Copies of Common Sense, Introduction and Part IIIand The Crisis, No. 1, highlighters, pens, pencils, paper, access to computer lab or school library.


  • The student will examine argumentation and develop informed opinions.
  • The student will use language persuasively in addressing a particular issue by:
    • finding and interpreting information effectively.
    • recognizing propaganda as a purposeful technique.
    • establishing and defending a point of view.
    • responding respectfully to viewpoints and biases.
  • The student will select an issue or theme and take a stance on that issue by:
    • supporting the argument with specific reasons.
  • The student will use argumentation for:
    • interpreting researched information effectively
    • establishing and defending a point of view

bias, calamity, credulous, extirpating, fallacious, parity, posterity, reprobate, supercede,


1. Display images, show clips or read short excerpts of writings by current figures who have fought for revolution in a social, political or cultural setting, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, or Norma Rae. You could also play The Beatles' "Revolution" while displaying lyrics.

2. Introduce Thomas Paine to the class by explaining that:

  • He was born in England in 1737
  • He was an outspoken rebel in the colonies, fighting against slavery and British oppression
  • He originally wrote Common Sense anonymously. Published in 1776, it sold almost half a million copies.
  • Paine was also author of Rights of Man (1791-92) and The Age of Reason (1794). This last work, seen as an attack on Christianity, severely tarnished his reputation. He died in poverty in 1794. ("Thomas Paine.")
3. Distribute highlighters and copies of Introduction to Common Sense. Ask students to read the text silently, highlighting only the phrases or sentences in which Paine directly argues a point.

4. Re-read the passage aloud as a class and then ask students to share what they have highlighted.

5. On an overhead or chalkboard, create a model outline of Paine's argument to illustrate the framework for his piece. Let each point be a topic of class discussion.

6. Repeat steps 3-4 for Common Sense, Part III.

7. Divide students into small groups. Ask them to create an outline of Paine's argument on their own paper.

8. Ask students to share their outlines with the class.

9. Ask students to read "The Crisis, No.1" individually, again, highlighting the points of argument. For an individual grade, students should make their own outlines of this text.

10. Once students have practiced outlining, ask them to list issues that they would like to see changed. Write their suggestions on the board or overhead.

11. Using your school library or computer lab, ask students to research an issue that is important to them.

12. Ask students to create an outline for their own argument on this issue.

13. Instruct students to write a two-page paper, arguing their point of view. They should also create a brochure or poster that illustrates their argument. For more information about argumentative essays, visit the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.


Students can be monitored for participation during class reading. The group outline can be graded for completion and comprehension. The individual outline could be a homework or quiz grade. The argumentation paper and pamphlet could be a test or project grade.


"Logic in Argumentative Writing." The Purdue University Online Writing Lab. 2009. Purdue University. 23 July 2009.

"Thomas Paine." Norton Anthology of American Literature: Second Edition Shorter. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1986.

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