Media Literacy Challenge: Writing Your Own Argument

Part 1: Lesson Description

Media Literacy Challenge: Writing Your Own Argument


This lesson will challenge learners to critically read and evaluate news articles presenting different positions on a single issue that the learner takes interest in. The learner will then be challenged to a) identify the argumentative structure in each article through writing a brief summary and b) formulate their own opinion by refining their own argument on the issue. The target audience of learners for this lesson constitute the Career and College Readiness Standards Grade Level E (9-12) in their reading and writing abilities. Learners will hone practical skills by engaging in this lesson, including how to critically engage with news and media, being able to succinctly summarize larger pieces of information, and using information to write a structured argument based on their own opinions. These skills will have practical applications for everyday life, reading and writing the GED, and when applying for jobs that require information processing.

Learner Audience / Primary Users

Students, English Language Learners, Adult Learners, Distance Learners, Online Learners, Teachers, Online Teachers, English Language Teachers, Professional Developers, Writers

Educational Use


College & Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) Alignment

  • Level: Adult Education
  • Grade Level: CCRS Grade Level E
  • Subject: CCRS English Language/Literacy
  • Strand: Reading and Writing
  • Sub-strand: Reading of Informational Text, Reading of Social Studies Text, Writing for Social Studies
  • Standard Description:
  • Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. (RI/RL.9-10.2)
  • Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms. (RST.11- 12.2)
  • Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts. (RH.9-10.6)
  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence (CCR Writing Anchor 1)



Material Type

  • Instructional Material
  • Readings Reference

Learning Goals

The purpose of this lesson is for learners to be able to:

  • Develop a more critical stance when engaging with news media
  • Assess two different arguments on a single issue
  • Process and summarize larger pieces of information in written form
  • Express personal opinions as structured arguments in written form


  • Designers for Learning
  • Adult Education
  • Distance Education
  • Online Education
  • News
  • Media
  • Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • English
  • Social Studies
  • Critical Thinking
  • Controversial Issues
  • Summarizing
  • Argument
  • Thesis
  • Supporting Ideas

Time Required for Lesson

30-45 minutes

Prior Knowledge

  • Required:
  • Ability to read at at least a Grade 9 level
  • Ability to write at at least a Grade 9 level
  • Not Required, but helpful:
  • Knowledge of basic principles of an argument (thesis, supporting ideas/evidence, conclusion) - these will be outlined in the lesson
  • Familiarity with issues presented (Affirmative Action, Drug Legalization, Gender Wage Gap, Minimum Wage, Gun Control) - brief outlines of each issue, should the learner not be familiar with any, will be provided

Required Resources

  • A computer with internet access for each learner
  • A printer should learners want to have hard copies of articles and resources
  • Whiteboard and markers (for in-person instruction)
  • A google account or another platform for sharing documents(for online and in-person  instruction)

Lesson Author & License

  • Lesson Author: Christopher Klune

Part 2: Lesson

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, the learner should be able to:

  • Develop their confidence in their abilities to critically engage with news media
  • Process information to summarize the position of a given news article in written form
  • Formulate and express their opinion on a given issue in written form through an argumentative process.

Lesson Topics

Key topics covered in this lesson include:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Information processing
  • Formulating a position on an issue
  • Writing and composing an argument
  • News and media literacy

Context Summary

This lesson will seek to build learners abilities in the realms of English Language Arts and Social Studies by engaging learners in issues relevant to them through news articles. By participating in this lesson the learners will develop both their reading comprehension and writing abilities in the context of processing information, personally engaging with said information, and creating a stance of their own in relation to the information presented.  

In doing so, learners will be tasked with reading news articles from a critical standpoint in order to assess the arguments made in said articles. From there, learners will use this information to write summaries of what they have read and an original piece that outlines their own opinions structured through argumentative principles.

