Today we work with the drafted responses (agree/disagree) to the Atkinson
speech in order to discuss how to develop better responses through reasons and
evidence. We also move on to a second type of response so that students add a
differing focusing and developing technique to their repertoire. Throughout
these efforts, we check their understanding of the readings and the issues,
building their sense of the multiple perspectives and positions on the issue of
the SAT, clarifying that the discussion is more complex than a simple pro-con
debate. Today we also hold students accountable for their reading of the
newspaper by asking them to bring in three clippings on issues they find
Connection to Course
Goals: (1) Discussing reasons and evidence helps students develop their own
ideas with support. It encourages them to write more focused and thoughtful
responses, as opposed to a list of unsupported reactions. Discussion of more
than one response type exposes students to the variety of focuses and
approaches for developing papers that are available to them. (2) Careful
reading and examination of multiple texts related to the issue of the SAT provides
a model and illustration for processes students will apply independently to the
topical issues they select for Portfolio 2. Distinguishing one article from
another and coming to some deep understanding of the perspectives and
approaches of the writers being analyzed will prepare students for their
application of these principles to their own selected issues in Portfolios 2
A Possible Sequence of Activities
1.Show students how to develop their agree/disagree
responses (on Atkinson’s speech) with reasons and evidence
2.Do a mini-analysis of Peter Sacks’ and Walter Williams’
3.Introduce the second type of response - interpreting
and reflecting on the text. Then practice applying this type of response to the
4.Discuss news clippings and a few of the topical issues
they’re seeing in their reading of the Times.
1.WTL: Open class today with a WTL engaging
students on three clippings from the NYT.
Have them write a summary (5 minutes) of one of the articles they’ve brought
today as a news clipping. Discuss one or two of their issues for 5 minutes,
perhaps focusing on one student and his or her clippings or form small groups
to discuss all members articles and issues. You might also create a Discussion
Forum for the occasional posting of article summaries and issue clarifications.
Have them turn in all the clippings they brought to class today so that you can
skim through the issue ideas and give them verbal (whole class) feedback next
Sample introductory points, but please write your own
review the three types of
response - agree/disagree, analytic, and interpretive/reflective.
goal: to develop reasons and
evidence within a response, (one of the most important writing skills)
encourage: the importance of
careful analysis (which takes TIME) to not only explain what reactions to
issues and positions on those issues, but to also to explain and show why you think as you do--providing
clear reasons and evidence for an audience.
2.Briefly introduce the
idea of the SuperReader Syndrome and how our discussion of reasons
and evidence from last time (and review of it now) seeks to cure it! Explain
that most ineffective writers make unwitting assumptions about their readers’
ability to “read between the lines.” Expecting your reader to fill in the
blanks or read between the lines is known as the SuperReader Syndrome. Writers
must learn to make reasonable judgments about their readers’ knowledge of an
issue and must be careful about assuming they can follow a line of thought
without careful reasoning and evidence. Explain that while you may, as their
teacher, be able to guess at their meaning, you will almost inevitably insist
that they provide more reasons, evidence, and explanation of their points.
Explain that this is not boorish behavior on your part; it is helping them to
develop the internal sense of audience (a complex set of judgments) that will
guide all their writing in the future—and not just in the academic setting.
·What are the different types of evidence (think
back to the PHG)?
·Where might you need to use some evidence in
your summary/response essay?
·What kind of evidence might you use in your
·How might the kind of evidence differ depending
upon your response type and focus?
·What kinds of evidence might you use in your
4.Have students do a revision plan for their
agree/disagree responses (10 minutes):
students reflect on the discussion you just had and ask them to check for the
following (put these on an overhead): Check to see:
·that you've clearly made a point
·that you are responding to a main idea from the
·that you've given a sufficient reason for your
opinion (tell us why)
·that you've provided some well-developed
evidence (show us why)
·that your reasons and evidence are focused -
they connect back to the overall point you’re trying to make
students to read back through their responses and write a sentence or two of revision
Tell students that others will be
looking at their revised responses shortly (this will be incentive to stay on
Transition (Please write your own): Shift the focus from agree/disagree responses to interpretive
and reflective responses. Use Peter Sacks’ and Walter Williams’ arguments as a
means for practicing this type of response.
