The Assertion Jar


Students produce assertions on slips of paper and “stock” the classroom Assertion Jar. As a daily or occasional activity, students practice refutation skills by pulling an assertion from the jar and refuting it either orally or in writing. Appropriate as a writing prompt or journal activity.


  • Large glass jar or plastic container, such as a pickle jar.
  • Scissors and paper for students.


  1. Begin the exercise by reviewing ARE argument construction and Four-Step Refutation with the class.  
  2. Ask each student to take out paper and pencil. Explain that they will be helping to stock the classroom “Assertion Jar.” Tell them that they should try to come up with 5-10 (depending on age and skill level) assertions that will be approved and cut up into folded slips to be placed in the jar.  
  3. Tell students that they will be asked to draw randomly from the jar on a regular basis for refutation practice, so it is not in their interest to produce assertions that are too difficult to refute (“The sky is blue,” for example).
  4. Give students 5-10 minutes to write out their assertions. Review them before giving permission to cut up for placement in the jar.
  5. When you review the assertions, don’t use too heavy of a hand on spelling and grammar; this is to be a fun exercise. Do suggest corrections when the assertion is illegible or incoherent, and encourage students to rewrite when appropriate.
  6. Pass the stocked jar around and ask each student to draw out an assertion.
  7. Ask students to take a minute to write out their Four-Step Refutation, and then go around the class while students stand and present their refutations.

Optional Follow-on Activities

  • If you use journals in the classroom, refutation practice makes a good daily journal entry, especially as a classroom routine so that students know to draw an assertion out of the jar on the way into the classroom. It’s a nice change from the shared daily writing prompt, and students enjoy the participatory aspect of the jar.
  • Don’t forget to re-stock the jar when it’s empty!