Week 7: Monday, October 6th - Friday, October 10th

Week 8: Activity Ideas

backReturn to Overview

The suggested activities for this week include:

Working Bibliography Feedback

Introducing Analysis

Personal Position Analysis

Applying the Personal Position Analysis

As always, remember to introduce and conclude your lessons with previews and reviews. Use transitions to maintain a connection between daily classroom activities, assignments, and portfolio and course goals.


Working Bibliography Feedback (5-10 minutes)

Back to Top 

You should read and provide immediate and substantial whole-class feedback on students' Working Bibliographies and provide quick feedback to individuals via the Writing Studio (the first goal for this week). You can award simply a check for completion (or whatever mechanism you have for recording homework) but is important that students are held accountable for the steps of the research process.

To make the feedback more interactive, create an activity that is based on what you observe in the bibliographies so far.  You can also simply create an overhead with examples of what students are doing well and what they could improve.


Introduce Analysis (create activities and allot time as you see fit)

Back to Top

There are two main aspects of analysis that we need to solidify in this unit. The first is a general idea of what it means to analyze in general. Connecting this concept back to the Analytical/Evaluative Response from Portfolio 1 will be helpful in solidifying this aspect of the concept of analysis.


Create an activity that refreshes students' memories about the Analytical/Evaluative Response

What was your purpose? What process did you follow when analyzing the text? What did you need to establish before you could begin that process? 


This aspect of analysis functions on a number of levels: In terms of analyzing the sources students will use for their annotated bibliographies and ultimately their arguments in Portfolio 3, they will need to analyze the credibility and effectiveness of the source. This should be familiar to them from Portfolio 1. However, we take this a step farther in Portfolio 2 in that students must also be able to recognize and analyze the different values, beliefs, and purposes writers hold when writing about a publicly debated issue.


Adding the next level of analysis

The second aspect of analysis is actually similar to synthesis--what we do after breaking something down, how we put it back together. This aspect asks students to find common themes or threads among various sources' positions. Arranging different sources accordingly is the ultimate goal of the Annotated Bibliography.


To begin teaching these essential and challenging aspects of analysis, lay the foundation by using the following activities (you may want to revisit the Key Terms and Definitions section from Week 6 before doing them).


Two Examples of Activities for Analysis (15-20 minutes each, but feel free to stretch or shrink according to your additional plans)

Logical Associations Activity

Portfolio 1 taught us that analysis involves breaking a subject down into its parts, so let's practice this again:


Bring in a variety of objects (fruit, toys, poems, photographs, journals/magazines, etc.). Have students analyze the different parts of the objects. For example, if you are working with fruit, you might bring in a red apple, a green apple, a tomato, a green banana, a pear, and an orange.

Write on the board the characteristics that distinguish these items as "fruit": have seeds, grow on trees or vines, etc. Come to the conclusion that, yes, each of these items qualifies as a fruit.

Write on the board what distinguishes these items from each other: color, shape, where they grow, how they grow, type of skin, how we eat them, etc. 


Compare the two lists on the board and while you are doing so, you or a student might group the fruit according to the categories on the board. You will end up with a variety of ways to "organize" the fruit. For instance: 


1. the apples, the tomato and the orange are all relatively round


2. the red apple and the tomato are red; the green banana, the pear and the green apple are all green; the orange stand alone


3. we can eat the seeds of a banana and a tomato; we can't eat the seeds of the rest of the fruit


4. the pear, the banana, the orange and the apples all grow on trees; the tomato grows on a vine


And so on...


You can do similar activities using other objects, but the goal is to generate and answer the questions: What are the parts of the object? What makes these objects different? Where are they similar? How can we break the group apart and put it back together in different ways?


Legalizing Drugs Debate

This activity takes the previous one a bit deeper as it connects values, beliefs, purposes, and concerns to people who might be active in the debate.


In high school most of us learned to simplify approaches into two categories, "pro" and "con," in order to examine a debate. However, shared approaches typically run much deeper than "pro" and "con" since every person's views are complicated by various social and cultural factors. Here's an example: Let's say we reduced the issue of legalizing drugs to "pro" and "con"--then it could be said that both government officials and members of religious groups take the same shared approach toward legalizing drugs, since both groups oppose making these substances legal. A closer examination of the arguments made by members of each group indicates, however, that they do not share the same views. Government representatives are likely to oppose legalization because they claim that drugs are harmful to society as a whole. In contrast, authors who oppose legalization because of their religious beliefs might do so largely because it goes against the teaching of their faiths.


