Week 5: Monday, September 23rd - Friday, September 27th
beginning this portfolio, decide when you'd like to take your class to the
library for research instruction. It's best to schedule a session at the start
of Portfolio 2, before students begin researching their issues more
extensively. Call Cathy Cranston to set up an appointment (she'd prefer that
you call two weeks ahead of time).
Goals for this Week
Collect, respond to, and grade Portfolio
transition between Portfolio 1 and Portfolio 2
criteria for what makes a "good" issue or research question
Part 1 of Portfolio 2 - Topic Proposal (due at the start of week 6)
Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" from the PHG
Connection to Course Goals
This portfolio marks a shift from focusing on
the arguments advanced by individual authors - that is, focusing on individual
positions on an issue - to understanding the larger conversation about that issue.
Four related concepts, each connected to the conversation metaphor that runs
through the course, will help you and your students make the shift from
focusing on the ideas articulated by individual authors to focusing on the
shared concepts that underlie most publicly debated issues:
Inexperienced writers might think that developing an argument about a public
issue is as simple as stating a claim and supporting it with evidence. Doing
so, however, results in an argument that fails to account for what’s already
been written about the issue. Writers need to be accountable members of a
conversation - that is, they should take time to listen to the conversation.
They should read what other writers have contributed to the conversation; they
should learn what types of evidence are valued by people involved in the
conversation; they should figure out what’s the current topic of the
conversation is. Failing to become an accountable member of the conversation
not only increases the likelihood that an argument will fail, it demonstrates a
lack of respect for the ideas and information that other members of the
conversation have brought to the conversation.
Newness: The flip side of the obligation to be
accountable is the obligation to contribute something new - something of value
- to the conversation. Simply rehashing the arguments and rehearsing
information that others have contributed to the conversation does not meet this
obligation. Newness, fortunately, comes in several flavors. You can offer something
radically new - the kind of newness that might win a Nobel prize, such as John
Nash’s suggestion that not all situations involve winners and losers, and that
in fact there are “win-win” situations. If you see your students providing this
kind of contribution to an issue, please let the other members of the
composition faculty know about it. A second kind of newness is a new way of
looking at an issue, perhaps by suggesting new a new analogy or by providing a
new analytic framework for understanding the issue, much as cognitive
psychologist Herbert Simon did when he suggested that we can understand certain
economic decision-making processes by examining them through the lens of
cognitive psychology. A third kind of newness involves providing new facts or
details that enhance our understanding of an issue, such as new first-hand
accounts from victims of a particular natural disaster, a new interpretation of
an event or work of art, or results from a scientific study that replicates
earlier work. In fact, the third kind of newness is the most common kind of
newness found in writing - or in life, for that matter.
Positions: When an author makes an argument, he or she
is taking a position on an issue. A position is a specific claim made by an
individual author. In the first Portfolio, your students defined the positions
of individual authors in their summaries. They staked out their own positions
on an issue when they wrote their responses.
Approaches: When a group of authors have positions that
are fairly similar, you can say that they take the same approach to the issue.
An approach is an interpretive device that helps you figure out how to make
sense of a complex issue. Rather than trying to remember 30 or 40 positions on
an issue - and make fine distinctions among them - you can define three or four
approaches to the issue. Examples of approaches include the pro-life and
pro-choice approaches to the abortion issue. Literally thousands of people
write about this issue in a given month, and close analysis will indicate that
there are subtle differences among each position. It’s easier for us to think
about the issue in terms of pro-life and pro-choice approaches, however, even
though doing so tends to obscure those subtle differences between approaches.
In this portfolio, your students will be
making the shift from focusing on individual positions to understanding the
similarities among positions that allow them to create approaches to an issue.
This portfolio begins with identifying an issue that interests them,
determining what their potential readers might know about that issue, creating
an annotated working bibliography, grouping their sources into approaches, and
conducting an analysis of those approaches.
The key in this first week of the portfolio
is helping students understand what a debatable issue is and how they can
explore it. By encouraging your students to select a debatable issue that
interests them, you’ll increase the likelihood that they will produce better
writing, since students are more likely to write well about issues they care
about. We want students to be invested in their issues so that they will think
critically about them and so that they revise their writing more willingly. We
also want students to apply concepts involving the writing situation (context,
audience and purpose) to their own thinking about writing. This goal is
achieved by having them write for a public audience of college students. Even
in the initial stages of their research, students will need to think about
which topics are most relevant to their audience. The library instruction will
help students hone their research skills and teach them to seek out current,
credible, and valid sources.
Required Readings and Assignments
"Narrowing and Focusing Your Subject" on pg. 570 - 571 in the PHG.
reading about current, debatable issues (skim the Web, read newspapers, listen
to KUNC FM (91.5), read magazines and journals, visit chat rooms, talk to
friends, parents, and instructors, etc…). Find at least two issues that
interest you and summarize them on the class forum for others to read.
Back online journal athttp://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/talkingback/and read at least three of the articles
published there. Also, read the journal’s mission statement in order to better
understand the context you're writing for. As you read the essays in Talking
Back, think about the audience the essays address.
Deborah Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" on pg. 401 - 405 in
the PHG. Note in the margins
which points you agree/disagree with and which points raise questions or
working on your Topic Proposal.
