobbyists who are more interested in profit than educating students [Miller and Gerson]. [Begin Concluding] Education should be left in the hands of professional educators and not business people with MBAs. To do otherwise is not only dangerous, it defies common sense.

What I liked about this refutation: The writer calmly and clearly outlines the true concerns and reasons why people oppose the opinion. He makes sure the reader knows that he is outlining opposing viewpoints because he gives hints like "Supporters of school choice point out that..." or "Their argument is that...". This is a nice way for readers to be aware of what others think.

Also, towards the end of the first paragraph, and throughout the second paragraph, the writer spends time clearly attacking these opposing views. He helps the reader feel like the opposing views might SEEM good on the surface, but they are indeed not good enough. He helps the reader see this with hints like "One of the biggest dangers of school choice is..." or "It is feared that...". This paragraph particularly draws in any hostile readers; the writer cunningly draws them in by complimenting their views when he says "Activists within the school choice movement can be applauded for seeking to improve public education," but he immediately points out the flaws, saying that " the changes they propose would in fact seriously damage public education as a whole." Complimenting the opposing argument really invites all your hesitant readers; they’re not threatened, and they’re now more willing to listen to the arguments.

Finally, at the end of the refutation, there is a clear conclusion.

Safe Traveler Cards
Taken from College Writers pg. 733-734

........[Introduce Opposing Arguments] As attractive as Safe Traveler Cards or national ID cards are, they are not without drawbacks. For one thing, as Easterbrook notes, these cards would expedite security procedures only for travelers who do not mind volunteering such information to obtain a card. Moreover they would not prevent passengers with "clean" backgrounds from bringing weapons or explosives on board, as was the case in the September 11 attacks. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that some people believe that these cards would deprive people of their privacy and that for this reason, their disadvantages outweigh their advantages (168).

........However, there are many who disagree with these contentions. [Acknowledge Valid Parts] While national ID cards could lessen a person's anonymity and privacy, [Counter Argument] this is a small loss that would be offset by a great increase in personal security. To Dershowitz--a self proclaimed civil libertarian--this tradeoff would be well worth it. According to Dershowitz, the national ID card would be only a little more intrusive than a photo ID card or social security card. Best of all, it would reduce or eliminate the need for racial profiling: "Anyone who had the [national ID] card could be allowed to pass through airports or building security more expeditiously, and anyone who opted out could be examined much more closely" (590). Such cards would enable airport security officials to do instant background checks on everyone. [Begin Concluding] The personal information in the system would stay in the system and never be made public. The only information on the card would be a person's "name, address, photo, and [finger]print" (Dershowitz 591).

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