mini-analysis of Steven Hayward’s writing situation
the second type of response - interpreting and reflecting on the text. Then practice
applying this type of response to Hayward’s essay.
Connection to Course Goals
Engaging students’ views helps meet the
portfolio goal offamiliarizing students with current, debatable issues.
For Portfolio II, students will face the task of choosing their own current
debatable issue to write about; so it is important that they invest their
ideas. The mini-analysis of Hayward’s writing situation will prepare students
to think about the assumptions that inform his writing and the implications of
his argument. Thinking critically beyond the text, in this sense, is essential
in order to write an interpretive response.
we’ll review the different types of response and shift our focus from
agree/disagree responses to interpretive and reflective responses. We’ll use
Steven Hayward’s argument on urban sprawl as a means for practicing this type
of response. Since urban sprawl is an issue of growing concern, let’s start
with your ideas before we address Hayward’s views. This will help to get you
thinking about where you stand on some of these popular issues, so that when
it’s time for you to choose your own issue (for Portfolio II) you’ll have given
some thought to these things.”
(10 minutes): How would you define
urban sprawl? What is your experience with it or knowledge about it? How has it
affected you so far (your city or your neighborhood, your travel experiences,
your recreational habits, your general beliefs, values or lifestyle)? Do you
believe that urban sprawl is an important issue or is it, as Steven Hayward
suggests, "the sort of issue that could worry only a fat and happy
land"? Support your position with reasons and evidence.
WTLs (5 minutes):Ask students to share their responses to the
WTL questions. The goal of this informal exchange is to "hook"
students. In order to encourage them to think more critically about issues, it
is useful to start with their ideas.
Model Transition to Next
Activity: Steven Hayward has a unique take on
this issue. Most activists on sprawl tend to be environmentalists and democrats
(people who oppose sprawl). But Hayward makes a strong argument against the
negative effects of urban sprawl. We're going to look closely at where his
argument is coming from so that we can talk about how you might respond to an
essay like this - by looking at the main ideas and what they suggest.
of Steven Hayward's writing situation (10 minutes):This activity is designed to prepare students to accurately represent
Hayward's ideas and to look for assumptions and implications in his argument.
In order to fully understand a writer's argument, it's important to understand
the situation he/she is writing for. Likewise, in order to determine what
assumptions inform a writer's argument or what their argument suggests, it is
important to know where the writer is coming from.
** Create your own activity (overhead points,
class discussion, group work, etc…) and incorporate the following questions:
was this essay published? (The National Review)
you tell about the Review from looking at their online subscription page?
very conservative and anti "liberal media")
appears to be their target audience? Who do they hope to reach or affect?
we infer about the writer (Steven Hayward) based on this context?
the argument Hayward makes for this particular audience?
that sprawl is not a significant issue and that smart growth plans are
ineffective and doomed to fail just like urban renewal.)
he support this argument? (Ask students to reference specific places in the
text and explain their answers clearly)
Model Transition to Next
Activity: So now that we have a general sense
of where Hayward's coming from and what his argument is, let's talk about how
we might respond to the ideas in his essay.
responding to Hayward's essay (15 minutes): The goal for this activity is to reinforce concepts from the
agree/disagree response and to introduce a new type of response - interpreting
and reflecting. On an overhead, highlight the three kinds of response from the PHG:
and disagreeing with the ideas in a text
and reflecting on the text
the effectiveness of a text
Ask students if Hayward's essay lends itself
to the agree/disagree type of response (it does). And invite them to elaborate
on which ideas they might respond to in an agree/disagree format. Then, explain
that you will use Hayward's essay to explore another kind of response -
interpreting and reflecting. Note: Be sure that you explain the
following points (include these on the overhead that you used for the types of
of an agree/disagree response is to emphasize one important idea from a
writer's text and support or refute that idea using reasons and evidence. Here,
you want to convince a reader that your position is a favorable one.
of an interpretive response is to look critically at an argument in order to
explain what it fully means. Looking critically at a text requires you to
inquire beyond what the text actually says. One way to do this is to locate the
assumptions that inform a writer’s argument and find out what the writer's
argument implies. Along the way, you may find yourself agreeing with or
refuting the writer's ideas and the assumptions and implications that are tied
to these ideas.
of an analytical response is to determine a text's effectiveness by examining
its parts. You might look at the purpose, the intended audience, the thesis,
the main ideas, the organization and evidence, and the language and style.