Potential Activities for this Week
WTL - Postscript for essay one (10 minutes):
Use this activity to encourage
students to reflect on their writing for Portfolio 1. Have them address
questions such as: What part of this writing process was most valuable to you
and why? Which parts of this essay were most challenging? How did you overcome
these challenges? What did you learn about writing or about yourself as a
writer while completing Portfolio 1?
Note to instructors:
Postscripts are useful when evaluating student writing because in them students
tend to recognize their own struggles. This frees you from labeling such
struggles as "problems" within your comments. Rather than directly
stating that a student needs to develop a claim, state that you agree with the
student's own observation that development is something that needs more
consideration. This approach creates a tone of, "I'm here to help
you" as opposed to, "I'm the expert."
Transition between Portfolio I and Portfolio
2 (10 minutes):Revisit the writing situation model from
Portfolio I to explain the transition between Portfolio I and Portfolio 2. This
will help students see where the course is heading.
You can draw the model on the board or on an
overhead and use it to explain that:
as readers who encounter texts as a way to learn and explore what is happing
culturally and socially.
become informed readers - drawn to certain specific issue that we want to learn
and research various texts to locate the "conversation" that
surrounds the issue we're interested in (find out what groups or individuals,
who are active in writing about the issue, are saying).
analyze these texts to figure out how they are shaped by cultural and social
influences. In turn, we consider how the texts that get produced are shaping
society and culture.
we've critically examined the existing viewpoints on an issue, we become
critical thinkers and informed writers. We then use our observations and
critical thinking skills to construct new arguments.
our own arguments for public discourse (that is, for a specific group of
readers in society who are arguing about an issue publicly) in the hope that
our opinions and views will influence that argument.
·Through this process, we become active participants in
society and culture.
concerns (e.g. planning for growth along the front range)
the shift from readers to writers:
In Portfolio I - you begin
as readers exploring issues and forming opinions
In Portfolio 2 - you choose
your own issue; then you research this issue and analyze the various approaches
to writing about it
In Portfolio 3 - you become
participants, writing arguments based on the research and critical thinking
you've done in Units I & II
Introduce Portfolio 2 (15 minutes): Distribute all four assignment sheets and let
students read through them. Fill in due dates, highlight key points, and
address students' concerns along the way. Try to help them understand the sequencing
for these assignments; and emphasize that all parts lead up to the Issue
Analysis which is intended for an audience of college aged readers. (For more
assistance with planning this activity, read the section on "Planning to
Introduce an Assignment" in the teaching guide, Planning a Class, on
You can also find a copy of the Guide in your appendix.
Discuss Topics and Issues (10 minutes): The first step in writing for Portfolio 2 is
to have students choose issues to work with. Emphasize that students will be
sticking with the issue they choose for the remainder of the course (9 weeks)
so they'll want to pick something they're interested in. The goal for this
activity is to help students think about choosing topics and narrowing their
topics into specific issues. Inform students that topics are too broad for
the issue analysis and that they'll need to narrow their topics in order to
focus their writing for Portfolio 2. Use the grid below (or one that you
develop) to illustrate the differences between topics and issues. Also, point
out that issues are often defined in the form of a debatable question.
Where should we store it?
How should we transport it across the
Should we continue to use nuclear energy
when we don't have a reliable solution for storing its waste?
What is the cause of the recent school
What should teachers' role be in managing
Should the government fund more counseling
programs in schools to reduce violence?
Brainstorm possible topics and issues (10 -
15 minutes):Have students generate a list of topics on
the board (ones that would interest them and other college students). Then,
practice narrowing these topics down to specific issues. If you want to assign
this as a homework activity, consider using the brainstorming, freewriting, or
looping activities in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio on Writing@CSU.
Develop criteria for what makes a "good
issue" (10 - 15 minutes): Since writing situations (purpose, audience, and context) determine
what makes an issue "good" - begin this activity by asking students
to consider their audience and purpose for writing their issue analysis. You
may review the various audiences and purposes (as listed below). But emphasize
that while students may have various audiences and purposes in mind, their
primary audience for their issue analysis should be college students. Their
primary purpose should be to show that their issue is complex.
To show that an issue is complex
You (the writer)
To analyze your issue as preparation for
writing an argument in Portfolio 3.
To prove that you can think critically about the writing
situation (connections between readers, writers and culture) by analyzing an
issue for college aged readers.
Here are some criteria to include for what
makes an issue "good":
issue should appeal to college students (including yourself).
should be complex enough to move beyond a simple pro/con debate.
should be popular enough to find a range of opinions on (informative sources
such as news reports are useful for learning about the issue, but convincing or
persuasive sources, those that take a position, are needed for the analysis
portion of the writing).
should be fairly current or it should represent an ongoing concern.
should build off of existing arguments. For example, you wouldn't want to
research an issue that has already been explored over and over (e.g. "Does
the media negatively affect a woman's self image?") This question lends
itself to no surprise since it has already been asked many times. Rather than
"reinventing the wheel" find out how an ongoing conversation has
evolved. See what direction it has most recently taken. Then, build on that
recent thread of conversation (e.g. "Much research has already shown that
fashion magazines have a negative effect on a woman's self image, but little
work has been done to see how magazines affect men. With the production of
men's magazines on the rise, perhaps we should begin to consider these
WTL - Practice narrowing topics down to
issues (10 - 15 minutes): Have
students list two or three topics that they might be interested in researching.