5.WTL (5 minutes): What has your experience with
admissions testing (SAT or ACT) been? How did it affect you? Do you believe
that developing fair admissions criteria is an important issue? In what way has
your position on this issue been influenced by your experiences or by the
experiences of others that you know? Support your explanation with reasons and
6.Discuss WTLs (5-10 minutes):Ask
students to share their responses to the WTL questions with two other people,
forming a triad. Try to group them with people from across the room, perhaps
sorting them by birth month, shoe size, or distance from home. (The goal of
this informal exchange is to both "hook" students and to develop
community.) In order to encourage them to think more critically about issues,
it is useful to start with their ideas. Hearing from classmates they don’t yet
know also extends the knowledge base of students, who may assume that their own
experience with testing—or other issues for that matter--is universal. Students
will experience the RISK of stepping out of their own shoes and instead of
having their opinions RATIFIED may find their suppositions CHALLENGED by their
peers. This is far more likely to happen if they meet with classmates they
don’t know. Mix things up routinely and you’ll have a classroom that becomes a
community where students trust and depend upon one another for not only support
but for challenge to one another as well.)
to help you write a transition into the next activity:
Peter Sacks and Walter Williams clearly take different points
of view on this issue.
You may find yourself siding with one of them immediately,
simply because you go into the article holding your own opinions.
What elements of these articles challenge your beliefs,
suppositions, or experience?
What ideas intrigue you because of their different-ness from
your own perspective?
What news ideas did you get from your group?
How has reading these two articles enlarged your sense of the
Look closely at where these two arguments are coming from
(contexts) so that we can talk about how you might respond to essays like
these - by looking at the main ideas and what these writers assume, what
they imply, and what the consequences of their positions may be.
7.Mini-Analysis of Sacks’ and Williams’ writing
situations (10 minutes):This activity is designed to prepare
students to accurately represent these authors’ ideas and to look for assumptions
and implications in their arguments. Help students to understand that in order
to fully understand a writer's argument, it's important to understand the
situation he/she is writing for. Likewise, in order to determine the
assumptions which inform a writer's argument or what that argument suggests, it
is important to know where the writer is coming from. Finally, it is important
to anticipate where arguments take us—or what the implications or possible
consequences of a position might be.
Create your own activity (overhead
points, class discussion, group work, etc…), incorporating the following
·Where were these essays published? (The Nation and Human Events)
·What can you tell about these pubs from looking
at their online subscription pages? (Perhaps
that one is conservative and the other liberal?)
·Who appear to be the target audiences? Who do
they hope to reach, affect, or influence?
·What can we infer about the writers (Sacks and
Williams) based on these contexts?
·What is the argument Sacks and Williams make for
their intended audiences?
·How do the writers support their arguments? (Ask
students to refer to specific places in the texts and explain their answers
·What are the implications or possible
consequences of each position? (Ask students to explain how they derived their
sense of consequence or what they base that forecast on.)
a Transition to the Next Activity. Point
out that we have built a general sense of where Sacks and Williams are coming
from and what their arguments are. Now the goal is to talk about how we might
develop a response to the ideas in these essays.
8.Discuss responding to the essays (15-20 minutes): The
goal for this activity is to reinforce concepts from the agree/disagree
response and to introduce a new type of response - interpreting and reflecting.
On an overhead, highlight the three kinds of response from the PHG:
·Agreeing and disagreeing with the ideas in a
·Interpreting and reflecting on the text
·Analyzing the effectiveness of a text
students if these essays lend themselves to the agree/disagree type of response
(yes). And invite them to elaborate on which ideas they might respond to in an
agree/disagree format. Then, explain that you will use these essays to explore
another kind of response - interpreting and reflecting. Note: Be sure
that you explain the following points (include these on the overhead that you
used for the types of response above):
·The goal of an agree/disagree response is to
emphasize one important idea from a writer's text and support or refute that
idea using reasons and evidence. Here, you want to convince a reader that your
position is a favorable one.
·The goal of an interpretive response is to look
critically at an argument in order to explain what it fully means. Looking
critically at a text requires you to inquire beyond what the text actually
says. One way to do this is to locate the assumptions that inform a writer’s
argument and find out what the writer's argument implies. Along the way, you
may find yourself agreeing with or refuting the writer's ideas and the
assumptions and implications that are tied to these ideas.
·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, the organization
and evidence, and the language and style. Here, your aim is to point out an
essay’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.
Inform students that you'll be
focusing on the interpretive response for the Sacks and Williams essays. Since
locating the assumptions and implications of an argument are an important part
of interpreting an essay, you'll want to define the following terms for them as
- is what a person believes to be true. However, assumptions are not always
true; they are not shared by everyone or supported by unquestionable evidence.
