Oct. 22, Oct. 24, Oct. 26
Connection to Course Goals
Conferencing with individual students holds each student accountable for being an active member of an academic community. Conferences will focus on the writing process and on the rhetorical choices students plan to make as they continue working on their drafts. Developing an argument is a way of meeting readers’ needs. A lot of CO150 students don’t have a lot of practice shaping their writing with an audience in mind which may be why so many CO150 students struggle to develop their papers.
Connection to Students’ Own Writing
Conferences are all about each student’s own writing. This may be the one time all semester that some students have your undivided attention; focusing this time on a particular writing assignment will make the conference as useful as possible. Examining other writers' argument strategies will give students ideas for ways to develop their zero-drafts into academic arguments.
The primary goal of each conference is to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s zero-draft; that is, to talk with the student about how his/her claim and reasons may help him/her accomplish his/her purpose as well as the purposes of the assignment itself. Secondary goals of each conference are numerous; it’s important to be flexible (it’s very likely that some students will show up with no draft at all), so you can make each conference productive for each student. Since you’ll only have 10-15 minutes with each student, try to keep the conference focused; but be willing to accept that you may not have time to address every student’s every need. You can always recommend that a student schedule another (perhaps longer) conference with you if there is too much to discuss at this one.
Consider where you’ll hold conferences as well as where you and each student will sit. If you don’t want to use your office you can meet students in the library by the coffee cart or at a table in the 3rd floor Eddy hallway. Since you will be talking about a draft, it may help to be able to sit next to the student so you can both look at the draft at the same time. This sets up an informal atmosphere that can be conducive to a productive conference. However, some instructors and some students need more formality for various reasons. You might set up the conference space so that the students sit across from you instead.
Here are some possible conference starters:
Tell me about your zero-draft.
What topic have you chosen? Why?
What claim have you chosen? Why?
When you read the student’s zero-draft, give yourself time to think it through, and don’t hesitate to ask the student for clarification. You do not need to evaluate the draft on the spot; rather, discuss the ways in which the student envisions the argument accomplishing its goals. Give suggestions as appropriate, but keep in mind that many students benefit most from talking about their own writing.
Wrap up each conference as you see fit, aiming to motivate students to keep working on their drafts. You might suggest that students make notes on their drafts about what they want to do with it next (it’s easy for students to walk out of your office with tons of great ideas, then to forget them all once they leave the building). You might make your own notes about what you discuss with each student, too.
Take some time to talk with your class about their reactions to "Is Welfare Still Necessary…?" Your discussion need not be scripted, but try to work in the following:
Development is one of the aspects of writing that CO150 students struggle with most, so they can benefit from guided practice on how to use evidence to support reasons to support a claim. Start by showing an example of sufficiently relevant evidence for a reason that supports the claim that the U.S. government should subsidize organic food:
Claim: The U.S. government should subsidize organic food.
Reason: Organic food tends to be healthier for people.
Evidence: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported “that the superior management practices of organic agriculture reduce E. coli and mycotoxin infections in food.”
Evidence: A 2003 John Hopkins study found that “Use of chlorinated pesticides among applicators over 50 years of age was significantly associated with prostate cancer risk.”
Evidence: The UK-based Soil Association reports that “antibiotic additives routinely added to animal food to speed animal growth are linked with bacterial resistance in humans to the same or closely related antibiotics.” Also, they say that “No hydrogenated fats are allowed in organic food.” Also they say that “No food has higher amounts of beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins than organic food.”
Be sure students understand that three isn’t a “magic number;” some reasons can be supported with just two pieces of evidence and some need four or five. This might lead to a discussion of how to decide how much evidence is enough, based on reasons, audience, context, etc.
Next, show an example of the above written in paragraph form:
Organic food tends to be healthier for people. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported “that the superior management practices of organic agriculture reduce E. coli and mycotoxin infections in food.” A 2003 John Hopkins study found that “Use of chlorinated pesticides among applicators over 50 years of age was significantly associated with prostate cancer risk.” The UK-based Soil Association reports that “antibiotic additives routinely added to animal food to speed animal growth are linked with bacterial resistance in humans to the same or closely related antibiotics.” Also, they say that “No hydrogenated fats are allowed in organic food.” Also they say that “No food has higher amounts of beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins than organic food.”
