Turning to a more lengthy and complicated primary document—Atkinson’s actual
speech—we go to some length to master our understanding of summary principles,
accentuating the importance of understanding and representing the author’s
purpose for generating a text. Additionally, we introduce students to the three
types of response developed in this course, and we provide an initial overview
of how each response type is developed.
Connection to Course
Goals: By the end of today we complete the classroom instruction on
academic summary writing, and we move to response writing. We introduce the
importance of fully developing a narrowed and focused response that is then
developed with ample and relevant reasons, evidence and discussion—factors
associated with strong writing throughout the course and the university.
Introducing the three types of response prepares 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
A Possible Sequence of Activities
students’ homework to discuss the rhetorical situation of Atkinson’s speech as
well as how to write a summary of Atkinson’s speech
the concept of responding
3.Show students how to develop responses using
reasons and evidence
Today we’ll continue discussing summary, applying ideas to Atkinson’s proposal
given in the form of a speech. Finally, we’ll look at the different ways you
might respond to an essay after you’ve successfully summarized it.
1. Review the
Writing Situation as applied to Atkinson’s speech, covering any points that you
didn’t cover in anticipation of Atkinson’s speech last time.
·Can you describe Atkinson’s text? (a speech, an
argument, a newsworthy headline …)
·When do you think this text was written and
where did it appear? (New York Times—2001.)
·Who was Atkinson speaking to? Who were his
intended listeners? (Think broadly here, considering the initial audience for
the proposal and also the national news/consequence of his published
·What were his purposes for writing this text and
giving his speech? What was he trying to accomplish?
·What cultural phenomenon is Atkinson's speech a
response to? (The limitations of standardized testing as a criterion for
admission to large, public universities) To what extent is the controversy over
the SAT a part of his listeners’ (and later his readers') cultural environment
or experience? How might this affect the way they read and respond to
·What assumptions might Atkinson have made about
his listeners’ needs or interests? What did he think they needed? Why might he
have chosen his audience?
·Was he right to assume these things? Why/why
his readers are and what he was trying to accomplish, how effective is
Atkinson’s speech? Please explain.
1.Use students' homework to discuss
summarizing Atkinson’s speech: This activity aims to get students thinking
about how they might organize all of the key points and evidence from
Atkinson’s speech into an academic summary.
I (10 minutes): Tell students that you'd like them to practice summarizing
a complicated text by listing all of the main points and important evidence
from Atkinson's speech on the board. Guide this discussion by writing the
following template on the board, and have students use their homework to
generate responses. This template may be useful for follow-on discussions of
summary as well, so get them to write down the template.
Atkinson's Overall Argument or Main Point:
Key Points made byProponents of SAT:
Key Points made byOpponents of SAT:
Why Evidence is Important to Writer's
Note to Instructors: Be sure you've read through Atkinson’s entire
speech beforehand and have 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
Transition to Next Activity:Now that we have some ideas abot what should be included in
an academic summary for Atkinson’s speech, let's think about how we might
select and arrange this information.
II (15-20 minutes): Have students break into groups of three.
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 transparency markers (non-permanent so that you
can re-use the transparencies) 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. -
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 Atkinson’s speech; just an outline
with a list of ideas is sufficient.
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.
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,
given on pages 162- 163 in the PHG. If you recall, your audience for Essay 1
will be open and interested in your response. So it's important that we start
thinking about the different types of response we can provide. Please open your
books to… .
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. Point out that 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,
they simply need to be sure that their response makes an overall, focused
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 Atkinson’s speech 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.
Transition to Next Activity:Most of us understand what evidence is. But often, 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…
students how to develop a response with reasons and evidence (15 minutes): The
goal of 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 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 such
as "this reminds me of" can lead to ideas that don't qualify as
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 Key Point from Atkinson’s speech: Atkinson
claims that a focus on admissions testing leads to obsessive test preparation
in classrooms as early as middle school. He says that such a focus diminishes the important work of education,
reducing the time spent on more important abilities such as reading and
Reaction and Reason
I would have to agree with Atkinson and others who oppose
the obsessive SAT preparation that goes on in most competitive public and
private high schools. Test prep of this sort keeps students and teachers from
realizing their full potential. The tests force them to focus on a narrow
aspect of learning, robbing them of other opportunities.
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, like a sunflower, that conveyed my theme
of "boundlessness.” Mr. Venini liked my sculpture, but he didn't give it a
grade. He said it was an activity for our imaginations. 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 like the SAT. No
place for the imagination or even for many important, standard demonstrations
of academic achievement. For me, this fact has meant that I was never allowed
to take another art class because my parents wanted me to focus on the SAT and
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. To this day I figure that if "learning" means "fill in
the right bubble," it isn't worth my time. Surely there must be more to an
education than this.
Sample 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 WritingCenter in the basement of Eddy.
Assignment for Next Time
·Choose a key point from Atkinson’s speech and
write a one-and-a-half to two-page agree/disagree response to that idea. Start
this effort by writing out the key point of the speech and relating it to the
main idea of Atkinson’s proposal, providing author tags to show whose idea it
is. Then, respond to the key point and main idea, stating whether you agree or
disagree with the overall idea (proposal) and the key point you’ve selected to
focus on. Give reasons for why you agree or disagree and provide specific
evidence to show why you feel this way (personal experience, textual evidence,
or cultural observations). Post your response to the Writing Studio. Bring a
printed copy of your response to class.
·Read Peter Sacks’ essay from the Nation: “SAT—A Failing Test” and visit
the Nation on the Web to gain a sense
of where his essay was published and who his intended readers are. Also read
Walter Williams “Radicals Undermine College Admissions Criteria” from Human Events. Again, visit Human Events on the Web to gain
understanding of the readership of this publication. There is no need to write
a summary or response to these essays at this time, but you should be ready to
discuss both articles when you get to class.
·Bring in three clipped articles from the NYT
related to debatable issues in U.S.
culture. Be ready to summarize and discuss them.