Today we go deeper into the third and final response type. We review the need
for sufficient focus and support, as demonstrated through claims combined with
reasons and evidence—this time to support an evaluation of a text, or judgment
of it, based upon a limited number of criteria that are fully demonstrated. We
also do a mini peer review to prepare students for the larger workshop that
will take place at the next class meeting.
Connection to Course
Goals: Today’s class links to the first portfolio’s goal of helping
students write more effective essays—ones that are focused and well supported. Further,
as students critically examine texts through this response method, they learn
just because a text is in print doesn’t mean that it’s above reproach. Also,
students begin to see that their own arguments are only as strong as the texts
they use to support them and conversely that it is important to be aware of and
understand (or even empathize with) points of view that don’t seem very strong.
Where DO those perspectives come from, if not from strong scholarship? How do
the backgrounds, values, beliefs, and affiliations of people—even those with
strong academic backgrounds--play into their perspectives? How can
understanding these context features help us to appreciate persons’
perspectives rather than to casually dismiss them? Students should learn should
text evaluation methods today that will transfer to their evaluation of texts
they’ll read in Portfolios 2 and 3. Finally, students should also learn some
principles of peer review from today’s class.
Possible Sequence of Activities Today
1.Review the use of claims to shape responses
2.Discuss the development of essays using the analytic
3.Facilitate a peer review activity for responses to the
Bollinger and Thernstrom texts.
Introduction: Write an
introduction for today’s lesson. For assistance, look at the section on writing
introductions and conclusions from the guide on Planning a Class located
in the Teaching Guides on Writing@CSU (http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/planning/).
1.Give informal, whole-class feedback to students regarding
their news clippings that you’ll return today. Tell them that the next time you’ll check their clippings is
subsequent to turning in Portfolio 1, so they are expected to continue reading
the NYT and collect clippings even though you won’t be discussing them for the
remainder of the week.
using claims to shape responses (15 minutes):The goal for this
activity is to help students make an overall point with their writing by
considering how claims can “map out” a response. (In the past, students have
written analytic responses that read like “generalized lists” - i.e. the
author’s tone is good… the organization is effective… the evidence could use
some work…). Here, we are trying to help students move beyond generalized
responses to think more about their purpose/focus and organization.
the claims below (or ones that you generate) to model how a claim can help a
writer connect their points and create a “map” by which to organize their
writing. Put these claims on an overhead and ask students to outline what the
paper might look like based on what the claim says. Take the claim apart, phrase
by phrase; you might refer to this activity as “unpacking a thesis.”
Williams’ essay is pretty good, but I didn’t like the tone
he used and I doubt whether he is really committed to ridding society of racial
discrimination. Overall, I found his attitude to be sarcastic or even a little
Why this is ineffective. Have them unpack
each section of the claim to reach these conclusions:
essay is pretty good, but I didn’t like…”Language is too generalized -
what does the writer mean by “good” and “I didn’t like” and “attitude”?
“I doubt whether he is really committed…”
The statement following, “I doubt whether…” is a gut reaction and can’t be
sufficiently developed with reasons/evidence.
found his attitude”… The writer can comment on tone but it is very
difficult to impute attitude where we have no real knowledge of the
writer’s internal life.
The writer has named too many criteria to develop any sufficiently. As
written, the writer needs to prove that: (1) the argument is “good,” (2)
Williams doesn’t really believe in racial justice and integration, (3)
Williams’ tone is a problem, and (4) Williams’ attitude is sarcastic or
even cynical. Proving all of these items is too diffuse (not focused) for
a four-page essay that provides sufficient evidence for all of its claims
More Effective claims:
“The Thernstroms appeal
to readers of the National Review by using language that they can relate
to and by taking a position they’ll be inclined to agree with, but their
argument lacks “teeth” in that it does little more than ratify the convictions
of National Review readers. One might
ask what the Thernstroms have to offer by way of new ideas and solutions.”
“Lee Bollinger makes a good point about the importance of
Atkinson’s setting off the SAT debate, but his diffuse and rambling argument
obscures the fact that he doesn’t really offer much in the way of substance.
It’s not entirely clear what he adds to the discussion beyond his admission
that he is dedicated to a diverse campus.”
Why these are effective:
use specific language and make demonstrable claims about the texts
combine their observations to make an overall point that indicates whether
or not the essay was/was not effective (avoids sounding like a list)
focuses can reasonably be handled in four-page papers.
students how each response might look based on these claims. How would the
reader develop these points? What examples from the text could he/she use to
develop each point? You might draw up an outline for each. Finally, you might
ask what would make each claim better. This might
also be a good opportunity to introduce the idea of the essay map, if you
Use of Author Tags, Quotations, and Paraphrases (15 minutes): Create your own activity
4.Apply a peer review activity for responses to
Bollinger and the Thernstroms (25 minutes):Have students pair up
and exchange their analytic responses to either Bollinger or the Thernstroms’
arguments (completed for homework). Allow them 15 to provide feedback for each
other’s response. Then, allow them 5 additional minutes to discuss these in
pairs. Use the guidance below or develop your own peer review activity.
Directions for a peer review activity:
·Underline the writer’s claim. Is the claim
narrow and specific enough? Does it communicate an overall point or main idea?
Does the claim accurately represent the points raised in the response? Write
down one or two suggestions for how the writer could strengthen their claim.
·What criteria for evaluation does the writer
examine in their response? Are these criteria fitting given Bollinger’s/the
Thernstroms’ argument and audience? Does the writer avoid “listing” criteria by
limiting their response to one or two well developed observations?
·Does the writer provide clear reasons and
evidence to develop and support claim? Mark places where the writer has
provided sufficient support. Then, mark places where the writer could develop
their reasons and evidence further. Can you give any suggestions for how the
writer could develop these points?
·How might the writer improve the overall focus
and organization of their response? Are there places where the writing strays
from the claim? Could certain points be eliminated or moved to improve the
·Comment on the writer’s use of author tags,
quotations, and paraphrases. Suggest strategies, if appropriate, for
·Comment on two things that the response is doing
5.Choosing their Summary/Response (15 minutes):
Have students decide which essay they’ll revise for portfolio one and give them
time to look over their original essays and jot down plans for revision. Let
students know that revisions should be substantial (global, not local;
substance-changing, not limited to mechanics). They can use their homework as
draft work and take pieces of that writing, but they need to do more than
“tweak” or “add on a few lines” to succeed with portfolio one. Ask them to
write you a short memo indicating which response type and article they’ve
selected with a bit of explanation for their choice. Ask them for an initial
Conclusion: Write a conclusion that helps students see that the homework they’ve
been doing (reading, summarizing, and responding in different ways) is
connected to the task they are now facing.
Assignment for Next Time
as reading a few Letters to the Editor (New York Times). Have them make 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
other short readings from the NYT electronic reserve readings.
on the responses you’ve written as drafts and plan the revision of one of
these responses for the context and purposes outlined in the Portfolio One
a draft of your final essay for Portfolio One. Bring a polished draft of
your essay to class for workshop (decide how many copies students will
need based on group sizes).
Note to instructors: You should read the Teaching
Guide on Planning Workshops and Peer
Review on Writing@CSU (http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/peer/).
Use the guide to help you decide ahead of time how you’d like to facilitate the
in-class workshop for the summary/response essay.