Here, your aim is to point out an essay’s strong points and/or where it falls
short. Analyzing the text's effectiveness allows you to make more informed
decisions about the usefulness and credibility of a writer's argument.
** Inform students that you'll be focusing on
the interpretive response for Hayward's essay. Since locating the assumptions
and implications in an argument are an important part of interpreting an essay,
you'll want to define the following terms for them as well:
Assumption - is what a person believes to be true. However, assumptions are not
always true; they are not shared by everyone or supported by unquestionable
evidence. Writers make different assumptions based on their background and
experience. Assumptions inform a writer's argument. If you look closely at a
writer's use of language, tone, and evidence you can sense the assumptions a
writer is making about their topic and their audience (their beliefs, their
values, and their expectations).
Implication - is a suggestion that is not directly stated.
Writers may imply something when they are hesitant to write a bold statement or
reluctant to make unsupported claims (for example, a writer may not state that
the Vice President is too old to be in office, since this could be viewed as
inappropriate. But their argument may suggest this none the less). This type of
implication is usually driven by the writer’s opinions, so it tends to be
hidden "between the lines." In order to fully understand an argument,
you’ll want to locate the implications a writer’s argument makes.
Implications can also be the logical
ramifications of an argument that the writer may or may not be aware of. For
example, one of the implications of making abortion illegal is that back alley
abortions would increase and the fatality rate, due to botched abortions, would
rise. One way to look for this kind of implication in an argument is to ask,
"What does this argument suggest is happening or could happen in the
future? Does the argument hint at an escalating problem? Does it suggest
anything in the way of “effects” or what could result if a particular action is
using the terms "assumptions and implications" (10 minutes):Use the following questions or devise your own to get students thinking
about what assumptions are:
What assumptions might we make about:
who reads the Collegian?
who reads the New York Times?
who watches Dawson's Creek?
who watches Star Trek?
who lives in San Francisco?
who lives in Salt Lake City?
** Use this activity to reinforce the point
that assumptions aren't always completely fair and shared by everyone. Also,
remind them that assumptions are shaped by one's own experience and
environment. Include the following questions to show students why it is
important to examine a writer's assumptions:
readers likely to agree with a writer's assumptions?
assumptions does Hayward make (about sprawl or about his readers beliefs and
values in general)?
readers agree with his assumptions? Who won't?
looking at assumptions help you fully interpret Hayward's essay?
might looking at assumptions help you write an interpretive essay?
Design an activity where you get students to
practice using the term "implications". You might use advertisements,
look at political cartoons/arguments, or develop sample claims/arguments that
contain various implications. Be creative!
At the end of the activity, make sure students
understand the distinction between assumptions and implications. If they don’t
fully understand, inform them that assumptions already exist without the
argument. Assumptions inform a writer's position. Implications result from the
student’s homework (the revised responses to Schrag’s essay).
we talked about how you might reflect on or interpret an argument more
critically by examining an author’s assumptions, and the implications of their
argument. We will continue practicing this second kind of response for one more
class period before moving on to discussing our last type of response -
analyzing the effectiveness of a text.”
Write a brief summary and a two page interpretive response
to Hayward's essay. In your summary, represent the author's ideas fairly. In
the response, expand on these ideas by reflecting on key passages from the text
and interpreting what the argument means. Point out any assumptions that the
writer is making about his audience or his issue (use textual evidence to
support this). Then, reflect on any phrases and passages where the text may
suggest or imply something more than what it actually states. Post your
response to the SyllaBase Class Discussion Forum and bring a hard copy of your
draft to class.