Week 5: Monday, September 22nd - Friday, September 26th
Note:Before beginning this portfolio, decide when
you'd like to take your class to the library for research instruction. It's
best to schedule a session at the start of Portfolio 2, for either Week 5 or
Week 6 before students begin researching their issues more extensively. Call
Cathy Cranston at 491-1906 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to set
up an appointment. (She would prefer that you call at least two weeks ahead of
Goals for this Week
respond to, and grade Portfolio 1
·Create a transition between Portfolios 1 and 2
·Assign Portfolio 2 and review its parts and
sequence, clarifying that the sequence of assignments leads directly toward the
final essay and contributes toward making it a successful final essay.
·Discuss the audience and context for the News
and Issue Analysis. Refer students to Talking Back to familiarize them
with the kinds of discussion associated with this analysis as well as with the
kind of audience they’ll write for (their CO150 classmates and instructor)
·Explore debatable issues for Portfolio 2, collecting
and reviewing their ideas and their News Clip Journals.
·Establish criteria for what makes a
"good" issue or research question
·Assign a Discussion Forum in which an audience
analysis in conducted, requiring the responses of two peers from class and you,
·Take students to the library or arrange to take
them in Week 6
·Assign Part 1 of Portfolio 2 - Topic Proposal
(due at the start of week 6)
·Review Tannen's essay, "The Argument
Culture" from the PHG
that NYT articles on issues to be considered for Portfolio 2 be brought in for
the next class. Assign the continued collection of news clips—10 total by the
end of Portfolio 2--now with an emphasis on social and cultural “contact zones”
or areas of conflict or debate caused by competing values, beliefs, or
As you write your specific lesson plan for each class day, be
sure to include an overall LESSON OBJECTIVE as well as a CONNECTION TO COURSE
GOALS. Remember also to introduce the plan for your class each day and to
review at the end what was accomplished and why. To the greatest extent
possible, ask students to conduct the review at the end or perhaps to provide a
review at the beginning of the next class. Asking students to do this work
instead of doing it all yourself encourages them to take responsibility for
making connections. Quite simply, they will learn more by doing it this way.
Their direct involvement is also more engaging than simple lecture and summary.
This Week’s Connection to Course Goals
portfolio marks a shift from focusing on the arguments advanced by individual
authors - that is, focusing on individual positions on an issue - to
understanding the larger conversation about an issue. This portfolio also
shifts the selection of articles from the instructor to the student. Four
related concepts, each connected to the conversation metaphor that runs through
the course, will help you and your students make the shift from focusing on the
ideas articulated by individual authors to focusing on the shared concepts that
underlie most publicly debated issues:
Inexperienced writers might think that developing an argument about a public
issue is as simple as stating a claim and supporting it with evidence. Doing
so, however, results in an argument that fails to account for what’s already
been written about the issue. Writers need to be accountable members of a
conversation - that is, they should take time to listen to the conversation.
They should read what other writers have contributed to the conversation; they
should learn what types of evidence are valued by people involved in the
conversation; they should figure out what the current topic of the conversation
is. Failing to become an accountable member of the conversation not only
increases the likelihood that an argument will fail, it demonstrates a lack of
respect for the ideas and information that other members of the conversation
have brought to the conversation.
Newness: The flip side of the
obligation to be accountable is the obligation to contribute something new -
something of value - to the conversation. Simply rehashing the arguments and
rehearsing information that others have contributed to the conversation does
not meet this obligation. Newness, fortunately, comes in several flavors. You can
offer something radically new - the kind of newness that might win a Nobel
prize, such as John Nash’s suggestion (popularized in the recent movie A
Beautiful Mind) that not all situations involve winners and losers, and
that in fact there are “win-win” situations. If you see your students providing
this kind of contribution to an issue, please let the other members of the
composition faculty know about it. A second kind of newness is a new way of
looking at an issue, a reframing of the issue, perhaps by suggesting a new
analogy or by providing a new analytic framework for understanding the issue,
much as cognitive psychologist Herbert Simon did when he suggested that we can
understand certain economic decision-making processes by examining them through
the lens of cognitive psychology. A third kind of newness involves providing
new facts or details that enhance our understanding of an issue, such as new
first-hand accounts from victims of a particular natural disaster, a new
interpretation of an event or work of art, or results from a scientific study
that replicates earlier work. In fact, the third kind of newness is the most
common kind of newness found in writing - or in life, for that matter.
