What is a Counterclaim Paragraph?

 

Teaching middle school students to write a counterclaim paragraph can be easy with a formula to follow!



Teaching the counterclaim paragraph (or counterargument paragraph) is a critical part of teaching argumentative essay writing.  Where I teach (Florida), it can make or break an essay.  Without the counterclaim paragraph, a student is likely not to score above 60% on the standardized test.


But what is a counterclaim?


Simply put, a counterclaim is the position opposite to the one that the essay is about.  So if the essay asserts that the United States should keep producing the penny, then the counterclaim is that the United States should NOT continue to produce the penny.  

In an essay, this could be written as:
 "On the other hand, some scholars have argued that the penny should no longer be in production."

Then the writer needs to think about what the other side might use as evidence against the essay's position and be ready for it.   This is where the writer inserts evidence from the text about the costs of the penny.  

In an essay, this could be written as:
"In the article "9 Reasons Why America Should Get Rid of the Penny" by Kimberly Amadeo, the author states that the penny costs 2.1 cents to produce which seems like a losing proposition."

This is a good start, but it's not enough just to know what the other side is, but also how to refute it.


How does one refute a counterclaim?

It's important to recognize both the counterclaim and the evidence that they use to defend it.  Once that information has been gathered, then to refute it is to provide information that shows that the counterclaim is not a strong argument.  To write a refutation (or rebuttal), it is a matter of acknowledgment and then citing the best evidence for the claim.

So keeping with the penny example, the writer might state:

"While some debate that this is true, it is simply not a strong argument because the penny actually lowers costs according to 'Should We Get Rid Of The Penny?' by Amy Livingston.  This is because without the penny, "...all cash transactions will have to be rounded off to the nearest nickel"."

After the initial part of the refutation, it's necessary to provide elaboration:

"Savvy businesses will make sure these transactions always round up.  The penny is an important part of keeping necessities affordable."


To wrap this up, end with a conclusion (summary) sentence:

"That's why the penny is a necessary part of the United States' economy."


Putting it all together


As you can see, the counterclaim is really a way to "turn it up" or "pour it on" in terms of making a case for the position of the essay.  So with that in mind, I created this FAUCET mnemonic:

Feature the other side:  On the other hand, some scholars have argued that the penny should no longer be in production.

Affirm with evidenceIn the article "9 Reasons Why America Should Get Rid of the Penny" by Kimberly Amadeo, the author states that the penny costs 2.1 cents to produce which seems like a losing proposition.

Underscore the essay's positionWhile some debate that this is true, it is simply not a strong argument because the penny actually lowers costs according to "Should We Get Rid Of The Penny?" by Amy Livingston.

Cite EvidenceThis is because without the penny, "...all cash transactions will have to be rounded to the nearest nickel".  

Explain with commentary (elaboration): Savvy businesses will make sure these transactions always round up. The penny is an important part of keeping necessities affordable.

Top it off with a conclusionThat's why the penny is a necessary part of the United States' economy.


The counterclaim paragraph with refutation (or rebuttal) is easy when one has a pattern to follow!  Get a copy of this formula as well as sentence starters and other organizers with my Argumentative Essay Graphic Organizer Set.




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