Then, have them narrow these topics into 3 - 4 specific related issues. Since
you've already modeled this activity as a class, you probably won't need to
thoroughly explain it. Verbal instructions or instructions on an overhead
should be sufficient.
Peer Review (10 - 15 minutes): Have students exchange their WTL's in either
pairs or groups. Ask them to read each others topics and issues and then decide
which ones would best meet the criteria for what makes a "good"
Discuss context and audience for the Issue
Analysis (10 minutes):Be sure that you and your students have
visited the Talking Back website before conducting this activity. Keep
in mind that your students will be thinking a lot about their readers, college
students, in Part II this portfolio, so focus more on context and the details
of the actual website for now.
Here are some points that you should touch
students know if you plan to publish any of their essays on Talking Back.
Usually instructors will allow several students to submit their papers (post
essays on SyllaBase), but will only publish the one that the class votes on.
to describe Talking Back and discuss the site's Mission Statement. Then,
ask them to describe what type of essay might get published here (given the
founders' purpose and intentions for the site).
that issue one is comprised of media analysis essays but issue two will
be made up of issue analysis essays (thus, students should not use the
posted essays as models since they're working with a different assignment).
However, you may discuss ways that former CO150 students appealed to their
college aged readers and whether or not it was effective (tone, language,
style, content, evidence…)
that students and instructors can enter Talking Back through the CSU
writing center, but the published essays are also available though search
engines. Given this larger context, ask students what they'll need to think
about. (Their research will need to be accurate and credible, and their writing
should be focused and cohesive. Their essay should also read like it was
written for a public audience, not as a response to a school assignment) .
Introduce Topic Proposal (5 minutes):Review the assignment sheet with students and answer any questions they
may have. Remind them to do some preliminary searching (talk with people about
their issue and read two or three sources)before completing this assignment.
Tell them that they do not need a bibliography page, but they should use author
tags to credit ideas in their proposal.
Review Tannen's essay, "The Argument
Culture" from the PHG (15 minutes): Facilitate a discussion for Tannen's essay. The goals for this
discussion should be: to help students understand what is meant by the
"dialogue" or "conversation" surrounding an issues, as
opposed to a debate; to discuss the importance of looking at all sides when
seeking "truth" on an issue in culture; and to explain the connection
between Tannen's essay and the Issue Analysis Essay for Portfolio 3. For more
assistance with planning this activity review the teaching guides on Planning
a Class and Leading Class Discussions on Writing@CSU and in your
Week 6: Monday, September 30th - Friday, October 4th
Goals for this Week
your class to the library for research instruction (if you did this during week
five, use the extra time during week six to catch up)
topics and issues in class
Part 2 of Portfolio 2 - Audience Exploration (due by Mon., October 7th
Tues., October 8th)
importance of audience when writing for Portfolio 2
what makes effective interview and survey questions
review to workshop interview and survey questions
Connection to Course Goals
Sharing issues in class fosters a sense of
writing community. Students learn that writers exchange ideas in public spaces
and they gain insight from what others are exploring. They also learn that
writers can share sources in a collaborative environment as a means to create
new texts. This process draws students' attention to other students and away
from the instructor allowing for a more comfortable atmosphere - and one that
is more conducive to peer review and workshop.
The discussion about audience is important
because many of the choices that students make (about content, language, tone,
etc…) will be determined by their audience, in this case college-aged readers
of Talking Back. You will also evaluate their issue analysis with the
perspective of a student reader in mind, so students need to envision their
audience as readers beyond you.
Finally, the discussion about writing
effective interview and survey questions will help students think critically
about their target readers and these readers' needs and interests. It is our
hope that the audience exploration essay will help students see that public
writing is situated among meaningful contexts and audiences.
Required Reading and Assignments
Read about "Interviewing" and
"Writing Surveys/Questionnaires" on pg. 250 - 252 in the PHG. Write five to eight interview or
survey questions for the audience exploration essay.
Potential Activities for this Week
Share topics and issues in class (25
minutes): First, decide if this
activity will be useful to your students since it takes a lot of time. If your
students are uncertain about their issue, this activity can help them learn
more about other issues (it's okay if several students are working with the
same issue). It can also be useful in encouraging students to collaborate more
and to share their sources. If you don't want to take this time in class, have
students share their topics on SyllaBase for homework.
Allow each student 1-2 minutes to answer the
following questions in a group discussion. The "Round Robin" approach
your issue within that topic or your research question?
you choose this issue (personal and social relevance)?
Collect Topic Proposals (3 minutes): You'll need to evaluate these quickly so
students know if they're on the right track before proceeding with Parts II -
IV. Let them know that you'll be looking to see that their issue is narrow,
debatable, current and relevant to their audience.
Assign Part II of Portfolio 2 - Audience
Exploration (5 minutes): Ask
students to read over the assignment sheet and address any questions or
concerns they have. This essay is due at the beginning of Week 7.
Discuss importance of audience for Portfolio
2 (10 minutes): As a group,
generate a list of responses to the following question: Why is it be useful to
find out what your readers already know and think about your issue?
