Today we go deeper into assumptions and implications (interpretive response),
helping students to attach and pin down reasons and evidence for their claims
about assumptions and implications. We then introduce the third response type:
analysis, which involves understanding the parts of a text and then making an
evaluation of a text based upon a limited set of criteria.
Connection to Course
Goals: Today’s class builds on previous exposure to response types and
takes students deeper into methods of developing a paper through reasons and
evidence directed toward a particular purpose. This class helps students
analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the contexts of the writers and their
texts, a skill that will be important for Portfolios 2 and 3 as well. With the
class discussion of a third response type, analysis, students learn the
important skill of text evaluation. Students leave with an assignment to read a
few Letters-to-the-Editor (and perhaps other NYT articles as well, as provided
in the NYT electronic reserve readings), so that they become familiar with these rhetorical situations
and also in order to see that pieces are often edited down to fit the constrained
space of the newspaper.
A Possible Sequence of
1.Give feedback and hold students accountable for their
reading of the NYT and their clipping of news on issues of interest.
2.Discuss the assumptions and implications of Sacks’ and
3.Develop interpretive responses by attaching reasons and
evidence to assumptions and implications
4.Introduce the third type of response—analyzing the
effectiveness of a text
·Last time we discussed
assumptions and implications as a way to develop our interpretive responses.
·Today, we continue with
this idea, looking at examples from the Sacks’ and Williams’ texts.
·Students should use this
discussion as a way to reflect on homework responses. They should: 1) try to
determine whether their responses adequately identify assumptions and
implications 2) try to determine whether their responses are fully developed
with reasons and evidence.
·Today we also introduce
the notion of text evaluation (the analytic method of response) Students should
consider all the ways in which they’ve criticized the texts we’ve been reading,
as well as the criticisms they’ve heard voiced by others in the class. By the
end of class, they should decide on a limited number of criteria on which to
base their evaluations.
1.Trade news clippingsbrought in today with a neighbor and skim one another’s. Do a two-three
minute interview with one another about the issue and why you find it
interesting. Ask a volunteer pair to brief one another’s article and issue to
the class, explaining why the classmate selected it and finds the issue
interesting. Have students turn in their clippings so that again you can review
their emerging ideas for topics, and provide some feedback at the next class.
on homework (3 minutes): Have students begin by refreshing their memories.
Ask them to (silently) review their responses to Sacks’ or Williams’ essay.
a Transition to Next Activity. Emphasize the immediate goals of the day, including:
recalling our responses
to Sacks or Williams
discussing the various
assumptions and implications in each argument.
critically examining and
interpreting the arguments
talking about the basics
of the third response type
about how to build better responses for Portfolio One.
3.Generate assumptions and implications from Sacks’
and Williams’ essays (20 minutes): The goal for this activity is to check
to see that students are able to pinpoint some of the assumptions and
implications in each argument. The interpretive response demands the most
critical thinking, so you may need to provide prompts to help students “dig
deeper.” During this activity, list students’ responses on the board and tell
them to use their homework as a guide.
are some of the assumptions and implications in each of the arguments, but
Rather than just repeating these, form questions to help students think more
·What do Sacks and Williams assume about their
audiences? What do Sacks and Williams assume about conservatives’/liberals’
·What does each argument imply about the fate of
alternatives to the SAT?
Educators agree that the SAT is flawed
Sooner or later the SAT must be changed or gotten rid of
and a replace-
ment measure must be found
Readers will agree that the “diversity lobby” is prone to
devious methods, that the end of race-based admissions at U of C was good
Efforts to diversify campuses may be undermined or
All-white privileged students of alumni may prevail.
Most people see an inherent value in diversity populations
in school settings
Allegiance to a diverse population on campuses leads to a
number of remedies and a lot of challenges
In time, the end of affirmative action in college
admissions will lead to higher achievement among minorities
A belief in the free market as a “fix” for schooling must
be efforts to improve schooling in urban and poor settings
Interpretations of the correlation between race and SAT
scores will be similar
“Playing the race card” further fractures race relations
and fails to redress inequities in schooling
Readers will agree that the SAT is not biased and that his
single test question example shows this is so
A refusal to look more deeply at vocabulary q’s &
their relation to life experience may lead to heads in the sand
Public universities are for the public, not an elite
subset of the public
Public universities so conceived are obligated to teach
virtually everyone. Why not just go to open admissions? Will the quality of
an education suffer?
