Beacon Lesson Plan Library

A Goldfish is the Best Pet

Cheryl Stanley


A goldfish is the best pet. What facts support this thesis? What facts oppose it? Use graphic organizers to help students select facts which must be considered in order to persuade an audience to agree with a given point of view.


The student selects and uses appropriate pre-writing strategies, such as brainstorming, graphic organizers, and outlines.


- A selection of graphic organizers (Two types are provided in the associated files for this lesson.) Each student will need at least three of these. If you prefer, they can draw their own organizers and save on copying materials.
- An overhead projector, marker board, or chalk board to be used by the class secretary or by the teacher
- Markers, chalk, or pens as needed
- A list of argumentative topics for the students who have difficulty deciding what to write about (nothing heavy or mind boggling at first)
- One copy per student of the rubric you plan to use (A sample is provided in the associated files.)


1. Duplicate graphic organizers for students to use.
2. Pre-select a student to be the secretary, preferably one with a legible handwriting.
3. Be sure you have a working overhead projector, or a chalkboard/marker board with plenty of writing surface available and different colored writing utensils.
4. Prepare a list of possible topics; there will always be a few students who canít think of anything to use.


1. Begin by asking the class if they have any pets at home. Ask several students to explain why they selected that type of pet.

2. Appoint one student to act as secretary and write the information on the board.

3. After several minutes of brainstorming, ask students if they think a goldfish, or a frog, or some other critter of your choice would make a good pet. This should be an animal that we usually donít think of as a pet. You can use one of the animals they mentioned or use the goldfish. A sample T chart is provided in the associated files.

4. Have the secretary make a list of at least three of the reasons why this animal would be a good pet and a list of at least three reasons why it would not be a good pet. (Color coding the responses helps the visual learners.) These reasons should be facts, not opinions. At this point you may need to explain the difference between facts and opinions.

5. Give each student a sample of the graphic organizers which can be used to record this information (see associated files for examples of T charts and mapping charts). Explain that you will be giving them a similar organizer on which they will record information as a final assessment.

6. Have students record the selected information on the organizer as you or your secretary record it on the board or the overhead.

7. Circulate in the room to be sure each student understands how to use the graphic organizer.

8. When all students have satisfactorily completed this activity, explain that this is an arguable topic. Some people think gold fish are good pets; some people donít even consider them to be pets. The statement ďGold fish make the best pets,Ē could be used as a thesis statement in a persuasive essay.

9. Ask students to highlight the supporting fact that they think is the most important and the opposing fact that they think is most important.

10. Give each student another graphic organizer and go through the same brainstorming procedure with another topic that does not require research.

Possible topics:
a. Pens are better than pencils.
b. Students should be required to take a computer class in high school.
c. Elementary students should not be involved in competitive sports.

You can also use a topic from literature. (Grendel was a poor, misunderstood child.)

11. Ask the class to help you formulate an antithesis (statement of the opposite opinion) and prepare a graphic organizer from that information, highlighting the most important supporting fact and the most important opposing fact.

12. Point out that some of the supporting facts for the thesis might be listed as opposing information for the antithesis.

13. Tell students that graphic organizers such as these can be used to prepare to write a persuasive paper or a persuasive speech.

14. Ask students to choose a topic of their own and a graphic organizer on which to record information. Have them go through the same process with the new topic. This could be a homework assignment. (CAUTION: you might want to ask them to steer away from extremely controversial topics, those not suitable for classroom discussions).

15. Show students a sample of the rubric you will use to evaluate their work. (see sample rubric in associated files)

16. Explain what you will be checking for in the different areas to be evaluated.

17. After you evaluate the prewriting, return the papers and assist the students with their revisions.

18. OPTIONAL: If you plan to assign a composition based on this prewriting, give students time in class to revise the prewriting.

18. OPTIONAL: Tell students that the next step will be to use this information to prepare an outline for a persuasive essay, persuasive speech, etc., which will be covered in a separate lesson.


Students may be assessed using the sample organizers provided (see associated files).

Information included in the organizer: (criteria)

A. The general topic
B. The authorís opinion on the topic (thesis statement)
C. Three facts supporting the thesis with the most important fact highlighted
D. Three facts opposing the thesis
E. The oppositionís opinion on the topic (antithesis)
F. Three facts supporting the antithesis with the most important fact highlighted
G. Three facts opposing the antithesis


1. Language arts: Move from this prewriting assignment to an outline for a persuasive paper. From there you can proceed to a rough draft and eventually a final copy.

2. This could also be turned into a group assignment. Give two groups opposing viewpoints for which they will do research, prepare a T chart or mapping chart, and debate their findings.

3. Science: This could be the starting point for a persuasive paper on several different topics including environmental issues, the space program, and research topics.

4. Social studies: This is an excellent starting point for debates in the area of politics, government policies, controversial laws, or even economic concerns.

Attached Files

T Chart for Antithesis     File Extension: pdf

T Chart for Thesis     File Extension: pdf

Mapping for Antithesis     File Extension: pdf

Mapping for Thesis     File Extension: pdf

T Chart for A Goldfish Makes the Best Pet     File Extension: pdf

Sample Evaluation Rubric     File Extension: pdf

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