Some possible responses:
appeal to their interests
connect with them so that you seem credible and trustworthy
out how informed they are and whether they're thinking critically about your
boring them or repeating what they already know
Discuss writing effective interview or
survey questions (20 minutes): First,
have students consider which they'll use, an interview or a survey, by
discussing the advantages and pitfalls of each. Use the points below and refer
to pg. 250 - 252 in the PHG to guide
this discussion. See if students can produce or add to the following points:
you with more control because you're there to guide the discussion (you can ask
interviewees to elaborate on their answers and you can clarify confusing
questions for more accurate responses).
a more comfortable atmosphere for raising personal questions.
themselves to witnessing body language (you can note which questions interest
your interviewees and which questions make them nervous).
a wider range of responses.
easier to tabulate.
to more honest responses since writing is more anonymous that talking.
Second, discuss audience. Students should
interview a range of other students at CSU. For example, rather than interviewing
five freshman art students, tell them to interview one freshman art student,
one senior political science major, one sophomore athlete, etc…
Third, discuss effective interview or survey
questions. Use pg. 250 - 252 in the PHG
and the points below to guide this discussion.
Effective questions will:
shaped for a target audience
confusing or ambiguous language
respectful and somewhat objective
into account different uses for open ended and closed questions
Most importantly, effective questions will
address the writer's purpose - which in this case is to find out what students
already know about an issue, to realize their attitudes toward the issue, and
to help determine the complexity with which they view the issue (Avoid asking
questions for the sake of asking questions; stick to your purpose!)
Tell students that the length of
the interview or survey will depend on their purpose. Typically 5 - 8 questions
If time: Allow students to draft their interview
or survey questions (15 minutes):As students work quietly,
offer to address their questions and concerns one on one. If you run out of
time in class, consider finishing this activity on SyllaBase and having
students provide responses to each others questions for homework.
Use peer review to workshop interview and
survey questions (10 - 15 minutes): After
students have completed a draft of their questions, have them exchange drafts
in pairs or groups. Refer them back to the criteria established earlier on to
provide some useful feedback. Also, ask them to refer to the audience
exploration assignment sheet and the issue analysis assignment sheet when
answering the following questions. You can put these on an overhead (revise and
add to them as you see fit). For additional help with peer review, see the
guide an Planning Workshops and Peer Review in the appendix.
Will these questions lead the writer to
a better understanding of what their readers' knowledge of the issue is?
Will these questions help the writer determine the complexity with which
their readers view their issue?
Which questions most effectively meet
Which questions seem less related to the
goals for Portfolio 2? How might the writer revise these to better meet
What suggestions can you offer to help
the writer develop more questions that will address the goals for
Where might the writer improve style,
tone, language or clarity?
Week 7: Monday, October 7th - Friday, October 11th
to instructors: The English
Department's "Reading Days" are on Thursday, October 10th
and Friday, October 11th. Meeting for class during this time is
optional. As a result, fewer activities are planned in the syllabus for this
week. Since students will have started Part 3 of Portfolio 2 - collecting
sources for their annotated bibliography - you may decide to give them this
time to work at home or in the library. Or, you may decide to use this time to catch
up with other things in class.
Goals for this Week
Collect Part 2 - Audience Exploration -
of Portfolio 2
Assign Part 3 - Annotated Bibliography -
of Portfolio 2 (due after conferences at the start of Week 9 - Monday,
October 21st or Tuesday, October 22nd)
Define positions and approaches
Discuss evaluating sources
Discuss using Research Assistant HyperFolio for collecting and grouping
Discuss using the Working Bibliography
tool in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio to create the Annotated
Connection to Course Goals
Collecting sources for the annotated
bibliography will help students learn about the recent conversation surrounding
their issue. Students' previous experience with research may have involved
collecting and simply regurgitating information on a topic. Here, we are asking
them to think critically about a) their role as researchers and b) the choices
they make as writers, by evaluating their sources for a specified purpose. We
hope that this approach gives them a better "real world" sense of how
and why writers research and respond to public issues.
Required Readings and Assignments
Read "Evaluating Library
Sources" on pg. 588 - 589 in the PHG.
Collect and begin reading sources on
Complete the Grid of Common Points
Activity in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio
Complete the Grouping Your Sources
worksheet in Research Assistant HyperFolio
Bring a print-out of your annotated
bibliography to class at the beginning of Week 8 (first class following
the reading days)
Potential Activities for this Week
Collect Part II - Audience Exploration (5
minutes):Ask students for some informal feedback on
this assignment. What did they learn about their audience? How will this
knowledge affect the way they approach writing their issue analysis? What would
they do differently next time they interview or survey readers?
Assign Part III - Annotated Bibliography (5
minutes): Give students a few
minutes to read over the assignment sheet and address any questions or concerns
they may have.
Introduce the concept of Positions and
Approaches (20 minutes):Since "approaches" are addressed in
the annotated bibliography assignment sheet, students will probably raise
questions about what this means. Use the following explanation for positions
and approaches (or one that you construct) to introduce students to this new
concept . We acknowledge (as should you) that others may define
"positions" and “approaches” differently outside this class, but for
the purposes of CO150, students will need to learn and use these concepts.