Audience will agree that applicants difficult backgrounds
are the product of dysfunctional families
Are we to believe that merit is doled out equally? What of
the young people who overcome enormous obstacles to achieve in school? No
Readers will be familiar with other experiments, such as
the U of Texas “Top 10%” law and will agree on the interpretation presented
The U of T program Top 10% program has led to serious
lowering of average SAT scores at U T and may be just another ill-devised
Readers will equate “comprehensive review” with
“race-based” admissions. Readers will also agree that racial preferencing is
condescending toward minorities
If all race-based policies are inappropriate then should
the gains associated with Civil Rights legislation go away too?
A critical eye on the value of testing is valuable but not
all would agree, given the history of the justification for the SAT
What better methods are there for determining student
readiness? Holistic eval is very expensive. Who will pay for it?
The leftist agenda has caused many of society’s ills--
family breakdown, illegitimacy, and low academic achievement
Conservatives blame liberals, and vice-versa. Who has
Write a transition that moves students from the observations
they’ve generated to the development of a better (more successful) response
4.Practice developing an interpretive response to
each text by developing reasons and evidence to refute assumptions and
implications (15 minutes):The goal of this activity is to help
students develop their observations into well-reasoned and well-supported
responses. First, explain (or create a mini-outline on an overhead) how a
writer can develop an interpretive response by addressing:
·an author’s assumptions/implications
·why as a responder the student is troubled by an
why the assumption/implication is problematic
prove that the assumption/implication is problematic
practice this process by consulting the list of assumptions and implications.
Ask students to consider whether or not they would support or refute the chosen
author’s assumptions and implications. Then, choose examples from the board to
practice developing reasons and evidence.
Here’s how it
might lookusing one of Williams’
·Implies that there
is no place in admissions decisions for acknowledging the obstacles students
have overcome to get where they are
agree/disagree with this? (take one side at a time)
·What reasons can
students offer for why they agree/disagree? (reasons must be substantial and
something that can be supported - “It’s stupid” won’t cut it)
·What evidence can
students provide for why they agree/disagree (i.e. personal experience - “I
have a friend whose parents were both disabled and she had to support them
financially while tending to their medical needs and going to school for
herself. She worked 20 hours a day from the time she was 12. Shouldn’t her remarkable
maturity and accomplishment be acknowledged even if her SAT scores were weak?”
Explain to students that without evidence, their responses are reduced to a
list of opinions or unsupported rants. Also, warn students that they may need
to search for textual evidence to support “gut feelings” or reactions.
5.Reflect on discussion and make plans to revise
responses (5 minutes):Ask students to reflect on today’s lesson,
then to look back over their homework responses to Sacks or Williams and jot
down notes for revision. If they were to revise this essay for Portfolio One,
what changes would they need to make to strengthen and develop their response.
Point out that the more precise and focused they are with this REVISION PLAN,
the more helpful the plan will be as they revise—if they choose to revise this
6.Review the third type of response - analyzing the
effectiveness of a text (10 minutes): Begin by getting students to see
that they could write an agree/disagree response an interpretive response, OR
an analytical response related to this essay (or the other essays) for
Portfolio One. Ask: Could we agree or disagree 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 is, in fact, a text
effectiveness analysis and thus provides a good example of this response type.
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.
to Next Activity: Write a transition
linking these two activities. (For assistance, look at the section on writing
transitions from the guide on “Planning a Class” located on Writing@CSU). The
goal here, however, is to check on student understanding of the authors’ points
before moving into an evaluation of their arguments. You might want to use a
brief WTL to refocus the class on the Bollinger and Thernstrom essays at this
point, asking them to write a one-paragraph summary of the essay they read.
7.Check student understanding of these articles by engaging
students in an abbreviated JIGSAW reading activity (15 minutes). Form
“Expert Groups” of 4-5 consisting of students who have written summary bullets
for the same essay (Bollinger or the Thernstroms). Follow the instructions
below to obtain consensus on summarizing the text (main and key points), as
well as consensus on the contexts and values informing the authors’
perspectives. Then move to a few evaluative criteria—perhaps tone and “case
strategy” or the reasonableness of the argument’s logic. Complete the expert
group work in 10 minutes and then move students into “Teaching Pairs,” partnering
students who worked on different essays. Each partner briefs the other (teaches
the other) the summary points and initial evaluation criteria and judgments
about the texts. Follow the instructions below for the JIGSAW activity.
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
·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?
discussing how to write an analytic response to the Bollinger and
Thernstroms arguments (5-10 minutes, as time allows): 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
·Did Bollinger/Thernstrom effectively accomplish
their purposes in the texts? What were the purposes, 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. You might ask students to take a
look at the PHG example of a text effectiveness response. You might also note
that it is generally more effective for writers to offer some degree of criticism
rather than pure praise when doing an analytic response.
Write 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 initial text evidence. Post your summary and
response to the Writing Studio. Bring a hard copy of your draft to class.