· Show students how to develop their responses with reasons and evidence
· Have students revise their responses to Schrag
· Have students complete a mini-workshop for their responses to Schrag's essay
Discussing reasons and evidence helps students develop their own ideas with support. It encourages them write more focused and thoughtful responses, as opposed to a list of unsupported reactions.
1. Model Introduction: “Today we’ll discuss one of the three types of response - agree/disagree. We’ll focus specifically on developing reasons and evidence within a response, because that is one of the most important skills involved in writing. Writers who produce effective responses take the time to explain what they think, but they also show why they think what they do, providing clear reasons and evidence for their readers.”
2. Informal discussion reviewing evidence (5 minutes):
· What is evidence?
· What are the different types of evidence (think back to the PHG)?
· Where might you need to use some evidence in your summary/response essay?
· What kind of evidence might you use in your summary?
· What kinds of evidence might you use in your response?
Model Transition to Next Activity: Most of us understand what evidence is. But often times, writers mistake evidence for reasons. They think that if they simply tell readers why they make a claim, it is enough to support that claim. However, most readers need REASONS and EVIDENCE to feel convinced. In addition to telling readers what you think, you need to show them why you think it. Let's look at an example…
3. Model how to develop a response with reasons and evidence (10 minutes): The goal for this activity is to help students distinguish between reasons and evidence. Another objective is to help them see how reasons and evidence connect back to a writer's response. (Often times students interpret evidence as "any personal experience that relates to my topic" which leads to stories and experiences that stray from their original point). See if students can draw connections between the evidence and the main idea from the sample (to reinforce the need for focus in a response). Also, warn them that phrases like "this reminds me of" can lead to ideas that don't qualify as support.
For this activity, use the sample below or create your own. Put the example on an overhead and read over it with the students. Then, highlight the differences between reasons and evidence and ask students to draw connections between the evidence, the reasons, the response, and the main idea. Pose questions like, "Is the focus effective? Does the writer come back to their main point? Where? Could the focus be improved?" You might use an overhead pen to illustrate these responses. You may also want to spend a few minutes discussing how reasons and evidence might look different for other types of response (analytic or reflective).
One Main Idea from Schrag's essay: Schrag claims that opponents of high-stakes standardized tests are education liberals, "who believe that children should be allowed to discover things for themselves and not be constrained by "drill-and-kill" rote learning." He adds that these opponents fear that the tests stifle students and teachers.
Reaction and Reason
I would have to agree with the opponents. Standardized tests keep students and teachers from realizing their full potential. The tests force them to focus on a single, narrow aspect of learning and they rob them of creative opportunities.
Personal Evidence to Support Reaction
I remember my first art class in high school. Mr. Venini was the teacher, and before I took his class I detested school. My grades were poor because I couldn't understand how geography and vocabulary related to my life. But Mr. Venini's class was different.
One day, he asked us to close our eyes and mold a piece of clay into whatever we were feeling. I let my fingers sink into the clay. I twisted it into a tall, slender shape that meant "boundless" - like a sunflower. Mr. Venini liked my sculpture, but he didn't give it a grade. He said it was just an activity for our imaginations. But after that, I looked forward to art class and I produced many beautiful paintings and drawings. It was the only class I ever received an A in.
There is no clay on a standardized test. No place for the imagination. I never took another art class because my parents wanted me to focus on the ACT. I sat through many test-prep classes and still did poorly on the exam. I never received another A in school and never paid much attention in my other classes. I guess I figured that if "learning" meant "fill in the right bubble," it wasn't worth my time.
Model Transition to Next Activity: Let's apply this to your own writing. Please take out your own response to Schrag (completed for homework).
4. Have students revise their responses (20 minutes): Ask students to read back through their responses and to revise accordingly. Have them reflect on the discussion you just had and ask them to check for the following (put these on an overhead): Check to see:
· that you've clearly made a point (agree/disagree)
· that you are responding to a main idea from the essay
· that you've given a sufficient reason for your opinion (tell us why)
· that you've provided some well-developed evidence (show us why)
· that your reasons and evidence are focused - they connect back to the overall point you’re trying to make
** Tell students that others will be looking at their revised responses shortly (this will be incentive to stay on task).
Model Transition to Next Activity: For the remainder of class, we'll do some peer revising so that you can receive useful suggestions for developing your responses.
5. Have students complete a mini-workshop for their responses to Schrag's essay (15 minutes): For this activity, ask students to work in pairs. Have them refer back to the list of check points that they used to revise their own responses. Tell them to comment on two points (from the list), explaining how the writer's response is effectively addressing these criteria. Then, have them comment on two points (from the list), explaining how the writer's response could improve on these criteria. For example, a student may notice that a response provides plenty of reasons and evidence, but perhaps it lists too many main ideas; so the reader is left wondering which point the writer is supporting. If time, give students a few minutes to discuss their responses with one another.
6. Model Conclusion: “Today we practiced developing reasons and evidence for the agree/disagree response essay. Keep in mind that you’ll need to provide reasons and evidence for any type of response you write. The types of reasons and evidence will vary, depending on your approach, but the concept is the same. We will continue with this idea next week, applying it to the two other types of response.”
Read comments from the in-class mini-workshop and complete a final revision for your response to Schrag. Then, read Steven Hayward's essay, "The Brawl Over Sprawl" (http://www.townhall.com/features/sprawl.html) and visit the National Review (http://www.nationalreview.com) to gain a sense of where his essay was published and who his intended readers are.