The following is just one example intended to
illustrate the difference between positions and approaches. Feel free to
substitute "legalization of drugs" with your own model topic. You
might also find it useful to reference Deborah Tannen's essay "The
Argument Culture" from the PHG when running this discussion. For more
assistance with planning this activity, see the "Introducing a New
Concept" section in the Planning Class Discussion guide located in
of Positions and Approaches: In
high school most of us learned to simplify approaches into two categories,
"pro" and "con," in order to examine a debate. However, approaches
typically run much deeper than "pro" and "con" since every
person's views are complicated by various social and cultural factors. Here's
an example: Let's say we reduced the issue of legalizing drugs to
"pro" and "con"--then it could be said that both government
officials and members of religious groups take the same approach toward
legalizing drugs, since both groups oppose making these substances legal. A
closer examination of the arguments made by members of each group indicates,
however, that they do not share the same views. Government representatives are
likely to oppose legalization because they claim that drugs are harmful to
society as a whole. In contrast, authors who oppose legalization because of
their religious beliefs might do so largely because it goes against the
teaching of their faiths.
Let’s consider another group--parents. Some
of these individuals may oppose drug legalization because their children have
become a victims of drug abuse. These positions would differ from those
advanced by members of the previous groups due to different experiences that
have shaped parents’ lives. However, depending on the specific argument they
make, a parent who writes a text protesting the legalization of drugs might
share the approach taken by a government official or member of a religious
group. Thus, although a parent will have his or her own position on this issue,
he or she would take the same approach as that taken by certain government
officials and members of particular religious groups.
Yet another group weighing in on the issue of
legalization is civil libertarians-who believe that individuals should be free
to make decisions about drug use free of regulation by the government. These
authors argue that drug use is an individual choice and, even if it harms the
individual, is nonetheless something that the individual should be free to do.
This argument is similar in many ways to arguments about mandatory use of
helmets on motorcycles and even to some arguments that “risky” sports such as
skiing should not be regulated by the government.
Two additional groups interested in this
issue adopt economic approaches. One group argues that the amount of money the
government is spending attempting to combat drug use has largely been wasted.
Since drug use has declined only somewhat since the government began fighting
the drug war, the government should reconsider its tactics and, as it did when
it lifted the prohibition on alcohol, legalize drug use. The core of this
argument is that the money now spent on the drug ware would be better spent on
societal needs. The other group taking an economic approach - albeit a very
different approach - are companies that would view the legalization of drugs
such as marijuana as a threat to their viability might include representatives
of alcohol and tobacco companies. It's fair to say that alcohol and tobacco
companies don't oppose drug use solely because drugs are harmful to people
(after all, the consumption of both results in many deaths per year). It’s also
fair to say that these authors would be unlikely to come out and say, “Don’t
legalize drugs because it will cost us money.” As a result, while
representatives of tobacco and alcohol companies might oppose legalization of
drugs for economic reasons, they would probably avoid couching their arguments
in those terms.
Given these examples, clearly it would be
inaccurate to clump these very different arguments into "pro" and
"con". If we did, much of the meaning or truth behind the issue would
be lost. The goal for a "good" writer of public discourse should
always be to produce texts that seek to fairly represent the issues (for the
betterment of society). Thus, it can be viewed as dishonest for writers to
reduce the complexity of an issue unnecessarily. In part, this is why you
(student writers) are being asked to think critically about these different
positions and approaches.
After you've read and summarized your
sources, look for common threads that cut across sources as a way to group them
into different approaches. Here's what it might look like for the example
Legalization of Drugs
1: Oppose legalization because it
is harmful to society as a whole
2: Oppose legalization for moral
reasons because it is against religious teachings
3: Favor legalization for
individual rights reasons
4: Favor legalization for economic
reasons because the war against drugs has been ineffective
5: Oppose legalization for
Of course, you could argue that the
government is also economically motivated and that representatives of alcohol
and tobacco companies may legitimately believe that drugs are harmful to
society. If the support for these claims outweighs the others, you'd need to
group the positions of authors arguing about differently. Keep in mind that grouping
positions into approaches is far from an exact science; you'll need to read
various arguments before generalizing views into approaches in order to
represent each group fairly. (Tell students that you'll review the concept of
positions and approaches more after they've collected and read their sources
for the annotated bibliography. This is just an introduction to the concept).
Mini-Debate on an issue (35 minutes):If you would like to further reinforce the concept that approaches to
an issue run deeper than pro/con, try using this activity. The goal of this
activity is to have students understand and practice the process they’ll need
to go through in analyzing their own issue. One of the most effective ways to
reach this goal is to have students generate a debate on a familiar issue. If
you’re having trouble coming up with an activity or want ideas, see the sample
activity in the appendix that asks students to analyze the positions and values
of different authors involved in the issue of the legalization of marijuana.
This debate activity can be done with any issue, but the question of whether
marijuana should be legalized has worked well in the past because it lends
itself to easily describable groups and some interesting alliances that help
distinguish between approaches. Whatever activity you plan, be sure to
emphasize these key concepts:
take different positions because they have different values and concerns.
can be different positions within a particular approach (i.e. parents and
government representatives might both be against legalization of drugs because
it harms society, but parents are likely to make different - most likely more
personal - arguments than government officials).
talk about approaches, we’re not referring to pro, con, and something in between. It’s much more
complicated than that.
making an academic argument, you have to consider and address the audience’s
values and concerns (possibly their opposing arguments) in order to be
research an issue to get a sense of what approaches exist (e.g. legalizing
marijuana lends itself to easily distinguishable groups who would take
own issue, you’ll need to find research to show that each approach you identify
is actually valid.
