To introduce and practice using the formal elements of response/argument (claims, reasons and evidence).
Working with the formal elements of response (claims, reasons and evidence) will help students transform their unstructured essays into more thoughtful and convincing responses. Introducing response is important for the thematic aims of this course because it allows students to invest their own ideas on issues of public importance.
Develop an introduction for this class session. You may wish to remind students of key concepts from the previous lesson, forecast what you’ll be working on for the day, and/or look ahead to the due date for P1A.
Note To GTAs: You’ll notice as we move through the syllabus that the daily lessons will gradually get less and less specific. This is intentional - it’s your class, and we want you to take ownership of it. To this end, you’ll begin to see more and more prompts like this to design your own activities, make homework assignments, allocate class time, and so forth. If at any time you feel “stuck” or worried about the choices the syllabus asks you to make, please feel free to chat with one of the lecturers, bring up your concerns in E684, or brainstorm with your peers.
Transition: Develop a transition here to move into the next activity.
The goal of this discussion is to briefly introduce students to two ways of responding to a text that we'll be exploring: agreeing/disagreeing with the text's ideas and analyzing/evaluating what makes the text effective or ineffective. Review the points on pgs. 168 - 170 in the PHG, highlighting important concepts and phrases. Also, check out the teaching guide on Types of Summary and Response . You may want to make an overhead like the following:
Although there are a variety of ways we can respond to texts, the two ways approaches we'll be pursuing in this class are:
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. (Portfolio I - Part A focuses on Agree/Disagree Response)
The goal of an Analytical/Evaluative 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. (Portfolio I - Part B focuses on Analytical/Evaluative Response)
Once you discuss these broadly, focus more narrowly on the agree/disagree response since they will do that for homework. Our goal here is not to show students that these types of responses exist simply as responses devoid of writing situations. You should ask students when/why they would choose to write a given response and/or provide examples of this.
You can point out that they will practice both ways of responding through upcoming essays. For now, it's only important that they understand the differences between the two approaches. Also, let them know that a combination of responses is possible for some of the papers they will write. If they choose a combination, they simply need to be sure that their response makes an overall, focused point.
For the agree/disagree response, discuss what students feel the focus of the response will be (with what and to what extent they agree or disagree). And explain that this type of response is usually best supported with personal experience and/or outside textual sources.
Transition: Develop a transition here. You might explain that students will shortly practice writing an agree/disagree response to the one of the articles they've read as homework; but first you'd like to take a few minutes in class to freewrite about their responses.
Introduce this activity by reminding students that writing is a process, and as such, we have to start somewhere. Freewriting is one tactic that can help us generate an initial draft. You might bring in a few paragraphs from Anne Lamott's essay "Shitty First Drafts" (available in the appendix or from one of the lecturers) to help emphasize this point and break the ice.
Have students choose one of the P1A articles (Martin, "New Orleans Blues", or Early) and freewrite about their responses to it and to the discussion in class today. Tell them that they're not obligated to continue working with the article they're writing about now, but rather that this is an opportunity to record their thoughts so that they'll have something to go back to later.
If time, discuss students WTL responses. Tell them you'll collect these responses as process work for their first portfolio.
Tell students that in order to structure their responses, they need to consider their purpose, thesis claim, reasons and evidence. Define/reinforce these terms and have students apply them to their homework responses.
Purpose - What the writer is trying to accomplish. This is the writer's goal. (i.e. I want to agree with Wilson. Or, I want to show how the issue of reconstructing New Orleans is more complicated than the writer of "New Orleans Blues" thinks).
Ask students to write out their purpose for responding to their chosen article (perhaps on the back side of their homework).
Thesis Claim - A claim is a debatable statement which summarizes the argument or response. The claim should directly reflect the purpose. (i.e. If my purpose is to disagree with Early, my claim would be: I disagree with Early). Claims are typically stated near the beginning of a writer's response. This lets the reader know where the essay is headed.
Ask students to see if their homework responses already include a claim. If they do have a claim, they should underline it. If they do not have a claim, they should write one out beneath their purpose.
Reasons - These are statements that support the claim. They answer the question: Why? (i.e. My claim is: I disagree with Wilson. My reason is: Because he wrongly assumes that addressing the so-called "social weaknesses" of disadvantaged New Orleans residents should be a priority for policy-makers). Reasons often immediately follow the claim. Ideally, they should provide a "map" for the essay, letting readers know which points the paper will address and in what order. For shorter essays (like the ones we write in CO150) students should limit their reasons to 3 to maintain a clear focus.
Have students think about the reasons they gave to support their response to their chosen article. They should label these in their paper "reasons." If they cannot find any reasons, tell them to list out one or two reasons that would support their claim.
Evidence - Evidence supports the writer's reasons. While reasons explain or tell why the claim may be true, evidence shows why it is true. Evidence may come in the form of personal experience, cultural observations, outside texts/research, or the text itself. Evidence is what makes a writer's opinions credible. Without evidence, a response is no more than a reaction or a rant.
Ask students to find any evidence they included in their responses and to label it "evidence." If they didn't include evidence, tell them to list out what kinds of evidence they might need to include to support their points.
Write a conclusion for today's class.
** Note to GTAs: The Portfolio I - Part A Sample Essay is located in the Writing Studio page for your lecturer's class. You will need to make it available to your students by copying and pasting it into your own class page.