Let's consider another group--parents. Some of these individuals may oppose drug legalization because their children have become victims of drug abuse. These individual positions would differ from those advanced by members of the previous groups due to different experiences that have shaped parents' lives. However, depending on the specific argument they make, a parent who writes a text protesting the legalization of drugs might share the approach taken by a government official or member of a religious group. Thus, although a parent will have his or her own individual position on this issue, he or she would take the same shared approach as that taken by certain government officials and members of particular religious groups.


Yet another group weighing in on the issue of legalization is civil libertarians-who believe that individuals should be free to make decisions about drug use free of regulation by the government. These authors argue that drug use is an individual choice and, even if it harms the individual, is nonetheless something that the individual should be free to do. This argument is similar in many ways to arguments about mandatory use of helmets on motorcycles and even to some arguments that "risky" sports such as skiing should not be regulated by the government.


Two additional groups interested in this issue adopt economic approaches. One group argues that the amount of money the government is spending attempting to combat drug use has largely been wasted. Since drug use has declined only somewhat since the government began fighting the drug war, the government should reconsider its tactics and, as it did when it lifted the prohibition on alcohol, legalize drug use. The core of this argument is that the money now spent on the drug ware would be better spent on societal needs. The other group taking an economic approach - albeit a very different approach - are companies that would view the legalization of drugs such as marijuana as a threat to their viability might include representatives of alcohol and tobacco companies. It's fair to say that alcohol and tobacco companies don't oppose drug use solely because drugs are harmful to people (after all, the consumption of both results in many deaths per year). It's also fair to say that these authors would be unlikely to come out and say, "Don't legalize drugs because it will cost us money." As a result, while representatives of tobacco and alcohol companies might oppose legalization of drugs for economic reasons, they would probably avoid couching their arguments in those terms.


CSOW:  Connecting to Students' Own Writing (5-7 minutes)

Given these examples, clearly it would be inaccurate to clump these very different arguments into "pro" and "con". If we did, much of the meaning or truth behind the issue would be lost. The goal for a "good" writer of public discourse should always be to produce texts that seek to fairly represent the issues (for the betterment of society). Thus, it can be viewed as dishonest for writers to reduce the complexity of an issue unnecessarily. In part, this is why you (student writers) are being asked to think critically about these different individual positions and shared approaches.


After you've read and summarized your sources, look for common threads that cut across sources as a way to group them into different shared approaches. Here's what it might look like for the example above.


Topic: Legalization of Drugs


Shared Approach 1: Oppose legalization because it is harmful to society as a whole


Shared Approach 2: Oppose legalization for moral reasons because it is against religious teachings


Shared Approach 3: Favor legalization for individual rights reasons


Shared Approach 4: Favor legalization for economic reasons because the war against drugs has been ineffective


Shared Approach 5: Oppose legalization for economic reasons


Of course, you could argue that the government is also economically motivated and that representatives of alcohol and tobacco companies may legitimately believe that drugs are harmful to society. If the support for these claims outweighs the others, you'd need to group the positions of authors arguing about differently. Keep in mind that grouping positions into approaches is far from an exact science; you'll need to read various arguments before generalizing views into approaches in order to represent each group fairly.

You could have students "role play" the people involved in this conversation/debate or create your own or an additional debate that students enact to drive this point home.  It's a tough one!


Personal Position Analysis (create activities and allot time as you see fit)

Back to Top

Introduce the Personal Position Analysis as a way to begin analyzing a person active in the debate about each student's issue; it should be a short analytical paper. You can turn this worksheet into an activity or series of activities that culminates in the paper. This process allows students to experience what they will need to do for the authors whom they are reading.

Personal Position Analysis Worksheet

Part 1

  • As of now, what is your position on this issue?
  • What is your tentative claim? (State as a complete sentence.)
  • What are some reasons you'll use to support that claim? (State each reason as a complete sentence.)

Part 2

Consider why you take the position you do—not so much your logic or reasoning but the contextual influences that may have shaped your position.


1. Where did you grow up? Describe your neighborhood, school, hometown? How might your local community have influenced the way you view this issue?