Discuss evaluating sources (15 - 20
minutes):The goal for this activity is to guide
students in choosing effective sources for their issue analysis. Explain to
students that they'll save time researching and writing if they know how to
determine which sources will be most useful to them later on. Refer to pg. 588
- 589 in the PHG to guide this
discussion and include the following points:
kinds of sources are relevant for Portfolio 2?
sources (facts, dates, news reports, etc..) will help you in the beginning
stages to gain background knowledge on your issue.
sources, written by reputable individuals and groups will be most useful in
helping you meet your purpose for writing the issue analysis. These will
provide a range of different positions and approaches to help you show that
your issue is complicated.
reports from news sources will not "take a position" on an issue, but
they can lead you to more argumentative sources if you follow up with research
on names mentioned in the report.
current should sources be for Portfolio 2?
will depend on the issue you're researching.
this using some of your students' issues as examples.
sources are reliable for Portfolio 2?
the sources you'll need for Portfolio 2 will contain biases. One of the goals
for this portfolio is to examine the ways that beliefs and biases shape a
writer's approach to writing about an issue. Therefore, you'll want to collect
opinion based texts so that you can analyze where these viewpoints come from
and how they affect the conversation surrounding your issue. However, you'll
also want to use credible sources. Don't be misled to think that "Robby
Republican's" personal web site can accurately represent the views of all
to instructors: You may also want
to bring in a range of sample texts (on a debatable issue that you choose) to
have student practice evaluating texts. Try using editorials, political
cartoons, chat room scripts, personal web sites, government documents,
scientific texts, and research. Add 20 minutes to this activity if you decide
to practice evaluating sources in class. Try putting these sample texts on an
overhead in an effort to save paper.
Week 8: Monday, October 14th - Friday, October 18th
to instructors: This week you will
meet with students to conference about their progress with Portfolio 2. If you
are teaching a T/TH section, cancel one class. If you are teaching a MWF
section, cancel two classes. Plan to meet for 10 minutes with each student or
plan to meet for 20 minutes with small groups of students working on similar
issues. You may choose whichever approach you prefer. Detailed instructions for
what to cover during conferences are provided in the activities section for
Goals for This Week
positions and approaches
annotated bibliographies - use the grid of common points
the Research Assistant HyperFolio worksheet for arranging sources
for individual or group conferences
conferences outside of class
Connection to Course Goals
Reviewing positions and approaches will
encourage students to think critically about their issue, specifically about
the reasons why authors take certain positions on their issue and why its
helpful to think about similar groups of positions as approaches. The work they
do with the annotated bibliography will set them up for their issue analysis
and help them to meet the goal of showing that an issue is complicated.
Conferences reinforce the idea that writing is a process which involves
collaboration and revision. By exchanging ideas with their professor, students
will learn that writing is a process that involves making careful choices (in
regards to purpose, audience, and context).
Required Reading and Assignments:
the grid of common points for at least 10 sources
the annotated bibliography - use HyperFolio worksheet to arrange at least 10
sources into approaches
Potential Activities for this Week
Review positions and approaches (20 - 25
minutes): Most likely, students
will still be confused about how to arrange their annotated bibliography into
approaches. The goal for this activity is to guide their thinking by modeling
the process of arranging positions into approaches. This activity will also
prepare students for the analytical thinking that we ask them to do in the
issue analysis portion of this portfolio.
Use the board and follow these steps:
a.)Choose a larger topic such as gun control and
ask students to write down what they think about this topic. Which arguments do
they support and oppose around this topic?
b.)Write students responses on board. Try to
generate a large list of maybe 8-10 possible responses or reactions to this
students don't include reasons for their positions, ask them why they take these positions. Include a
reason to support each view.
d.)Then, ask students to look for common threads
or themes that cut across each response. Have them group the many responses
into common approaches (maybe 3 or 4). Encourage them to create narrow
categories (beyond pro and con). As you group positions into approaches, ask
them to be attentive to what factors determine how positions get grouped
(writers with common purposes, audiences, beliefs, values, background
e.)Once you've arranged positions into 3 - 4
approaches, label each group with a phrase that accurately represents each the
group. Explain to students that this is what they'll need to do with their own
issue to complete the annotated bibliography portion of Portfolio 2.
f.)Then, tell students that you're going to use
this arrangement to illustrate what they'll need to think about for the issue
analysis. The issue analysis will ask them to critically analyze the social and
cultural factors that have shaped these positions and approaches. Students will
need to consider why people take the
positions they do. What has influenced their viewpoints? This is an essential
step in the writing process, because in order for a writer to make an effective
argument advocating his or her own views, he or she needs to understand where
others' views come from. Also, in understanding others' views a writer is
encouraged to look beyond personal (sometimes limited) views, and seek a fuller
understanding of an issue. Often, a writer will change their original position
based on their understanding of the origins of other writers’ positions.
