Today’s class introduces students to the third and final type of response that
we’ll cover in CO150. The analytic response involves evaluating the
effectiveness of a text, using specified criteria, for the purpose of judging a
text’s success in meeting its purposes and audience expectations. The task of
evaluating a text is a complex one, since it involves grasping the writer’s
context and purpose and then judging it against criteria the writer deems
appropriate for the context and purpose. Students must apply their critical
reading and thinking skills to do this response well since evaluative responses
will tend to become laundry lists of empty praise if not understood for the
complex responses that they are intended to be. Part of the challenge for the
writer who undertakes this response is that he or she must understand not only
the argument being made in the text but also that argument’s adequacy. Such
analytic capability can only come after a writer is familiar with the larger
discussion and is able to look critically at the text in question.
Connection to Course
Goals: The analytic response can be used for Portfolio 1 and is implicated
in processes of text evaluation in Portfolios 2 and 3 as well. Moreover, the
ability to do this type of response indicates a student’s growing confidence in
engaging in the conversation on the issue at hand and implies full
understanding of the debate and its participants’ arguments.
A Possible Sequence of Activities
1.Introduce third type of response - analyzing the
effectiveness of a text, applied to Bollinger and the Thernstroms
2.Assign as reading a few Letters to the Editor (New York Times). Have them take note of
the length of these letters and ask them to imagine how these “abstracts” might
have been fully developed in the authors’ original letters. You might also
assign the other short readings from the NYT electronic reserve readings.
3.Reflect on responses and make plans for revising a
response for the context and purposes outlined in the Portfolio One assignment
Introduction: Write an
introduction that suggests we are approaching the end of formal instruction in
summary and response for Portfolio 1. Review the items that will be discussed
in class today and let students know where they should be in the process of
preparing Portfolio 1.
1. Review the third type of response -
analyzing the effectiveness of a text (10 minutes): Begin by telling
students that they could write an either of these essay for Portfolio One and
that all types of response are available to them. (Ask: Could we agree or
disgree with Bollinger or the Thernstroms? Could we challenge their assumptions
and the implications of their arguments? The answer to both questions is, of
course, yes.) However, for your immediate purposes, you’re going to focus on
writing an analytic response.
the following definition. Put this on an overhead or refer students to the appropriate
section in the PHG. You might point
out that the example of response in the PHG that they read for today is, in
fact, a text effectiveness analysis and thus provides a good example of this
The goal 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, organization, evidence,
language, and style. Your objective for writing an analytic response is to
point out a text’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.
student understanding of the Bollinger and Thernstrom essays. Divide them
first into “Expert Groups” of 4-5, asking them first to discuss the article
they all (everyone in the group) wrote bullets about. Have the groups reach
consensus on the main idea (thesis), supporting key points, contexts for the
perspectives/positions of the authors, and judgments about tone, success of the
argument’s development, and any other criteria for evaluation that you may wish
to have them discuss. Then reorganize into pairs from differing essay groups
and have them share their findings (Teaching Pairs). This activity is a
variation on the “Jigsaw” in which students serve as “experts” for classmates
and “teach” essays to one another. The idea also works when you’re reading
multiple texts for class and want students to “share the load” or take
responsibility for some of the substance. Be sure to mingle and eavesdrop so
that you can check on their understanding of the texts.
Expert Group Questions:
·What is the main idea of this essay? How does
this essay distinguish itself from other sources you’ve read in terms of its
·What are three or four key points that are made
in support of this main idea?
·Who are the authors? What relationship might
there be between who the authors are (roles, jobs, affiliations, etc.) and the
positions they take on this issue?
·Where was this article published and what cues
does that site provide to the writer’s affiliations and/or purposes?
·Where is this author(s) most clear about his or
her point? Where do you struggle to follow the logic?
·What is the tone of the article? (Serious,
sarcastic, mean-spirited, congenial?) How does the tone overlap with the
writer’s purposes? Is he or she writing toward friends or toward adversaries?
