There are three crucial components students must master to gain confidence and skills in writing claims:
Understand and explain what a claim actually is.
Differentiate between claims and statements.
Find appropriate evidence to support their claims.
Before we started using Evidence-Based Writing in our classrooms, “claim” was not in our students’ vocabulary. So we had to help them understand this new word and concept (which we use instead of a thesis statement in our approach to teaching writing).
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 CAN NOT 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 …
Students must be able to differentiate between claims and statements.
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.
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.
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.
Then, pick the date you’re going to teach it in your classroom, and sit back while you watch as your students show up to your classroom pumped about what the day holds…and gush about your class to their parents on the car ride home!