When an author makes an argument, he or she is taking a position on an issue. A
position is a specific claim made by an individual author. In Portfolio 1, your
students defined the positions of individual authors in their summaries.
Students probably noted that each participant stakes a somewhat unique position
while sharing essentially similar philosophies with others. For instance, the
conservative views of Williams and the Thernstroms are similar yet also
distinguishable; the reframed position of Bollinger (whom one gathers is a
liberal commentator) is related to and yet easily distinguishable from the
positioning of Sacks. Similarly, Atkinson’s rejection of some tests (the SAT I)
and embrace of others (the SAT II) for admissions decisions demonstrates that
he is not opposed to testing as a sorting mechanism, as other more doggedly
anti-test participants appear to be. Finally, in regard to positions, remember
that students wrote responses in Portfolio 1, which began their apprenticeship
in the staking of their own positions.
Perspectives or Approaches: When a group of authors have positions that are
fairly similar, you can say that they take the same approach to the issue. An
approach is an interpretive device that helps you figure out how to make sense
of a complex issue. Rather than trying to remember 30 or 40 unique positions on
an issue - and make fine distinctions among them - you can define three or four
shared perspectives or approaches to the issue. Examples of approaches include
the pro-life and pro-choice approaches to the abortion issue. Literally
thousands of people write about this issue in a given month, and close analysis
will indicate that there are subtle differences among each position. It’s
easier for us to think about the issue in terms of pro-life and pro-choice
approaches, however, even though doing so tends to obscure those subtle
differences between approaches.
this portfolio, your students will be making the shift from focusing on
individual positions to understanding the similarities among positions that
allow them to generalize about shared perspectives or approaches to an issue.
This portfolio begins with identification of an issue that interests them (the
Topic Proposal), takes students through an in-class activity focused on
determining what potential readers might know about that issue(Informal
Audience Analysis), then moves to what students themselves (each individually)
bring to the issue in terms of their own contexts, values, beliefs,
affiliations, etc. This Personal Position Analysis leads directly to two
additional process elements—Position Analyses of Single Sources and the
Composite Grid, in which students work to bring sources together. While the
Position Analyses of Single Sources and the Composite Grid are not homework
that is turned in, students are expected to engage in the processes and to
bring their analyses to conference. The collection of News Clips on issues in
the “contact zones” will also help students gain a sense of the values and
beliefs that underlie different positions and shared perspectives. By conference
time, students should have a working Annotated Bibliography that constitutes a
representative sample of sources from different perspectives. (In Portfolio 3,
they then enlarge upon this annotated bibliography to find additional sources
that align with their emerging point of view.)
key in this first week of the portfolio is helping students understand what a
debatable issue is and how they can explore it. By encouraging your students to
select a debatable issue that interests them, you’ll increase the likelihood
that they will produce better writing, since students are more likely to write
well about issues they care about. We want students to be invested in their
issues so that they will think critically about them and so that they revise their
writing more willingly. We also want students to apply concepts involving the
writing situation (context, audience and purpose) to their own thinking about
writing. This goal is achieved by having them write for an academic
audience—you, the instructor, and the students in your class. Even in the
initial stages of their research, students will need to consider and choose
topics that are most relevant to their audience and their audience’s
understanding of the goals of the assignment—that is, to represent the
complexity of the issue by sampling and characterizing the positions and
generalizable approaches to the issue. The library instruction will help
students hone their research skills and teach them to seek out current,
credible, and valid sources.
Required Readings and
·Read, "Narrowing and Focusing Your
Subject" on pg. 570 - 571 in the PHG.
·Read Deborah Tannen's essay, "The Argument
Culture," on pgs. 401 - 405 in the PHG.
Annotate her points in the margins and carry on a dialogue there, indicating
which points you agree/disagree with and which points raise questions or
·Return to the News Clip Journal. Bring it with
10 sources and at least three interesting issues identified. Bring the
newspaper to class as well, of course. Identifying at least three issues that
interest you, briefly and informally summarize them on the class forum for
others to read.