·Based upon other arguments you’ve read on the
SAT, how does this article’s argument hold up? Where would other people we’ve
read disagree with this author—and why? How would someone who disagreed with
this author likely challenge this author’s ideas or ways of stating his/her
ideas? How effective is the author’s “case structure” or way of developing
·Select one or two of the above questions to
focus on as you indicate to your new group members what they need to know about
the article you read and are now evaluating. (Summary of main idea and key points)
·Be specific with your criteria for evaluation.
·Point to specific moments in the text that
provide evidence of your evaluation points.
·Based upon your evaluation, how would you judge
this article for your new group members? What would you want them to value
about this article? What would you caution them to be wary of?
3. Begin a whole class discussion on how to
write an analytic response to the Bollinger and the Thernstroms’ arguments (20
minutes): Review each of the elements or criteria for analytic evaluation.
Encourage students to refer to the text when responding to the following
questions. Try to push them beyond giving surface responses (remind them that
in their essays they’ll need to develop answers with reasons and evidence
rather than generalizations). Use the following questions as a guide to review
the elements for evaluating a writer’s text analytically (feel free to add to
these). You may want to focus on just one or two so
that the discussion becomes more detailed and penetrating rather than just a
superficial itemization of strengths and weaknesses without serious analysis.
·Did Bollinger/Thernstrom effectively accomplish
the purpose in the text? What was his/their purpose, and why or why not were
those goals achieved?
·Will the argument meet the needs and interests
of the intended readers? Who are they? What are their values? What are their
beliefs? Would they oppose or support his argument? Why or Why not? Is the
article truly argumentative (challenging the audience in some way) or is it simply
“preaching to the choir”?
·What can you say about the organization of the
argument? Was it easy to follow? Did it progress in a logical order? Where did
you falter as you read?
·What about the evidence used to support the
·How does the author(s) support the main points?
What is the quality of the sources referred to? Are they reliable? Does the
writer(s) support all claims? What kind of evidence does the writer(s) use?
Which claims are left unsupported?
·What can you say about Bollinger’s or the
Thernstroms’ tone and approach in the essay—that is, does it seem fair and
reasonable or is the tone somehow off-putting? Pinpoint locations that cause
the effect you describe.
·Write a well-constructed analytic claim for the
article. How do you judge the article as a whole and based upon what criteria? Are
both your judgment and the criteria you used to make this judgment clearly
stated in your claim? Write a brief phrase outline for how this essay would be
constructed, including broad references to text evidence you would cite in
constructing your evaluation of this text.
Explain that analytical responses can serve to: praise a writer for the
effectiveness of their text; point out the problems or shortcomings in a
writer’s argument; praise some parts of a writer’s argument and challenge
others. In short, however, the task of this response type is to evaluate and
judge the text based upon a limited number of criteria that are then fully
developed in support of the overall judgment. It would
be a good idea to ask students to take a look at the PHG example of a text
effectiveness response, on pages 164-65. This example is particularly good at
showing the specificity with which the analytic response must be conducted.
Conclusion: Write a
conclusion for today’s lesson. For assistance, look at the section on writing
introductions and conclusions at Planning a Class located in the
Teaching Guides on Writing@CSU.
Assignments for Next Time
a short (one-paragraph) summary followed by a two-page analytic response
to either Bollinger’s or the Thernstroms’ argument, focusing on just one
or two criteria. Once you’ve decided which criteria you’ll look at (eg.
use of tone and use of evidence) construct an overall claim to map out
your response. Begin your response with that claim, provide an essay map,
and follow the order of your essay map, developing your reasons
(evaluation based on a limited number of criteria) with some detailed text
evidence. The key to making this response effective is in being specific
and detailed with the analysis and the text evidence you use to support
that analysis. Post your summary and response to the Writing Studio. Bring
a hard copy of your draft to class.
a few Letters to the Editor of the New York Times. Note the length of these
letters and try to imagine how these “abstracts” might have been fleshed
out or fully developed in their original form Assign students to read the
other short readings about the SAT from the NYT electronic reserve readings.
reflecting on your response drafts and make plans for revising one of them
for Portfolio 1.