A collection of assertions is no more an argument than a pile of bricks is a building. Both must be planned, organized, and thoughtfully supported. Students rarely come into class with this skill.
The following is a lesson plan to help students internalize the process of building an argument through a series of steps employing verbal, auditory, and tactile skills. The product is an essay paragraph that supports an assertion with evidence and analysis. It can be modified for each of the Historical Thinking Skills of AP World History.
What you’ll need
Divide your class into groups of 2 or 3 and give each the following:
- Six colored 3×5 cards, 2 of each color.
- A pair of scissors (Alternately, you could pre-cut aligning slits on the top and bottom of the cards).
- Three highlighters in colors that match the colors of the cards.
- A task or question related to a Key Concept and one of the Historical Thinking Skills.
Directions: Students will discuss the research question in their group. They will make an assertion, brainstorm historical evidence for their assertion, then analyze their assertion. Using the cards, they will physically build an Argument Tower to support their assertion.
In the following example, the topic is the social structure of Classical Civilizations and the skill is Comparison.
At the top of one of their green 3×5 cards, someone writes the words “For example, ”
At the top of the red/pink card, someone writes “The reason for this is . . . ”
Students develop an assertion that states a similarity in the social structure of two classical civilizations. They write this assertion on the yellow card as shown below:
Next, students in each group must come up with concrete historical evidence to illustrate this assertion. These need to be content-specific vocabulary words. The group then composes the evidence portion of their tower to support the assertion.
Now students will analyze their assertion. This moves away from the WHAT and begins to explain the WHY. In short, students must make an argument from history about why these two civilizations are similar in their social structure. This goes on the last card after the words “The reason for this is . . .”
Now that students have made their assertion, evidence and analysis cards, they are ready to build their Argument Tower. The assertion must be supported by the other two components.
The Argument Tower becomes an important part of the essay providing supporting evidence and analysis. Students can make another argument on the backs of these cards. Here’s how this tower would look in an essay:
Once students have internalized the process of making argument towers, they can use the colored highlighters to identify these three components in their essays. The highlighter colors correspond to the cards they are used to writing on. The paragraph above, for example, would look like this,
Each essay should have a few argument towers. The colors help students understand that the assertions, evidence, and analysis are discrete components of an quality essay. And the practice of having them highlight their essays this way not only speeds the grading process but helps teachers identify which aspects of essay writing they need to remediate in class.
Hope this helps your students!
Definition of Assertion
When someone makes a statement investing his strong belief in it, as if it is true, though it may not be, he is making an assertion. Assertion is a stylistic approach or technique involving a strong declaration, a forceful or confident and positive statement regarding a belief or a fact. Often, it is without proof or any support. Its purpose is to express ideas or feelings directly, for instance, “I have put my every effort to complete this task today.”
Types of Assertion
Assertion has four types, including:
It is a simple and straightforward statement for expressing feelings, opinions, and beliefs such as:
- “I wish I could have expressed this idea earlier, because now someone else has taken the credit.”
- “Excuse me, first I want to finish my work, then I shall go with you.”
It conveys sympathy to someone, and usually has two parts: the first encompasses recognition of the feelings or situations of the other person, and the second is a statement that shows support for the other person’s viewpoint, feelings, or rights such as:
- “I understand you are busy, and me too, but it is difficult for me to finish this project on my own. So, I want you to help me complete this project.”
- “I know this is making you angry and frustrated because you have not gotten a response yet. But I can help you by giving you an estimate of how long it might take.”
It occurs when someone is not able to give a response to a person’s basic assertions, and therefore that person becomes firm about him or her such as:
- “If you do not finish this work by 6:00 tonight, I I will engage the services of another worker.”
- “I really want to finish this point before you start yours.”
It involves the first person pronoun “I,” and is useful for expressing negative feelings. Nevertheless, it constructively lays emphasis on a person’s feelings of anger such as:
- “When you speak harshly, I cannot work with you because I feel annoyed. Therefore, I want you to speak nicely and then assign me a task.”
- “When I don’t get enough sleep, it affects my nerves and I feel irritated. Therefore, I try to go to bed earlier.”
Examples of Assertion in Literature
Example #1: Animal Farm (By George Orwell)
In Animal Farm, pigs make use of assertion as a tool for making propaganda in the entire novel. This is to weaken the position of other animals, preventing contradiction with their rules and leadership. In chapter seven, Squealer informs other animals that they need not sing the original anthem of the Old Major, Beasts of England — a song they used to inspire the revolution in the chapter one. Squealer asserts, saying:
“It’s no longer needed, comrade … In Beasts of England we expressed our longing for a better society in days to come. However, that society has now been established. Clearly this song has no longer any purpose.”
Look at his language where he gives them information that is obvious, which they have realized already, and no one can make arguments against it. Thus, no one argued against his assertion.
Example #2: Pride and Prejudice (By Jane Austen)
Elizabeth conceals her surprise at the news of Darcy’s plan to marry her. When Lady Catherine objects to this marriage, as Bennets have low connections and their marriage would ruin Darcy’s position before his friends and society, Elizabeth attempts to defend her family background by asserting:
“I am a gentleman’s daughter.”
In fact, she sets herself free from the exasperating control of snobs like Miss Bingley, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine, and declares:
“I am … resolved.”
Then further says with assertion:
“… to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
Example #3: Cherry Orchard (By Anton Chekov)
Trofimov and Lopakhin exchange barbed words, and Lopakhin calls Trofimov an “eternal student.” When Lopakhin asks Trofimov’s views about him, Trofimov replies that he considers Lopakhin as “a soon-to-be-millionaire,” and “a beast of prey.” Then, Gayev points towards the conversation about pride the two men had earlier.
Trofimov asserts with reasoning about the folly of their pride, as man is a “pretty poor physiological specimen,” they are in misery, and “the only thing to do is work.” Although, he was pessimistic about the current situation of humans, however, he starts feeling optimistic for their future. He expresses this idea with assertion and rebukes Russian intellectuals, as they do not even know the meaning of work.
Example #4: Othello (By William Shakespeare)
“I never did
Offend you in my life, never loved Cassio
But with such general warranty of heaven
As I might love. I never gave him token.”
In these lines, Desdemona makes a dying assertion that she is innocent, denying Othello’s accusations. However, blinded by emotion and furious, Othello is resolved to kill her.
Function of Assertion
The function of assertion is to let readers to feel that they should not disagree or dispute what they read or hear; rather, they should accept the idea or notion as an indisputable fact. It has proved to be one of the best approaches for writers to express their personal feelings, beliefs, and ideas in a direct way. By using this technique, writers can defend others’ feelings and rights if violated. This rhetorical style also expresses self-affirmation and rational thinking of personal respect or worth. It is very common in various fields of life, like literature, politics, advertisements, and legal affairs.