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