You are here

Using Comment Walls to Practice Rebuttal

Primary tabs

A computer mouse superimposed over a globe
Image Credit: 
Brief Assignment Overview: 

This assignment asks students to think through the rhetorical practice of contributing to a discussion on a website's comment wall. After finding a video on YouTube, a blog entry, or an opinion article on an online news source, students will read through the comments section, locate effective and ineffective comments, and ultimately draft a possible contribution to the wall based on their understanding of any manifested disagreements. This exercise will highlight the importance of refutation, concession and rebuttal.

Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Rhetoric: 
Pedagogical Goals - Literature: 
Pedagogical Goals - Writing: 
Pedagogical Goals - Digital Literacy: 
Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

Students will be asked to think critically about ways to effectively make an argument in a small amount of space, the "venue" of forum comment walls, the genre of the comment post, and the importance of fair, balanced rebuttals. This exercise also helps students understand the impace that rhetorical skills can have in real-world situation. Students will find an online argument that takes a position in their controversy (YouTube videos work well here), read through the comments section, identify a disagreement, evaluate various users' use of rebuttal, and, ultimately, insert theirown opinion. This assignment works in-class for rooms with computers with internet access. It can also be assigned as homework. 

Before this lesson, define refutation, concession, and rebuttal for your students. Ask students to surf the web (a simple Google search worked well for my class) for a position within their controversy. Ask them to examine the argument, then read through the comments section. Ask them to find some examples of effective and ineffective responses to the argument. Ask them to think about why particular comments are convincing and why others are not. Are some responses simply offensive? Do they give faulty evidence? Do they give a fair summary of the argument or misrepresent it?

After your students have looking through the comment walls, have them report to the class or to small groups on their findings. The ensuing discussion should solidify the importance of a fair summary, concession, and refutation.

Ultimately, ask them to write less than 100 words offering a rebuttal to either the argument or to a comment they found particularly intriguing. Instruct them to focus on fairly representing their opponent's position and finding common ground before persuasively using refutation.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

This assignment requires computers with internet access. Decide beforehand whether this assignment will be performed in-class or as homework.

Instructions For Students: 

Before this assignment, students should be introduced to the concepts of refutation, concession, and rebuttal. This is a great way to emphasize the importance of brief, fair summaries and of finding common ground, or points of stasis, with opposing positions.

1) Locate an argument online that participates in your controversy. Try using some key words in the Google search engine. Make sure the blog post, opinion news article, YouTube video, etc. has a comments section that you can access. Read through the argument, then read through the comments wall. What do people disagree with in the article? Where are commenters disagreeing with each other?

2) Pick two comments that you think are particularly effective in convincing the reader. Pick two that are particularly ineffective. How do these comments differ from each other? Which comments fairly represent the main argument? Which comments use concession? Which comments use refutation? How does each comment go about rebutting the main argument (or another comment)? Do any of the comments make faulty claims?

3) Write up your own comment that will contribute to the conversation on this forum. It must rebut either the main argument or another comment on the wall. Your rebuttal must be less than 100 words, offer a fair summary of your oppositon's position, and offer some point of concession.

Course Description: 

I used this lession in an introductory rhetoric course.

Total votes: 546
Rate this lesson plan