To discuss summarizing and responding to visual images. To explore strategies for shaping responses; to emphasize the importance of detail and development.
Discussing tactics for summarizing and responding to images will help students understand that summary and response skills can be used in a variety of rhetorical contexts. Looking more deeply at detail and development will enable students to write focused, well-supported responses.
Make sure to take a few minutes at the beginning of each class to get students focused and preview the activities for the day.
Transition: Develop a transition here.
For this activity, you'll need an overhead or other form of color visual aid of a character your students will be familiar with. Paul Barribeau (one of our former lecturers) used to bring a life-sized cutout of Yoda from Star Wars, but a color overhead works just fine.
Introduce the activity by tying it in to what you'll be discussing that day. It works well to surprise students with this activity, so you might try introducing it by saying something like: "Today we're going to be talking about summarizing and responding to the visual elements of texts, but before we do that, I want to try a little experiment . . . ." Put Yoda up on the overhead and let the class get a good look at him for a moment.
Ask the class if they know who this is (Yoda), and then ask them to start tossing out descriptions of what they see. Write as many of these descriptions as you can up on the board. They'll usually come up with surface-level descriptions like "he's green" and "he's old" and maybe even "he's a Jedi", all of which are useful fodder for this activity.
Once you have a solid list of 10-12 words or phrases describing Yoda, turn to your students and say something to the effect of: "Great. Now, I want you all to pull out a piece of paper and spend the next 3-5 minutes writing as detailed a description of Yoda as possible. Here's the catch, though - you can't use any of the words, phrases, or conjugates of the words or phrases that you see up here on the board. This means that not only can't you say that Yoda is 'green', you also can't say he's 'greenish'." Give them a few minutes to write.
Ask for volunteers to read what they've written. As they're reading, write down all of the descriptive phrases that they're using in another list on the board (make sure you don't erase the first one). You'll usually get some pretty funny stuff, like "Yoda is the color of pea soup" or "This character is shorter than my little sister."
Once you have a solid list of descriptive phrases, ask the class which of the two lists on the board is more interesting and why. They should say that the second list is more interesting because it's more detailed and paints a picture of Yoda in their heads. At this point, you can segue into a discussion of why it's important to show (the descriptive list) your readers the visual elements of a text rather than just telling (the first list) your readers about visual elements without fully discussing or supporting them.
Sample Transition: "Now that we've explored one strategy for developing our descriptions of visual texts, let's think about how to integrate this writing tactic into our P1B essays."
You might begin this segment of the class by pointing out to students that visual elements are just one part of a text that they can analyze and evaluate, and that no matter which aspects of a text they choose to focus on for this assignment, it's important that they narrow their focus and develop their claim. You might remind them of the map activity and once again emphasize that their claim needs to give their readers a clear sense of what to expect in their response, and that they then need to develop their claim with detailed evidence and support, most likely drawn from the text.
You can choose to conduct this portion of the class in any way that makes sense to you. To learn more about teaching students how to integrate detail and development, visit the Writing at CSU website at: http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/detail/index.cfm. At minimum, you'll want to remind students that they need to back up their evaluations of the article they've chosen to write about with evidence, and that it's not enough just to present evidence - they'll also need to explain to their readers why the evidence they're presenting is relevant to the point they're making.