Relevance to Practice

In today’s world news and media surrounds us. How can we best engage with such an immense propagation of information, opinions, and issues? This lesson will provide an opportunity for learners to engage with issues relevant to them as presented in the media. Being able to critically read and assess viewpoints in news pieces allows for a transferability of skills in information processing, critical thinking, reading, and writing.

All of these skills are meaningful in practical ways. For one, students can apply these skills to the news and media they engage with in their everyday lives. The GED also emphasizes skills based in reading and comprehending arguments and being able to write original arguments using information presented. College courses will do so much more. Lastly, many jobs today require individuals that are able to handle and process information in succinct ways, and this lesson will help students hone the abilities they need as they prepare to pursue a career meaningful to them.

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Argument
  • Summary
  • Thesis Statement or Position
  • Supporting Evidence/Ideas
  • Conclusion
  • Issues presented in the articles for use (Affirmative Action, Drug Legalization, Gender Wage Gap, Minimum Wage, Gun Control)

Instructional Strategies and Activities

Warm-Up: Googling an Issue

Time: 2 minutes

  • Have learners write down a specific issue meaningful to them in a few words (i.e. Immigration in the USA, Charter Schools, Private Healthcare etc.)
  • Ask the learners to Google search their issue under the “All,” “News,” and “Images” searches.
  • Let them explore what comes up and discuss what they notice or think about what links come up under the Google search. Any initial observations are welcome.
  • In-person instruction: write down what learners notice on the white-board.

Introduction: Presenting the Problem

Time: 3 minutes

  • The teacher will affirm that in googling issues, many different pieces of information come up, especially news and articles in most cases.
  • The teacher will then present the problem question to the class: What skills does an individual need to understand information presented by media on controversial issues? Briefly collect learner responses - they should be probed to think about reading and writing. Highlight responses that are relevant to the learning goals of this lesson.
  • After responses are collected the teacher will explain that the lesson will hone skills in reading comprehension of news articles and writing abilities. The teacher will explain in doing this learners will learn how to identify, assess, and construct arguments.
  • To further motivate students, the teacher should emphasize the practicality of the skills developed in this lesson are very transferable to writing the GED, applying for colleges, preparation for the course demands in college, and presentable skills for job interviews.

Presentation / Modeling / Demonstration: Key Terms and Article Challenge

Time: 10-15 minutes

  • The teacher will introduce and define these terms:
  • Controversial Issue (not included in presentation piece)
  • Position
  • Thesis Statement
  • Supporting Ideas & Evidence
  • Conclusion
  • This supporting resource can be used:
  • The teacher will then introduce the students to the five controversial issues and two news articles per issue:
  • The teacher will ask learners to choose an issue that resonates with them the most or that they would like to know more about.
  • Once the learners have chosen their issue and the two articles that accompany it the teacher will then give time for learners to read both articles (approx. 10 minutes, use more time if needed)
  • The teacher will ask students, before they begin reading, to identify the:
  • Thesis/Position in each article
  • The supporting ideas and pieces of evidence in each article
  • The conclusion/concluding statement in each article.
  • The teacher should put these on the whiteboard for learners to refer to
  • The teacher will circle around the room and be a resource should learners have questions about their articles, words they are unfamiliar with, the terms they just learned, etc.
  • English Language Learners: If the articles are too difficult for ELLs, the teacher can ask learners to select an issue that interests them from (inlcuded in the document with the articles). Though the language may be complex for some learners, the arguments are easily identifiable in bold-face font and there are a lot to choose from both the pro and con side. The teacher should be there to support ELLs if they have any questions regarding words they are reading or having difficulty in understanding.
  • Ask the ELLs to choose 2-3 pros and cons of their selected issue and ensure they have an understanding of what their chosen pros and cons mean