·Visit Talking Back online journal athttp://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/talkingback/and read at least three of the student
issue analyses published there last year (school year 2002-03). As you read the
essays in Talking Back, think about the way that the issues are
discussed in terms of grouping the perspectives of those involved in the
discussion and then fleshing out the discussion with specific text references.
Also look at the articles in Talking Back as addressing an audience
similar to the audience required in Portfolio 2. This audience is similar
because the publication is an online journal intended for college students and
their instructors. The level of formality, the clarity of focus and degree of
development, as well as the application of style guidelines is similar to what
will be expected of you in Portfolio 2. Also, familiarity with Talking Back may
also help you decide whether to submit your Portfolio 3 argument to this
·Post answers to the mini audience analysis
survey done in groups in class.
·Complete the Topic Proposal.
Potential Activities for this Week
·WTL - Postscript for essay one (10 minutes):
You can use
this activity to encourage students to reflect on their writing for Portfolio
1—or develop your own postscript that reflects your emphasis over the course of
the first month of classes. Have them address questions such as: What part of
this writing process was most valuable to you and why? Which parts of this
essay were most challenging? How did you overcome these challenges? What did
you learn about writing or about yourself as a writer while completing
Portfolio 1? What is one piece of advice from the peer review that you used and
one that you discarded or chose to ignore? The postscript can be done on
turn-in days or can be included among the required pieces in the portfolio and
done before class. You may wish to establish a precedent for how you will
handle postscripts and then apply it consistently.
Note to instructors: Postscripts are useful when evaluating student
writing because they provide students with the opportunity to recognize and
identify their own struggles. This recognition frees you from labeling such
struggles as "problems" within your comments. Rather than directly
stating that a student needs to develop a claim, state that you agree with the
student's own observation that development is something that needs more
consideration. This approach creates a tone of, "I'm here to help
you" as opposed to, "I'm the expert." It also helps students to
develop their abilities at critically examining their own writing. Such liberation
from the necessity of obtaining the expertise and supervision of teachers is a
desirable, but too often unstated, goal of the college composition course,
which may well be one of the last formal writing courses students ever engage
in. We want to encourage the enhanced ability of students to “write without
teachers” to use a phrase coined by Peter Elbow.
between Portfolio I and Portfolio 2 (10 minutes):Revisit the
writing situation model from Portfolio I to explain the transition between Portfolio
I and Portfolio 2. This will help students see where the course is heading.
can draw the model on the board or on an overhead and use it to explain that:
·We begin as readers who encounter texts
(starting, perhaps with the newspaper, and working outward from that) as a way
to learn and explore what is happening culturally and socially.
·Then, we become informed readers - drawn to
certain specific issues that we want to learn more about.
·We read and research various texts to locate the
"conversation" that surrounds one issue we're interested in (find out
what groups or individuals, who are active in writing about the issue, are
·Then, we analyze these texts to figure out how
they are shaped by cultural and social influences. In turn, we consider how the
texts that get produced are shaping society and culture.
·Once we've critically examined the existing
viewpoints on an issue, we become critical thinkers and informed writers. We
then use our observations and critical thinking skills to construct new
arguments—as we will do in Portfolio 3.
·We write our own arguments for public discourse
(that is, for a specific group of readers in society who are arguing about an
issue publicly) in the hope that our opinions and views will influence that argument.
process, we become active participants in society and culture.
also now review the reason for having students collect clippings from the New York Times. Those
collected clippings should reveal a variety of categories of public discussion,
as well as specific issues for further research. You might divide the newspaper
and class into sections/groups to discuss some of the areas of public discourse
that emerge from coverage of current events—aka the News. Examples of
categories (with innumerable subcategories), could also be drawn from the news
summary on page 2. Topical areas illustrated by news coverage in the Times include,
but are not limited to, education, science, technology, geography, finance, the
arts, international relations, foreign policy, the environment, religion,
government, the Armed Forces. The class’s brainstormed list could be placed on
transition that moves the classroom discussion from topics/issues to the
contexts that form and explain participant views on those topics and issues.