This paragraph is typical of CO150 writing. While it starts out with the reason and then presents evidence for the reason, it does not explain how the pieces of evidence connect to each other nor how they support the reason. This paragraph asks readers to make the logical connections between the evidence and the reason. This compromises the purpose of the argument; if a reader is already skeptical or even just indifferent, how likely is it that he/she will be willing to do the work to understand how the evidence supports the reason?
Present another example that uses the same reasons and evidence much more effectively:
Though the USDA refuses to verify that organic food is healthier than conventionally-grown food, there is a lot of evidence that shows that organic food does tend to be healthier for people—both the producers and the consumers. Firstly, organic farmers do not use chemical pesticides. A 2003 John Hopkins study found that chemical pesticides can increase the risk of prostate cancer. The study concluded that the “use of chlorinated pesticides among applicators over 50 years of age was significantly associated with prostate cancer risk.” An organic farmer is not at this increased risk because he does not use chemical pesticides. Other studies need to be conducted to see if there are links between chemical pesticides and other types of cancer, but it is clear that avoiding chemical pesticides is not bad for human health, and in some cases at least, can be very beneficial.
Organic food is also good for the health of the consumer. While our society is concerned about food safety and food-borne illnesses, we can take comfort in the fact that organic food is more likely to be safe. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported “that the superior management practices of organic agriculture reduce E. coli and mycotoxin infections in food.” Organic food is inspected much more carefully than conventionally grown food, and organic food producers have to adhere to strict guidelines. This leads to much safer food.
Many people in the U.S. ask: “is organic food really healthier? As the UK, Germany, and other European countries have embraced organics for a long time, we can look to them for some answers. The UK-based Soil Association reports that “antibiotic additives routinely added to animal food to speed animal growth are linked with bacterial resistance in humans to the same or closely related antibiotics.” Many people in the U.S. would agree that antibiotic resistance is a problem; organic farming can help slow this problem. Also, the Soil Association points out that “No hydrogenated fats are allowed in organic food.” This should pique the interest of a country mired in obesity problems. Finally, the Soil Association concludes that “No food has higher amounts of beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins than organic food.” Nobody can argue that these nutritional benefits are bad.
This second example is much more effective in showing how the evidence supports the reason. The writer has done the work that the first example asks readers to do. It directs readers to the writer’s preferred interpretation of the evidence, thus making readers much more likely to agree with the reason and with the argument as a whole. If your students need more of a push to see the benefits of the second example, point out that the first example is 120 words long while the second example is 377 words long (half a page vs. a page and a half). This can help students who tend to say what they have to say and then fill in the rest of the required length with “fluff.”
Use these examples (and come up with a few more of your own) for the following activity in which students will practice providing evidence and showing how evidence supports reasons.
Reason: Organic farming is much easier on the environment.
Evidence: The FDA says that, “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.”
Evidence: Whole Foods Market lists these environmental benefits of organic food:
- Organic farming practices help protect our water resources.
- Organic production limits toxic chemicals in our environment.
- Organic farmers are less reliant on non-renewable fossil fuels.
Evidence: A 2006 study at Stanford found that organic farming reduces groundwater contamination and nitrogen gas emissions while being the most sustainable method of agriculture.
Reason: If the price of organics decreases, demand will go up (resulting in a healthier population and environment).
Evidence: I used to have to pay $5.00 for a gallon of organic milk at the local food co-op. I could only afford to do this now and then. Now, I can find organic milk at Whole Foods for less than $4.00 and at Safeway for around $3.00. I buy organic milk a lot more now.
Evidence: According to Chip Wilson, author of Principles of Economics, “the law of demand states that, in general, price and quantity demanded in a given market are inversely related. In other words, the higher the price of a product, the less of it people would be able and willing buy of it.”
Evidence: The USDA reported that in 1997, consumers spent 3.6 billion dollars on organic products. In 2003, consumers spent 10.4 billion dollars on organic products. During that time, the price of organics decreased.
Break students into small groups and give each group a handout that includes a reason and a few pieces of evidence. Also give each group an overhead transparency and pen. Present the following instructions on the overhead:
When groups have finished, collect transparencies and pens, and call on groups to present their work.
Work on your argument draft.
Read “Welfare is Still Necessary for Women and Children in the U.S.” on pages 540-543
of the PHG.
As you continue working on your draft, apply the development strategies we discussed in class.
Read “The Damnation of a Canyon” by Edward Abbey on pages 499-504.
Read about audience appeals on pages 478-483.