Writers make different assumptions based on their background and experience.
Assumptions inform a writer's argument. If you look closely at a writer's use
of language, tone, and evidence you can sense the assumptions a writer is
making about their topic and their audience (their beliefs, their values, and
- is a suggestion that is not directly stated. Writers may imply something
when they are hesitant to write a bold statement or reluctant to make
unsupported claims (for example, a writer may not state that the Vice President
is too old to be in office, since this could be viewed as inappropriate. But
their argument may suggest this none the less). This type of implication is
usually driven by the writer’s opinions, so it tends to be hidden "between
the lines." In order to fully understand an argument, you’ll want to
locate the implications a writer’s argument makes.
can also be the logical ramifications of an argument that the writer may or may
not be aware of. For example, one of the implications of making abortion
illegal is that back alley abortions would increase and the fatality rate, due
to botched abortions, would rise. One way to look for this kind of implication
in an argument is to ask, "What does this argument suggest is happening or
could happen in the future? Does the argument hint at an escalating problem?
Does it suggest anything in the way of “effects” or what could result if a
particular action is taken?
using the terms "assumptions and implications" (10 minutes):Use
the following questions or devise your own to get students thinking about what
assumptions might we make about:
·someone who reads the Collegian?
·someone who reads the New York Times?
·someone who watches Dawson's Creek?
·someone who watches Star Trek?
·someone who lives in San
·someone who lives in Salt
this activity to reinforce the point that assumptions aren't always completely
fair and shared by everyone. Also, remind them that assumptions are shaped by
one's own experience and environment. Include the following questions to show
students why it is important to examine a writer's assumptions:
·When are readers likely to agree with a writer's
·What assumptions do Sacks and Williams make
(about the SAT or about their readers’ beliefs and values in general)?
·Will all readers agree with these assumptions?
·How will looking at assumptions help us to fully
interpret these essays?
·How might looking at assumptions help us write
an interpretive essay?
an activity where you get students to practice using the term
might use advertisements, look at political cartoons/arguments, or develop
sample claims/arguments that contain various implications. Be creative!
At the end of the activity, make sure students
understand the distinction between assumptions and implications. If they don’t
fully understand, inform them that assumptions already exist without the
argument. Assumptions inform a writer's position. Implications result from the
writer's argument. They might think of implications as the possible or probable
consequences of the argument’s acceptance and application.
Conclusion Points to Emphasize:
we talked about how you might reflect on or interpret an argument more
critically by examining an author’s assumptions, and the implications of
will practice this kind of response in our homework for next time, and
then we’ll move on Thursday to discuss our last type of response - analyzing
the effectiveness of a text.
Assignment for Next Time
the publication web sites for the Nation
and Human Events if you haven’t
already done so to get a better sense of where these essays were published
and who their intended audiences are.
Write a brief summary
and a two-page draft interpretive response to either the Sacks' or
Williams’ essay. In your summary, represent the author's ideas fairly. In
the response, expand on these ideas by reflecting on one or more key
passages from the text and interpreting what the argument means. Demonstrate
what you’ve learned about assumptions and implications by pointing out
assumptions that the writer is making about his audience or his issue (use
textual evidence to support this). Then, reflect on any phrases and
passages where the text may suggest or imply something more than what it
actually states. Post your response to Writing Studio and bring a hard
copy of your draft to class. [Note that it is easier to take issue
with the assumptions or implications of an essay with which problems are
seen by the writer. It is easier, for instance, to find examples of
problems than to find examples of “good assumptions” or “good
Read Lee Bollinger’s “Debate Over SAT Masks Perilous
Trends in College Admissions” from the Chronicle
of Higher Education and “Admissions Impossible” by Abigail and Stephan
Thernstrom. ½ class brings a hard copy list of bulleted key points and an
overall main idea stated as a thesis that you draw (or see indirectly
stated) from Bollinger’s essay. Other ½ class brings a hard copy list of
bulleted key points and an overall main idea stated as thesis that you
draw (or see indirectly stated) from the Thernstrom essay. One page of
material is sufficient. [Instructors: you must decide how to divide the
class for this homework. Sometimes the best thing to do is just number off
1-2, 1-2, and have all the ones read the first document and all the twos
read the second.]
Bring three more clippings from the New York Times. These can be new issues
or a continuation article of an issue about which you already clipped.