Point out that students will be reading the Times with this new focus in mind
during Portfolio 2. Specifically, students should continue to clip articles but
now with the idea in mind of capturing both dominant and conflicting values,
beliefs, and attitudes in U.S. culture. For
instance, articles on educational issues suggest that there is a dominant
belief in the essential right and obligation of all U.S. citizens to obtain at
least a high school diploma—a “right” long protected by law and taxation. At
the same time, “reform” movements are currently challenging the efficacy of
public education and the current trend seems to be toward the privatization of
Design a discussion of
contexts, the goal of which is to explore factors which contribute to shared
values, beliefs, and attitudes—what one might be inclined to call, in a
derogatory way, “bias,” but what might be thought of more constructively (and
less judgmentally) as an “explicable point-of-view.” For instance, you might
lead a discussion on a recent student effort to allow pets in the dorms. What
context factors would lead students to hold various positions on this proposal?
·Language / Media
·Shared cultural values and beliefs
·Common traditions and documents that support
that tradition (the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, for
·Large historical events (e.g. "Roe V.
·Organizations, universities, schools, churches,
businesses, environmental groups and other affiliations…
·Family, friends and neighbors
·Shared values and beliefs among smaller groups
·Local events and traditions
·Community concerns (e.g. planning for growth
along the front range)
a Transition that explains the shift students must make from readers to writers
as they move through the portfolios:
In Portfolio I - you began as critical readers
exploring an issue and examining different positions
In Portfolio 2 - you choose your own issue; then you
research this issue, reading and analyzing the various approaches to writing
In Portfolio 3 - you become participants, writing
arguments based on the research and critical thinking you've done in Portfolios
1 and 2
Portfolio 2: Distribute all assignment sheets--Topic Proposal,
Personal Position Analysis, Annotated Bibliography (with Position Analyses of a
Single Source and Composite Grid as process pieces), News and Issue
Analysis--and let students read through them. Fill in due dates, highlight key
points, and address student concerns along the way. Try to help them understand
the sequencing of these assignments; and emphasize that all parts lead up to
the News and Issue Analysis, which is intended for an educated audience of
college readers—the class and their instructor. You may need to make a special
case for the helpfulness of completing the Position Analyses for Single Sources
and the Composite Grid, since these are process elements of the Annotated
Bibliography. (For more assistance with planning this activity, read the
section on "Planning to Introduce an Assignment" in the teaching
guide, Planning a Class, on Writing@CSU
Topics and Issues: The first step in writing for Portfolio 2 is to have
students choose issues to work with. Emphasize that students will be sticking
with the issue they choose for the remainder of the course (9 weeks) so they'll
want to pick something they're interested in and can sink their teeth into. The
goal for this activity is to help students think about choosing topics and
narrowing their topics into specific issues. Inform students that topics are too
broad for the issue analysis and that they'll need to narrow their topics
to issues in order to focus their writing for Portfolio 2. Use the grid
below (or one that you develop) to illustrate the differences between topics
and issues. Also, point out that issues are often defined in the form of a
should we store it?
should we transport it across the country?
we continue to use nuclear energy when we don't have a reliable solution for
storing its waste?
is the cause of the recent school violence?
should teachers' role be in managing school violence?
the government fund more counseling programs in schools to reduce violence?
possible topics and issues: Have students generate a list of potential
topics on the board, drawing upon the New York Times clippings they have
collected. Then, practice narrowing these topics down to specific issues.
Again, students should be able to find narrowed issues by looking more closely
at the news clippings they have collected. The goal of this activity should
be for students to formulate focused debate questions, such as those shown in
the table above. If you want to assign this as a homework activity,
consider using the brainstorming, freewriting, or looping activities covered in
the PHG (pages 131-32) and in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio on Writing@CSU. Also consider having students post
their ideas to a discussion forum, perhaps labeling it “Debatable Issues Forum”
or “Questions for a Debate Focus.”
criteria for what makes a "good issue": Since writing situations
(purpose, audience, and context) determine what makes an issue "good"
- begin this activity by asking students to consider their audience and purpose
for writing their issue analysis. You may review the various audiences and
purposes (as listed below). But emphasize that while students may have various
audiences and purposes in mind, their primary audience for their news and issue
analysis should be their CO150 class and you. Their primary purpose should be
to show this audience that their issue is complex.
show that an issue is complex
analyze your issue as preparation for writing an argument in Portfolio 3.
