Toulmin Essay Rubric


This lesson extends over several class periods. Students view a Prezi presentation on Toulmin's argument and complete an assignment based on the presentation. Students then write an argument essay about the power of prevailing passion over reason.


  • Brooke Ipson's Prezi on Argumentation.
  • Argumentation Prezi Notes handout.
  • Essay Basics - Required Elements handout.
  • Argument Essay - Passion and Reason handout.
  • Argument Essay Peer Review and Rubric handout.

Background for Teachers

Teachers need a basic understanding of Toulmin's argument. I have attached a link to the Prezi presentation I use and I have included the assignment (Argument Prezi Notes) that I use to introduce Toulmin's argument with my students. I have also attached a website with more information about Toulmin's argument.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students read a quote about passion and reason from Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773), and formulate a claim. Students write an argument essay and support their claim with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

Instructional Procedures


  1. Put students into groups of four.
  2. Pass out the Argumentation Prezi Notes handout. This handout goes along with the Argumentation Prezi that Brooke Ipson created and posted to the Prezi web site. This Prezi is "public" and you may use it in class. You may want to create your own argumentation Prezi, but you will need to create a handout to go along with it, as my assignment closely follows Brooke Ipson's presentation. There are a few You Tube connections that don't work in the argumentation Prezi. I just skip those as I go through the presentation and handout.
  3. Show the Prezi, stopping at the appropriate points for groups to discuss and record their responses on the handouts.
PART TWO - Introduce the essay
  1. Pass out the Essay Basics - Required Elements handout. Read through the handout. English 11 students should be familiar with all of the elements.
  2. Pass out the Argument Essay - Passion and Reason handout.
  3. Here is the prompt for the essay: "If you can once engage people's pride, love, pity, ambition (or whatever is their prevailing passion) on your side, you need not fear what their reason can do against you." -Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773)
  4. Here is the assignment: *Consider this quotation about prevailing passion and reason from Lord Chesterfield. Then write an essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies Lord Chesterfields's assertion about the power of passion over reason. Support your argument with appropriate evidence from your reading, observation, or experience.
  5. Put students into pairs and instruct students to summarize the QUOTATION from the prompt IN THEIR OWN WORDS. Ask for volunteers to read their summaries. Clarify any misunderstandings.
  6. Now that everyone understands the quotation, tell students that they must decide if they agree or disagree with this claim. Will they defend, challenge or qualify (argue that this claim is only true in certain, limited instances) Chesterfields's claim? Give students time to think about and record a claim. Reassure students that this is just an initial claim and that they should go back and edit and revise.
  7. Instruct students that they must now qualify their own claim. One way to qualify, or narrow, a claim is to define the terms in the claim. Instruct students to work with their partners to complete the rest of the assignment. Here are the directions:
    • DEFINE PASSION. Brainstorm a list of SPECIFIC examples of prevailing PASSION – Be more specific than the examples given in the prompt (pride, love, pity, ambition). You will need at least three SPECIFIC examples of passion for your essay. Your examples should come from your reading, your observation of others, or your personal experience.
    • EXPLAIN how each of your examples of prevailing PASSION does or does not overcome REASON (as you have defined it).
    • Are there other ways in which you need to QUALIFY your CLAIM?
  8. Refer to the rubric (I always print it on the back of the essay handout) and ask students if they have any questions.
PART THREE - Write the rough draft
  1. Assign the rough draft of the essay as homework or take the class to a computer lab. Remind students to review the prompt/quotation, the rubric, and the basic essay requirement handout.
PART FOUR - Peer review
  1. Pass out the Argument Essay Peer Review and Rubric handout.
  2. Assign each student a partner.
  3. Read through the directions.
    • Read through your essay with your partner. Check off and/or assess all required elements that you find in your essay. If a required element is completely missing, give zero points. Add up the total score for required elements.
    • Read through your essay with your partner, looking for problems with conventions. Assign a score for conventions.
    • Finally, work with your partner to IMPROVE YOUR spelling, grammar, mechanics and clarity. Mark up your essay so you know what to work on later!
    • Staple this sheet to the rough draft of your essay.
  1. Assign the final draft of the essay as homework or take the class to a computer lab.

Assessment Plan

A rubric for formative and summative assessment is included in the handouts and the instructional procedures sections.

Created: 08/12/2012
Updated: 02/05/2018

Toulmin Argument

The Toulmin method, developed by philosopher Stephen Toulmin(pictured on the right), is essentially a structure for analyzing arguments. But the elements for analysis are so clear and structured that many professors now have students write argumentative essays with the elements of the Toulmin method in mind.

This type of argument works well when there are no clear truths or absolute solutions to a problem. Toulmin arguments take into account the complex nature of most situations.

There are six elements for analyzing, and, in this case, presenting arguments that are important to the Toulmin method.

These elements of a Toulmin analysis can help you as both a reader and a writer. When you’re analyzing arguments as a reader, you can look for these elements to help you understand the argument and evaluate its validity. When you’re writing an argument, you can include these same elements in to ensure your audience will see the validity in your claims.

Claims — The claim is a statement of opinion that the author is asking her or his audience to accept as true.

Grounds —The grounds are the facts, data, or reasoning upon which the claim is based. Essentially, the grounds are the facts making the case for the claim.

Warrant —The warrant is what links the grounds to the claim. This is what makes the audience understand how the grounds are connected to supporting the claim. Sometimes, the warrant is implicit (not directly stated), but the warrant can be stated directly as well. As a writer, you are making assumptions about what your audience already believes, so you have to think about how clear your warrant is and if you need to state it directly for your audience. You must also think about whether or not a warrant is actually an unproven claim.

Backing —The backing gives additional support for the claim by addressing different questions related to your claim.

Qualifier —The qualifier is essentially the limits to the claim or an understanding that the claim is not true in all situations. Qualifiers add strength to claims because they help the audience understand the author does not expect her or his opinion to be true all of the time or for her or his ideas to work all of the time. If writers use qualifiers that are too broad, such as “always” or “never,” their claims can be really difficult to support. Qualifiers like “some” or “many” help limit the claim, which can add strength to the claim.

Rebuttal —The rebuttal is when the author addresses the opposing views. The author can use a rebuttal to pre-empt counter arguments, making the original argument stronger.


There should be more laws to regulate texting while driving in order to cut down on dangerous car accidents.


The National Safety Council estimates that 1.6 million car accidents per year are caused by cell phone use and texting.


Being distracted by texting on a cell phone while driving a car is dangerous and causes accidents.


With greater fines and more education about the consequences, people might think twice about texting and driving.


There should be more laws to regulate texting while driving in order to cut down on some of the dangerous car accidents that happen each year.


Although police officers are busy already, making anti-texting laws a priority saves time, money, and lives. Local departments could add extra staff to address this important priority.


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