Note: Ask students to discuss the social and
cultural factors that have informed each approach. Use the following questions
to guide the discussion:
historical events might have influenced these approaches? (terrorist attacks,
personal events/experiences? (a robbery at home or a break in)
laws may have influenced these approaches? (background checks, safety locks)
values are associated with each approach? (safety, freedom, choice,)
the goals or purposes for each approach? (to allow guns but make them safer, to
eliminate gun sales, to allow gun sales for all…)
approach became an argument, who would be the target audience for that
might purpose and audience shape the way those who take this approach present
or “spin” the issue?
how might the various presentations of the issue affect the way readers react
to it and thus affect the course of the debate? (Emotional appeals involving
Columbine may create overly sympathetic readers who ignore rational arguments
for gun use or scare tactic used by
the NRA may frighten readers into supporting gun use.)
by asking students why it might be important to think critically about the
social and cultural forces that shape a conversation about an issue. Why might
this be worthwhile for a writer to consider as he/she constructs an argument?
the grid of common points (5 minutes):Show students how to use a Grid of Common Points to identify key ideas in
sources and to note the similarities and differences in the responses of
individual authors to those key ideas. For example:
Causes of School
Effects of School
Violence on Society
Solutions to School
depiction of violence in the media
Source 3 …
Work on the grid of common points in class
(15 - 25 minutes): After
completing the activity above, allow students to work on grouping their
annotated bibliographies into approaches on the grid. As students work, address
their concerns and questions one on one. If you are teaching a T/TH section,
you might allow some extra time for this activity. Or you might have students
peer review their grids in pairs or groups if they finish early.
Introduce the HyperFolio worksheet for
arranging sources (10 minutes):Tell students that once
they've finished their grid of common points, they'll need to work on visually
arranging their positions into approaches on HyperFolio. Provide some handouts
of the HyperFolio worksheet and lead them through the process of creating
groups of sources, annotating those sources, drawing circles around the
sources, and so on. Then assign the worksheet as homework.
Sign up for individual or group conferences
(5 minutes):Tell students that instead of meeting for
class, next time you will meet with them individually (or in groups). Pass
around a sign up sheet specifying dates and times for conferences. Explain that
the reason for conferencing is to see how students are progressing on Portfolio
2 and to clear up any questions about the first three parts of the portfolio.
Students will probably have some confusions about the issue analysis portion of
the portfolio, but tell them that you'll address these later on. The focus for
the conference should be on their issue (its relevancy, clarity, currency,
focus…) and the sources they're gathering. Let students know that you'll
discuss the issue analysis with more detail after they've turned in their
annotated bibliography, specifically in regards to developing their analysis of
social and cultural influences. Otherwise, you may find yourself
"teaching" the issue analysis over and over during conferences.
Week 9: Monday, October 21st - Friday, October 25th
Goals for this Week
Part 3 - Annotated Bibliographies - of Portfolio 2
Part 4 - Issue Analysis Report - of Portfolio 2 (due at the beginning of Week
the purposes for the Issue Analysis Report
how to analyze the "conversation surrounding an issue" by reading
sample essays and applying them to the Issue Analysis Grid
Issue Analysis Grids
Connection to Course Goals
Experienced researchers and writers learn to
draw connections between sources and make choices when organizing ideas for
their writing. The issue analysis grid helps students think in more complicated
ways (like these researchers and writers) by asking them to critically examine
their sources and synthesize ideas. Since this kind of thinking might be new to
college students, modeling the process will prepare them for this activity.
Required Reading and Assignments
Read through activity #3 and decide which parts you'd like to assign for
homework and which parts you'd like to complete in class
3 Issue Analysis Grids (due at the start of Week 10)
Potential Activities for this Week
Assign Part 3 - Issue Analysis Report - of
Portfolio 2 (10 minutes):Give students a few minutes to read over the
assignment sheet and address any questions or concerns they may have. Review
the purpose for writing the Issue Analysis Report. Have students brainstorm a
list of reasons that support the purpose for writing this report.Ask
oWhy is it
important to show that an issue is complex (based on what you've learned so far
from researching and writing in Portfolio 2)?
it especially important for college students to see the complexity of an issue?
Tell students that they should use this
discussion as a way to think about how they'll introduce their issue in the
analysis. Ask them to consider how they will appeal to their audience and give
them a reason to read their analysis. This conversation will help students
understand their purpose for writing (beyond completing an assignment). In turn
they will produce more thoughtful and focused essays.
Model how to analyze the "conversation
surrounding an issue" (you decide): Since the issue
analysis report will pose a new challenge for students, begin this portion of
Portfolio 2 by modeling how writers critically examine their sources. Many
students have never been asked to think or write analytically, so they'll need
to see some examples in order to succeed with this assignment. This activity could
take anywhere between 40 - 75 minutes, depending on which parts you complete in
class and which parts you assign for homework.
for this activity:
a.)Choose a debatable issue that interests you.
b.)Tell students that this is "your own
issue" and that you'd like to use it as a class model before having them
analyze their own issues. (Try pitching it as if you're also writing for
Portfolio 2 and you need their help). Let them know that this process will
clear up their confusions and also set the standard for your expectations.
c.)Find a range of sources on your issue
beforehand (3 - 5)
d.)Pick 3 of these sources for students to read,
and link them to your class reading list on SyllaBase (please don't make
hundreds of copies). Also, if some of your students don’t have access to computers/printers,
put copies in the library on reserve. Have students make copies of the readings
beforehand and read them for homework (or in class)
e.)After students have read all three articles,
apply each of the articles to the Issue Analysis Grid. Do this activity as a
whole class (at the board or on an overhead) so that you can model the process.
