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Writing Claims: Three Crucial Components

July 27, 2016 3 min read

In our experience there are THREE crucial components students must master to gain confidence and skills in writing claims (also known as a thesis statement).

  1. Understand and explain what a claim actually is. 
  2. Differentiate between claims and statements. 
  3. Find appropriate evidence to support their claims. 
Before we started using Evidence-Based Writing in our classrooms, “claims” was not in our students’ vocabulary. So we had to help them understand this new word and concept (which is interchangeable with the term “thesis”). At the very basic level, a claim is a sentence that can be argued. In other words, you can back up what you’re saying with evidence and explain why that evidence proves you are, in fact, right. On the flip side, someone else might completely disagree with you, but as long as they have evidence to support their reasoning, they can be right, too!
Here are some examples (you can even use these with your students in your classroom!):
CLAIM: In-N-Out makes the best hamburger out of all of the fast food chains.
 
What makes this a claim? a) It’s arguable. Not everyone would agree that In-N-Out burgers are the best (Five Guys, anyone?!), b) It can be supported with evidence. Theoretically, you could poll thousands of people and see which hamburger is the best. You could track sales and see which restaurant sells the most burgers, etc. 
 
NOT A CLAIM: In-N-Out makes hamburgers.
 
Why isn’t this a claim? It simply CANNOT be argued. One quick check of the In-N-Out menu proves that they make hamburgers. End of story. Yet, some students might not see the difference between “In-N-Out makes the best hamburgers” and “In-N-Out makes hamburgers,” which leads us to point number two …

We’ve used this great Claims vs. Statements Sorting Activity with our students to make learning this concept more interactive and fun. You can grab your own by CLICKING HERE.

This is a critical step before students can write quality claims. If they can’t identify claims, how can they create their own? Baby steps, people! They need to be reminded that claims must 1) be arguable, and 2) can be supported with evidence.
Once students feel confident identifying and writing claims, it’s time to practice finding evidence to support their claims. And not just any old evidence will do, it needs to meet certain criteria! Which brings us to our last point …
Students may know that a quote from the text is necessary to back-up their claim, but they may struggle with finding the right quote. The right quote must 1) be relevant to the topic they are writing about, and 2) must support their claim/reasoning. If it doesn’t meet the above criteria, it’s probably not the right piece of evidence to use.
In our classrooms, we use our Evidence Tracker to help students organize their evidence. And if you use this resource and are modeling how to find “just right” evidence as you read a piece of literature, then students will be gathering excellent quotes to support their claims. But, let’s face it, you aren’t going to be following your students to college. At some point, students need to become completely self-sufficient in identifying both quality and ineffective evidence. We use our Finding the Right Evidence Activity to help students practice this skill, which is a part of this resource in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.
**If all of this seems SUPER overwhelming, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We created an entire unit filled with tips, step-by-step instructions, graphic organizer, rubrics, and so much more to help you teach writing effectively in your classroom! We call it the “How to Teach Writing” Unit, and you can learn more about it by CLICKING HERE. (FYI: This mega unit includes all of the resources we’ve mentioned in this blog post.)
What are some ways that you help your students practice writing claims and finding solid evidence? Let us know in the comments below!
 
 

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Do you struggle with teaching claims and/or thesis statements in your middle school classroom? This blog post is the answer to all of your problems! This post gives you three essential steps to helping your students learn and understand claims!
Caitlin

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