Guided Practice: Summarizing Each Article with Key Terms

Time: 10-15 minutes

  • Once the teacher feels the learners have had enough time to read and understand the content of their chosen articles the teacher will introduce the formative activity: learners will be asked to compose a short paragraph (4-8 sentences) for each article summarizing what the author has written. Learners will be reminded to include in their summary the:
  • Author’s position and thesis
  • Author’s supporting ideas and evidence
  • Author’s conclusion/concluding remarks
  • To guide students through this, the teacher can give prompts to students to help them structure their paragraphs along the criteria above (they could be written on the whiteboard):
  • The position of [author’s name] in his/her article is…
  • The thesis [author’s name] uses to support his/her position is…
  • One idea that is used is...which is supported by [mention a piece of evidence that supports the idea if the author mentions it]...[if there are more supporting ideas and evidence mention those as well]
  • [Author’s name] concludes his/her argument by…
  • Optional: For further support, the teacher can give students the rubric that is outlined in the “Evaluation” section of this lesson plan.
  • English Language Learners: After the ELLs have chosen 2-3 pros and 2-3 cons of their selected issue they will engage in a step-by-step formative activity. With the support of the teacher, they will be prompted to:
  • Take each pro and con they have chosen and in their own words rewrite the statement
  • For both the pro and con positions, they will be asked to write a brief thesis statement for each. The prompts below can be used to help their formulation:
  • [Issue] is good/useful/favourable/right/necessary because [outline pros]. Example: Gun control should be implemented in the United States because of the many mass shootings in the country that occur and the ease in which any person can obtain a gun.
  • [Issue] is bad/unuseful/unfavourable/wrong/unnecessary because [outline cons]. Example: Gun control should not be implemented in the United States because every citizen has the right to bear arms and banning guns would harm every citizen’s freedom.


Time: In-class assessment: depends on the amount and speed of learners

         Outside of class: Assessed by teacher         

  • Learners will be asked to submit their two summary paragraphs to the teacher for formative feedback. The teacher can assess students based on the rubric below
  • Learners are not meant to be given a score/grade as this feedback is formative. Instead, there is space for the teacher to give the students qualitative feedback so that the students may utilize it in their own learning and development regarding the learning goals of this lesson.
  • Optional activity: The teacher may have the students re-write their summaries based on the feedback they are given. The teacher may then allow for a re-assessment.

RUBRIC FOR SUMMARY ACTIVITYExcellentNeeds DevelopmentWork Not PresentedTeacher Comments
Articles’ Thesis Statement and Position are outlined- Both summaries outline the respective position of the article being written about.
- Both summaries outline the thesis statement of their respective article accurately. 
- The learner has not directly copied statements or phrases from the articles into their own work.
- Only one of the two summaries’ position is outlined
- Only one of the two theses are outlined by the learner 
- One or both of the theses outlined is not as accurate of a representation of the thesis. Further work is needed to better represent the thesis.
- The learner has copied some of the phrases or statement from the article into their own work
- No theses have been outlined by the learner.
- The learner has directly copied phrases or statements from the article to represent the entirety of their own work.
Articles’ Supporting Ideas and Evidence are outlined- Both summaries outline supporting ideas and their pieces of evidence respective of each article accurately.
- The learner has not directly copied statements or phrases from the articles into their own work that are not quoted.
- Only one of the two articles’ supporting ideas and evidences are outlined by the learner- One or both of the supporting ideas and evidences outlined are not as accurate of a representation. Further work is needed to better summarize the supporting ideas and evidence used.
- The learner has excessively quoted or copied some of the phrases or statements from the article into their own work.
- No supporting ideas or evidences have been outlined by the learner.
- The learner has directly copied phrases or statements from the article to represent the entirety of their own work.
Articles’ Conclusion is outlined - Both summaries outline the conclusion or concluding statement of their respective article accurately.
- The learner has not directly copied statements or phrases from the articles into their own work.
- Only one of the two summaries’ conclusions are outlined- One or both of the conclusions outlined is not as accurate of a representation of the conclusion. Further work is needed to better represent the conclusion.
- The learner has copied some of the phrases or statement from the article into their own work
- No conclusions have been outlined by the learner.
- The learner has directly copied phrases or statements from the article to represent the entirety of their own work.

