In this exercise, students practice engaging with critics (argument and theory sources in the BEAM/BEAT framework). The templates provided scaffold students’ responses to the critics before students need to engage more deeply with critics in an essay. This exercise can be done individually or in pairs.


To use templates to practice different strategies for engaging with critics about an issue or text.

Key Terms

argument source; theory source; BEAM/BEAT


When writing essays, we use critical sources in part to demonstrate that we are familiar with the conversations that are already going on about our topic. We may also use them to develop our thinking or to provide a motivation for our own arguments. It’s important to figure out how critics are talking to each other, and to ask: where does your argument fit in the existing conversation? Here are some strategies for engaging with critics; on your own or with a partner, see if you can write an example for each strategy using our class texts.

  1. Pick a Fight: disagree with a critic
  2. Possible Language: I agree that _____, but where I depart from [Critic] is…

  3. Kiss-Up/Piggyback: agree with and build on the critic’s foundation, and apply their principles to a new reading
  4. Possible Language: Following [Critic’s] approach, …

  5. Play Peacemaker: find a middle ground between critics who disagree.
  6. Possible Language: I both draw on and contribute to the conversation about [topic]…

  7. Do a New Reading: analyze a seemingly important aspect of the text that no critic has paid attention to
  8. Possible Language: What few have discussed…

  9. Crossbreed: bring together two critics or texts that appear to have nothing in common.
  10. Possible Language: While these two approaches may seem unrelated, bringing them together reveals…