To prove that you can think critically about the writing
situation (drawing connections between readers, writers culture) and show
awareness of a specific audience
are some criteria to include for what makes an issue "good":
·Your issue should appeal to college students
·It should be complex enough to move beyond a
simple pro/con debate.
·It should be popular enough to find a range of
opinions on (informative sources such as news reports from the Times are
useful for learning about the issue, but convincing or persuasive sources,
those that take a position, are needed for the analysis portion of the
·It should be fairly current or it should
represent an ongoing concern. This should follow from the fact that the issue
is present in a recent news article.
·It should build off of existing arguments. For
example, you wouldn't want to research an issue that has already been explored
over and over (e.g. "Does the media negatively affect a woman's self
image?") This question lends itself to no surprise since it has already
been asked many times. Rather than "reinventing the wheel" find out
how an ongoing conversation has evolved. See what direction it has most
recently taken. Then, build on that recent thread of conversation (e.g.
"Much research has already shown that fashion magazines have a negative
effect on a woman's self image, but little work has been done to see how
magazines affect men. With the production of men's magazines on the rise,
perhaps we should begin to consider these effects.")
Practice narrowing topics down to issues: Have students list two or three
topics that they might be interested in researching. Then, have them narrow
these topics into 3 - 4 specific related issues. Ask them to form these issues
as research questions. Since you've already modeled this activity as a class,
you probably won't need to thoroughly explain it. Verbal instructions or
instructions on an overhead should be sufficient.
a Peer Review Session: Have students exchange their WTL's in groups of
three. Ask them to read each others’ topics, issues, and research questions and
then decide which ones would best meet the criteria for what makes a
"good" issue. This peer review session could be conducted in groups
over email or on a discussion forum. If the peer review is done over email,
have the students cc to you, the instructor.
a mini-Audience Analysis for the News and Issue Analysis: Staying
in their groups, students now can generate a description of the audience for
the News and Issue Analysis by polling one another on their issues, getting
some initial feedback from their peers. At the conclusion of this activity,
students should be assigned to post their responses to a discussion forum so
that you, the instructor, can also add your responses, too. [Set a date and
time by which these postings should occur so that you can add your information
to their poll which will help them in writing the topic proposal.] Here’s a
potential list of questions that might be used to obtain information about this
classroom audience, including the instructor:
1.What do you know about the issue?
would they like to know about the issue?
their degree of interest in the issue?
their opinions as of right now, or without the benefit of full reading?
questions or concerns they have about the issue?
they think is most involved or impacted by this issue?
or possible outcomes do they see to the way this issue gets resolved?
Transition: Advise students to hold onto this informal
audience analysis for inclusion among their Portfolio 2 process materials.
the Topic Proposal: Review the assignment sheet with students and answer
any questions they may have. Remind them to include their understanding of
their audience’s needs as revealed by the Audience Analysis Postings. Also
remind them to do some preliminary searching (talk with people about their
issue and read two or three sources) before completing this assignment. Tell
them that they do not need a bibliography page, but they should use author tags
to credit ideas in their proposal.
Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" from the PHG: Facilitate
a discussion for Tannen's essay. The goals for this discussion should be: to
help students understand what is meant by the "dialogue" or
"conversation" surrounding an issues, as opposed to a debate; to
discuss the importance of looking at all sides when seeking "truth"
on an issue in culture; and to explain the connection between Tannen's essay
and the Issue Analysis Essay for Portfolio 3. For more assistance with planning
this activity review the teaching guides on Planning a Class and Leading
Class Discussions on Writing@CSU.
Assign the NYT News Clippings emphasis for
this portfolio, as explained earlier in the introductory materials for this
Review the day’s activities, taking special care to make
clear their connection to both Portfolio 2 and larger course goals. Take care
to provide some sort of conclusion to each class.
See the information at the beginning of this description of
week-long activities. Make sure that students read Talking Back to start getting a sense of audience and of the focus
and depth expected of their issue analyses.