2. Describe your values and beliefs, your convictions and/or where you get your morals or your sense of right and wrong. What helps you to define what's right and wrong? Where do you think your sense of values came from? How might these values, beliefs, convictions, and morals affect your views of the issue you're writing about?

3. What people have been most influential in shaping your views? How do they influence your ideas? How might they influence the way you view this particular issue?


4. Describe any biases that you have that may influence how you view this issue. Do you have something to gain personally from taking the position you do? If so, what is it?


5. Can you think of any specific personal experiences (event, story, film, book) that may have influenced the way you view this issue?


6. How might your education affect your position on this issue? How were you schooled—at home, or in a public, private, religious, charter, or alternative institution? Have you received formal education or training from work or service-related affiliations? Has your education extended beyond the classroom—via travel or unique circumstances? How might your education—in and out of schoold--have influenced your views on this issue?


7. How has the research you have done thus far on your issue affected your position? Explain. What values, beliefs, purposes or concerns do you share with the sources you have found? Where do your values or beliefs diverge from your sources? 


Part 3

Now choose two or three of the most significant points from your responses to discuss in a focused personal position analysis of approximately 500 words.

*Note:   Once you have introduced the analysis, you can give students some time in class to work on it over 1-2 classes and then finish it for homework.

Also, use classroom discussion time to dig deeply into personal convictions and where they come from. You might try using small groups to discuss the factors or influences that students surmise have contributed to the formation of their own positions on an issue. Students might be urged to think of this as a "coming clean" exercise, in which each student acknowledges the forces that have shaped his or her opinions.


Applying the Personal Position Analysis (create activities and allot time as you see fit)

Back to Top

Use the NYT to help make a transition from personal positions (and their associated values and beliefs) to others' values, beliefs, and affiliations

Select several articles to demonstrate a few issues that are only issues (debatable) because of the clash of values and beliefs. Ask students to do the same with their articles. A WTL with a news clipping attached would be a good way to obtain a sense of how all students are doing with this analysis.


Connect Personal Position Analysis to the analysis of other sources and writers--their positions, and their contexts

Apply the same sorts of context questions from the Personal Position Analysis to sources and their authors. This is a good process to demonstrate for your students.  You might find a short article that you find interesting in the NYT or use an article from another source.  Point out passages in the text that indicate the values, beliefs or biases the writer holds (you might tie this skill back to the Interpretive/Reflective Response in that we will need to read between the lines sometimes for analysis).  However, since determining an author's values, beliefs, affiliations, etc. is not always apparent from the text itself, illustrate how you researched the author's background via the web or another source.  Inform students that, yes, this a fair amount of work but it will pay off in Portfolio 3 and is necessary for the type of analysis we are asking them to do.

Establish a framework for applying the Position Analysis to outside sources

(You can use the Template for Position Analysis of a Single Source located among the materials at the start of this portfolio.) Using the board or the overhead, make a template of this grid for students to draw on notebook paper and devote a few pages of their notes to. They can use the grid to explore the relationships between the contexts and positions. As students find sources and evaluate those sources' contributions to the discussion, they can use the grid to analyze the factors that influence the positions represented. When students begin to see multiple sources with similar convictions, guided by parallel values, beliefs and affiliations, or motivated by similar purposes, then they are ready to start moving their Position Analysis information into the Composite Grid, which is also included among the introductory materials to this portfolio. Students should obtain at least 15 substantial sources, which can be pared down to a minimum of 10 sources and a minimum of 3 approaches for the Annotated Bibliography.

The Position Analysis of a Single Source can be applied gradually to sources over the course of a few weeks in class, and students should be encouraged to include all such work in their process materials for Portfolio 2, to return to it frequently in upcoming classes, and to bring it (along with the Composite Grid) to the student-instructor conference in Week 9. It is not necessary to give the grid as a formal homework assignment. Instead, encourage students to use it as an independent thinking tool. See the sample below as well as the expanded one in the introductory pages of Portfolio 2:


Composite Grid


author, title, publisher, other sources cited in the text




Write the claim/these here



Provide evidence of this here

Community, Background, & Affiliations:


Provide evidence of this here

Vested Interests, Biases, & Personal Stakes:


Provide evidence of this here

Values, Beliefs, Attitudes, & Convictions:


Provide evidence of this here

These are indicators of affiliation:


Provide evidence of this here


Review the day’s activities (3 minutes)

Remember to conclude each class session.  When you or a student does this, take 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.