Application: Writing Your Own Position - A Compressed Argument

Time: This activity can be assigned as homework for the learners

         If done in-class as an extension of the lesson give approximately 15 minutes.         

  • As a summative assessment piece for the lesson learners will be asked to write a paragraph or two outlining their own position on their chosen issue using the key terms of argumentation. In their pieces, the learners must include:
  • Their position and thesis statement (Guide: 1-2 sentences)
  • Supporting ideas for their thesis (Guide: 1-2 sentences per idea)
  • If possible learners are encouraged to cite evidence that can support their ideas from the article or independent research they may want to conduct)
  • A concluding statement of their position (Guide: 1 sentence)
  • Encourage the learners to use the articles they just read and how they might inform their own position. Give them prompting questions to think about:
  • Why is the issue you have chosen meaningful for you? Are there any experiences you have that might inform your position?
  • Which article’s thesis did you find more convincing?
  • From the articles that you read were there instances when you thought the supporting ideas were strong? Or weak?
  • What position did you feel made better use of evidence? Does this inform your own position on the issue?
  • Whether done as homework on in-class, learners can be encouraged to do their own research on their issue in order to help them formulate their position.
  • Beyond the lesson, learners should be encouraged to be more critical of news pieces they encounter as they are now aware of the argumentative structure. Learners now have the capability to assess the thesis, supporting ideas, evidence, and conclusions in media sources, and can use this skill in their everyday lives.
  • Reflection prompts can be given to the learners such as:
  • After this lesson, do I feel more capable of engaging with news media?
  • What skills do I feel i have gained after this lesson? Do I feel that these skills are relevant to me and my goals?
  • How confident do I feel after this lesson in being able to construct my opinions based on well-structured arguments?
  • How can I apply what I have learned from this lesson in my own life?

Part 3: Supplementary Resources & References

Supplementary Resources


Editorial Board. (2015). End the Gun Epidemic in America. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online. (n. d.). Gender Pay Gap. Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved from:

College Toolkit, Careers by Skill:

Farago, Robert. (2015). Gun Control is Not the Answer - Opposing View. USA Today. Retrieved from:

Feather, A. J. (2015). Top 15 Issues That Have Americans Worried. ABC News. Retrieved from:

Investopedia. (n. d.). Affirmative Action. Retrieved from:

Kamarck, Elaine and Gabriele, Ashley. (2015). The news today: 7 trends in old and new media. Centre for Effective Management at Brookings. Retrieved from:

Makridis, Christos. (2016). Raising the Minimum Wage Won’t Reduce Inequality. New Republic. Retrieved from:

Miron, Jeffrey. (2014) Why All Drugs Should be Legal (Yes, even heroin). The Week. Retrieved from:

Ogletree, Charles J. (n. d.). The Case For Affirmative Action. Stanford Magazine. Retrieved from:

Pearson, Catherine. (2016). No, The Gender Pay Gap Isn’t a Myth - And Here’s Why. Huffington Post.

ProCon.Org retrieved from:

Sacks, David and Thiel, Peter. (n. d.). The Case Against Affirmative Action. Stanford Magazine. Retrieved from:

Shmoop. [Shmoop]. (March 26, 2013). How to Write an Argumentative Essay by Shmoop. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Sommers, Christina. (2014).  Wage Gap Myth Exposed - By Feminists. Huffington Post. Retrieved from:

Thoma, Mark. (2016). Economics Isn’t Textbook: Why We Need to Raise the Minimum Wage. The Fiscal Times. Retrieved from:

Wilson, Jamie Q. (2000). Legalizing Drugs Makes Matters Worse. Slate. Retrieved from

Attribution Statements

This work, How to Write an Argumentative Essay by Shmoop, was created by Shmoop published at This video is copyrighted and is not licensed under an open license. Embedded as permitted by the Standard Youtube License.

CC Attribution

This course content is offered by Designers for Learning under a CC Attribution license.
Content in this course can be considered under this license unless otherwise noted.        

(Design Guide effective March 29, 2016)

Return to top