Discussing Schrag's essay will help students apply their knowledge about academic summary to a much more lengthy and complicated essay. Similarly, discussing effective use of paraphrasing and quoting will help students write more accurate and concise summaries (especially when dealing with longer texts). Introducing all three types of response will prepare students to think about the various ways they can respond to a text and develop their ideas with reasons and evidence. Responding is also important for the thematic aims of this course because it allows students to invest their own ideas on issues of public importance.
1. Model Introduction: “Today we’ll continue discussing summary, applying ideas to Schrag’s essay (since his essay is more challenging than Singer’s text). We’ll also review how to effectively paraphrase and quote from a text. This is a useful skill to learn for writing summaries (especially for writing summaries of longer texts, like Schrag’s). Finally, we’ll look at the different ways you might respond to an essay after you’ve successfully summarized it.”
2. Use students' homework to discuss summarizing Schrag's essay: This activity aims to get students thinking about how they might organize all of the key points and evidence from Schrag's essay into an academic summary.
Part I (10 minutes): Tell students that you'd like them to practice summarizing a complicated essay by listing all of the main points and important evidence from Schrag's essay on the board. Guide this discussion by writing the following categories on the board, and have students use their homework to generate responses:
Schrag's Overall Argument or Main Point:
Key Points made by Proponents of High Stakes Testing:
Key Points made by Opponents of High Stakes Testing:
Why Evidence is Important to Writer's Purpose:
**Note: Be sure you've read through Schrag's essay beforehand and generated your own answers for this activity so you're prepared to deal with various responses in class. If students offer incorrect answers, ask them to refer to the text to show you where their ideas came from. If possible, try to avoid having to take on the role of correcting them yourself. Encouraging students to respond to each other's ideas will make the class more student-centered and means you don't have to come down on them for being wrong. But, of course, do correct them if the class fails to. A little discomfort now is better than leaving people with a misinterpretation of the essay.
Model Transition to Next Activity: Now that we know what could be included in an academic summary for Schrag's essay, let's think about how we might select and arrange this information.
Part II (15-20 minutes): Have students break up into groups of three. Ask them to generate a tentative outline for how they might organize the information on the board into an academic summary. One method for facilitating this activity is to pass out dry erase markers and have them write on overhead transparencies. This way, students can easily present their group work to the class. Or, just have them write on paper. Ask students to consider: How would they start their summary? How long should it be? Which information seems most important to include? Which points seem less important? Tell them that they do not have to write out a complete summary for Schrag’s essay; just an outline with a list of ideas.
Have two or three groups present their outlines. You might wander around the room as they work and choose groups whose outlines look the strongest (secretly, of course). After they present, ask them to explain why they decided to structure their summary this way. Be sure to point out what you think is effective from their outline and also how it could be improved.
Model Transition to Next Activity: Let’s shift our focus now from summarizing to responding. For homework today, I asked you to read about the different types of responses listed on page 162- 163 in the PHG. If you recall, your audience for Essay 1 will be most interested in your response. So it's important that we start thinking about the different types of response you can provide. Please open your books to… .
3. Introduce the concept of responding (10 minutes): The goal of this discussion is to briefly introduce students to all three types of response: agree/disagree, interpretive/reflective, analytic/evaluative. They will practice all three types with upcoming essays. For now, it's only important that they understand the differences between each type. Also, let them know that a combination of responses is possible for Essay 1. If they choose a combination, however, they need to be sure that their response makes an overall point.
Review the points on page 162 in the PHG, highlighting important concepts and phrases, and check out the teaching guide on Types of Summary and Response (http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/summaryresponse/). Be sure to discuss kinds of evidence and ask students to consider which kinds of evidence would work best for different types of response. Since students will be writing an agree/disagree response to Schrag's essay for homework, you might focus the conversation here. Remind them that, in addition to giving a response, they must also provide reasons and evidence to show readers why they agree or disagree with an idea.
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…
4. Model how to develop a response with reasons and evidence (15 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.
5. Model Conclusion: “Today we considered approaches to summarizing a more complicated essay. Hopefully, you’re starting to feel more comfortable with these concepts. We’ll continue to practice summarizing, but for the remainder of the portfolio, our discussions will focus on responding. If you’re still struggling with summary concepts, you should visit my office hours or drop by the Writing Center in the basement of Eddy.”
Choose one main idea from Schrag's essay and write a one-and-a-half to two-page response to that idea. Write out the main idea, providing author tags to show whose idea it is. Then, respond to the idea, stating whether you agree or disagree with it. Give reasons for why you agree or disagree and provide specific evidence to show why you feel this way (personal experience, cultural observations, or textual evidence). Post your response to the class discussion forum on SyllaBase. Bring a printed copy of your response to class.
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). You don’t need to write a summary or response to the essay at this time, but you should be ready to discuss it when you get to class.