Suggestions for modeling the grid:
students to look closely at the texts when filling in responses.
phrases such as "readers' needs and interests" and "cultural
norms and beliefs" along the way (suggest that they take notes).
questions that ask students to "read between the lines" looking at
reader and writer assumptions, cultural influences, historical events, etc…
to do further research. For example, if a writer doesn't come out and say,
"I believe that Mickey Mouse is the axis of evil…" some students will
be quick to respond with, "This writer has no values, beliefs or
biases." Try not to let them get away with surface responses without doing
some digging first.
f.)Be sure that you've filled in the grid before
doing this activity in class, and that you've done some research and digging
yourself. Having done so, you can set a standard and model your expectations in
class (e.g. "Since I couldn't tell from this article who Joseph Biden was
or what he believed in, I visited his website. Turns out that he's the
Democratic Senator of Delaware and he supports such issues as fighting crime
and drugs, protecting women from violence, and nuclear arms control. This
information helped me decide which approach to group him with).
g.)Explain that your model is only a small
sample to illustrate the process of thinking critically about texts. Students
will need to include 8 - 15 sources or their grids. Let them know that he grid
aims to help them organize viewpoints so that they can write a focused Issue
Analysis for their target readers.
Assign Issue Analysis Grid (5 minutes):Explain that students will need to complete a grid for at least 3
approaches that include a total of 8 - 15 sources. To avoid making 3 copies for
everyone, give students 1 copy in class and then paste the grid onto SyllaBase
for students to print at home.
CO150 - Issue Analysis Grid
Name of Approach
Part I: The Writers
Sources for this approach
Writer's background and biases
Writer's beliefs and values
Writer's knowledge or expertise
Part II: The Readers
Sources for this approach
Who are the target readers?
Reader' s needs and interests?
Reader's background and biases?
Reader's beliefs and values?
Part III: Social and Cultural Influences
Sources that take this approach
What Historical events shaped this
What recent events or experiences shaped
laws and social codes shape this position?
What assumptions, social norms or cultural
beliefs shape this approach?
Week 10: Monday, October 28th - Friday, November 1st
Goals for this Week
Issue Analysis Grids and HyperFolio worksheets
introductions, organization and development
a sample Issue Analysis essay (in the appendix)
Issue Analysis essays in class
Connection to Course Goals
If you decide to model your own sample essay
in class, you might also show students earlier drafts to illustrate the point
that effective writing involves a process of revision. You can also meet this goal
using the sample in the appendix if you discuss ways that the
"sample" student could make their paper stronger with revision. The
workshop reinforces students’ understanding of writing as a process and
contributes to the sense of community that writers need.
Required Reading and Assignments
the Issue Analysis Grids and HyperFolio worksheet
two polished drafts of your Issue Analysis Report to class for workshop
comment on at least one other students' Issue Analysis draft
revisions to your Issue Analysis Report and prepare to turn in Portfolio 2
Potential Activities for this Week
Discuss Issue Analysis Grids and HyperFolio
worksheets (5 minutes): Briefly
address any concerns with these assignments and tell students that you won't
collect these until the portfolio is due because they will need them to write
their Issue Analysis essays.
Address introductions, organization and
development (10 min): By this
point, students are probably asking, "What should my report look
like?" In CO150, we generally try to avoid prescribing forms for
writing. We tell students that purpose and audience should guide the choices
they make; and that they should focus on questions like, "What am I trying
to accomplish in writing this? Who are my readers? What are their needs and
interests? How can I best reach them?" Yet, many students have only been
taught to write using forms, so they feel lost at sea when writing for a
purpose. Here are a few points to address for those who need more direction.
Explain that this is only one way to
approach this assignment. Creative individuals with a strong sense of purpose
may develop variations and still write a successful essay.
In your Introduction:
your target readers
introduce the issue
purpose for writing and explain why this purpose should interest readers (this
will serve as your claim or essay map)
writing about approaches describe each approach and who takes this approach;
then explain what their purpose is, who their readers are, and what social,
historical and cultural factors have shaped their views on the issue.
your goal is to attempt to describe the situation as whole, rather than to
focus on the particular situations shaping each approach. You may distinguish
among approaches and use specific positions as examples to illustrate the
differences, but the goal is to look at the conversation as a whole. Use the
details of your analysis to serve this larger purpose, rather than getting caught
up in the analysis (and losing sight of the purpose).
Read/review the sample Issue Analysis Report
(25 - 30 minutes):Use the sample in the appendix or create your
own sample Issue Analysis Report. Have students read the report and write down
what was effective and what needs improvement. Then review the sample in class.
For further assistance with this activity, see the section on "Planning to
Model or Critique Student Samples" in the Planning a Class teaching
guide, located on Writing@CSU and in your appendix.
Workshop Issue Analysis Reports (you
decide):If you have time, consider giving students a
full class period to exchange and read drafts in groups of three or four. Then,
use the following class to have students discuss the comments they wrote for
homework. If you are short on time, have students exchange drafts in pairs and
complete the workshop in one class period. Use the sample workshop guide in the
appendix or create your own. For assistance with this activity, read the guide
on Planning Workshops and Peer Review located in your appendix.