Use this week to finish any work that students need to accomplish before turning in their academic argument. Determine which activities would be most helpful for your students to complete: discussing sample arguments, taking part in an extra peer workshop, or conferencing with you. Additionally, we cover fallacies this week so that students may avoid making dishonest or illogical points as they attempt to write persuasive appeals.
Please remember to provide lesson and course connections each class day and to introduce and conclude your lessons along with providing transitions between activities.
Discuss Fallacies in Argument (you determine time)
Begin by defining what an argumentative fallacy is (a distortion of rhetoric to make an argument seem more convincing). Fallacies happen when a writer/speaker manipulates a reader's emotions; or, when a writer/speaker misrepresents someone's character; or, when a writer/speaker distorts an argument's logic. In essence, a fallacy is a dishonest or illogical appeal. Fallacies are commonly found in advertisements and in political debates. Tell students that they should avoid fallacies in their arguments. They may also use their understanding of fallacies to refute untruthful or problematic opposing arguments.
Choose from the following activities:
Review the fallacies in the PHG on pgs. 532 - 535. Sometimes students "tune out" when instructors simply review the fallacies. A more engaging approach is to have students pair up and become experts on one fallacy (you assign each pair a specific fallacy to focus on). Then, students can present their information and teach their fallacy to others in the class. If you use this approach, have students come up with a few examples (in addition to those in the book) to illustrate their fallacy. You might have them present their ideas on an overhead.
Create a worksheet that matches fallacies to a fallacious passage. Have students identify the fallacies in each passage.
Bring in sample arguments that contain obvious fallacies (letters to the editor commonly make fallacies; or, use arguments from various political voices like Anne Coulter and Michael Moore. If you bring in political arguments, you'll want to use samples from the entire spectrum. Don't single out certain political groups or individuals, as students can be sensitive to this. So for example, if you're going to look at President Bush's fallacious arguments, it would be fair to bring in some of Clinton's as well.
Discuss Sample Arguments (you determine time)
To complete this activity, students should have read one or two student sample arguments for homework. Take some time to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each sample argument students have read. To make this discussion even more effective, have students evaluate each essay based on the criteria you will use to evaluate their arguments. You might conduct this as a group activity or a whole class discussion. If you discuss the essays as a whole class, it's useful to have copies of them on an overhead. As students evaluate each part of an essay, you can write out their observations on the overhead draft.
** Note: Sometimes students will really tear into a piece of writing (i.e. "I thought the introduction really sucked.") This type of feedback only adds to the anxiety that other students have when it comes to sharing their work. Therefore, you might encourage students to offer suggestions for how to improve the sample drafts, rather than simply pointing out what is wrong. Also, try to encourage them to focus on an essay's strengths.