Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Reframing the Argument

Examining Argument Through a New Lens

Lisa Loughlin, Laura Halstied | Published: March 19th, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, Secondary
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course A.P. Language and Composition
  • Time Frame Time Frame 90 minutes
  • Duration More 1-2 periods


This lesson uses Lawrence Kohlberg's Heinz Dilemma to teach students how to create an effective argument using evidence and logical reasoning. Content is introduced with an anticipation guide and class discussion. Students then read and respond to the Heinz Dilemma and analyze four claims, then create counterclaims. Next, they view an interview with a criminal defense attorney to see how argument skills are used in the real world. Students next choose an argumentative topic to write a claim and a counterclaim.

Essential Question(s)

How do our experiences affect the way we argue?



Students complete an anticipation guide and discuss their topic with classmates using the Fold the Line strategy.


Students read and discuss the Heinz Dilemma in small groups.


Students discuss the value of looking at topics through multiple lenses and how that informs the writing process.


Students watch an interview with a public defender who speaks about her career as an attorney and assesses the Heinz Dilemma.


Students write two paragraphs over a topic using the Claims, Evidence, Reasoning strategy. One paragraph includes a claim and the second paragraph includes a counterclaim/counterargument.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Anticipation Guide handout (attached, one half-sheet per student)

  • The Heinz Dilemma handout (attached, one per student)

  • Talk Moves handout (attached, one per student)

  • Notebook paper

  • Pens/pencils

  • Paper (one sheet per group)

  • Markers (one per group)

  • Highlighters (optional)


20 Minute(s)

Display slide 3 to review the essential question and slide 4 to review the lesson objectives.

Transition to slide 5 and distribute the attached Anticipation Guide handout to each student. Using the Anticipation Guide strategy, have students read each statement and choose their level of agreement based on the Likert scale. Allow students approximately five minutes to complete the Anticipation Guide or adjust this time as needed.

Move to slide 6. Introduce students to the Fold the Line strategy and explain that they will be engaging in a discussion over three of the statements on the Anticipation Guide.

Pass out the attached Talk Moves handout to each student. Display the first prompt on slide 7. Direct students to line up according to how much they agree with the prompt on a scale of 1–5. After they have lined up, instruct the student at the end to "fold the line" by walking to face the student at the front. Have the rest of the line follow the leader, pairing up with the next classmate in line. Each student should be standing across from the classmate who was standing at an opposite position in the line. If there is an uneven number, create one group of 3.

Instruct students to discuss the prompt with their partners. Have students use the Talk Moves sentence starters to discuss their responses to the statement on slide 7. Invite students to ask clarifying questions before starting the activity and verify their understanding of the task.

Transition through slides 8–9 and have students repeat the procedure for each prompt.


25 Minute(s)

Distribute the attached The Heinz Dilemma handout. Invite students to read The Heinz Dilemma individually and answer the six questions on the handout. Allow 10–12 minutes for this but adjust time as needed.

Transition to slide 10. Place students into groups of two or three. Instruct students to briefly discuss their answers to the four questions on slide 10 using the Talk Moves handout. Allow 10–12 minutes but adjust time as needed.

After students have had time to discuss, pass out a sheet of paper and a marker to each group. Move to slide 11, featuring four claims about about The Heinz Dilemma. Assign each group one of the four claims. (It is okay if two groups are assigned the same claim.) Each group should write their assigned claim on their paper using the marker. The claims students will be analyzing are:

Claim 1: Heinz shouldn't steal because stealing is always wrong.

Claim 2: Heinz should steal because medicine should be free.

Claim 3: Heinz shouldn't steal because the chemist might have bills/sick spouse/sick child and need the money in an equally urgent way.

Claim 4: Heinz should steal because it's saving a life and a life is worth more than money.

After they have written their assigned claim, instruct students to come up with three counterclaims (reasons why the claim is not valid). They should write these three counterclaims under the claim.

When each group is finished, instruct students to leave their sheet on a desk.

Instruct groups to rotate around the room, read, and consider each of the other groups’ claims and counter claims. As students rotate, they should also write any additional counterclaims they can think of. Have students rotate so that all groups have analyzed the four claims and provided counterclaims to each.

After students have looked at all four claims, move to slide 12. Invite students to hang their posters around the classroom, and allow 5 minutes for students to look at all of the counterclaims their classmates created using the Gallery Walk strategy. When students are finished, lead a brief class discussion using questions such as:

  • Which of these claims is the most difficult to defend? Why?

  • Which of these claims is the easiest to defend? Why?

  • Why is it important to consider counterclaims?

  • What counterclaims did your classmates produce that your group didn't?

  • What counterarguments could you use to respond to your classmates’ counterclaims?


10 Minute(s)

Transition to slide 13 and ask students if anyone knows what the object on the slide is called.

Move to slide 14 and inform students that the device is called a phoropter. Explain that this is a machine commonly found at the optometrist’s office. Ask students how this machine works or how they’ve seen it used. Allow 2–3 minutes of wait time for students to answer.

After students have answered, pose the question: How can viewing something from different lenses help you when creating and writing an argument? Allow some brief student responses.

Transition to slide 15 and explain the answer to the previous question using the information on the slide. Explain the link between the phoropter and creating an argument and allow students to ask clarifying questions.


20 Minute(s)

Transition to slide 16 and explain to students that they will watch an interview with a public defender whose entire job is based on arguing and negotiating. Students may need more explanation of what that job is to access their prior knowledge of this occupation before watching the interview. Provide a brief description or a familiar reference to popular law/crime TV shows, then show the video.

After watching the interview, transition to slide 17 and use these questions to facilitate a short class discussion:

  • What did you take away from this interview?

  • What are her first steps when assigned a new case? How is this similar to argumentative writing?

  • How does her experience as a prosecutor help her as a defense attorney? How does this relate to the lenses analogy we discussed earlier?

  • When discussing The Heinz Dilemma, she forms her argument by using facts to ask for leniency. Why does viewing the circumstances from this lens help her advocate for Heinz?


20 Minute(s)

Transition to slide 18 after wrapping up your discussion and ask students to take out a piece of notebook paper.

Instruct students to use what they learned during this lesson by writing two paragraphs using the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning strategy. If students are unfamiliar with the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning format, a video is available on slide 19.

Four topics are on slide 17 for students to choose from. First, students should write a paragraph in defense of their position on their chosen topic. Then, they should write a second paragraph with a counterclaim and counterargument against their position.

Move to slide 20 and provide the sentence starters for students to use while writing their two paragraphs. Collect the completed writings as students leave the classroom and assess for student understanding of the lesson content.