Monday, August 27

Day 4 (Monday, August 27)

Lesson Objectives
Students will

Connection to Course Goals
Today, students continue to practice close reading as they learn to recognize strategies writers use to accomplish goals and connect with audiences.

Connection to Students’ Own Writing
Practicing close reading will help students write effective summaries.  Self-workshops encourage students to look at their own work critically in order to revise.

Decide how you will prefer to keep your attendance record from here on out (you shouldn’t have any more roster changes), and set up what you need in order to do that.  Also, decide how you will hold students accountable for reading—quizzes? WTLs?  another activity?  You don’t have to do the same thing every time, but be sure you do something, especially at first, so that students do the reading.  Reread “Our National Eating Disorder” and your own summary of it from GTA orientation.  Make sure you have notes about what needs to go into a summary of this article.  Make your own adjustments to the summary criteria and the assignment sheet as well.

Inquiry list
Attendance record
“Our National Eating Disorder” (annotated)
Your notes on and summary of the article
Summary assignment sheets
Overhead transparencies:
            Quiz questions or WTL prompt
            Summary criteria
            Self-workshop instructions
For today’s class, students have read “Our National Eating Disorder” and they have drafted summaries.  They are expecting to discuss Pollan’s piece and their summaries.  Since Pollan’s article is more complicated than the “One Thing to do About Food” essays from last week, and because summary writing may be new to many students, students might be coming to class today with questions and uncertainties.


After today’s class you should not have any roster changes, so you can begin to take attendance in the same way you’ll take attendance throughout the semester.  Be sure to keep an accurate record so that you can apply your attendance policy fairly.  Keeping accurate attendance records is essential.  If you end up lowering a student’s grade for excessive absences, you must have accurate records of the classes missed.

Introduce today’s class by designating a student to be in charge of the inquiry list today.  Link back to last week (last week, we began to inquire and to learn about summary writing for example).  Preview the activities you’ll do today.

Allow students time to talk about the homework by asking questions such as:

Transition The articles we are reading this week are considerably more complex than the essays we read last week, so we’ll be sure to take time to understand what they say.

Take plenty of time to discuss what Pollan says in “Our National Eating Disorder.”  Here you’re modeling what you are asking students to do for the first assignment, so it’s important that you talk it through so that students see how a more complex argument can be structured. 

Start by brainstorming ideas on the board.  What does Pollan say?  Here, anything that is objective and accurate (even if it is a minor point, evidence, etc.) is worthwhile.  Write student responses on the board (or ask a student to be your “scribe”). 

Once you have most or all of Pollan’s major points on the board, begin to label them: thesis, reasons, evidence, key points (such as counterarguments, questions-at-issue, causes and effects, solutions, etc.). 

Here’s an example of how a class might brainstorm “Our National Eating Disorder.”  On the board, you can shorten student responses.

What Pollan says:

Allow yourself time to look through your own notes to see if there is anything to add to the list your students develop and then allow students another opportunity to add anything more.

Finally, determine what should go into a summary in order to accurately and objectively represent Pollan’s argument (you really can’t go overboard in reminding students of the purposes of summary writing).  It’s tempting to summarize in chronological order (Pollan says X and then X and then X, etc.), but that doesn’t enable one to restate the argument.  Take time to determine Pollan’s thesis first.  As with the essays from last week, Pollan does not announce his thesis in his first paragraph.

One way to do this is to label the items in the list as part of the thesis (you can write “thesis?” next to any items up for debate), as reasons, as key points (you can specify what kind of key point it is), and as evidence. 

As you talk students through these decisions, you don’t need to “give them the answers.”  That is, you don’t need to write out The Thesis on the board for them, in part because that would be doing the work you want them to learn how to do.  More so, though, because there is not just one way of stating Pollan’s thesis.  Though we ask students to be objective in the summary, identifying and rephrasing the thesis is, to a degree, an interpretive act that can’t be 100% objective.  Here are several acceptable ways of phrasing Pollan’s thesis:

Americans have a paradoxical relationship to food which has made us “the world’s most anxious eaters.”

Michael Pollan says that America’s scientific approach to making decisions about food has created a culture of anxious, guilt-ridden eaters who, while “obsessed” about health are really quite unhealthy.

According to Michael Pollan, Americans need to change their attitude towards eating from a paradoxical one to one that balances health and pleasure.

Talk about how Pollan supports his thesis, being sure to sort out confusion about key points vs. evidence.  Refer back to the explanations in last week’s lesson plans for ways of helping students discern the difference.

Give students a chance to look through their own summaries to make notes of things they might add or remove (more opportunity for this later, too). 

Transition the most important thing you can do in your summary is accurately and objectively represent the writer’s argument. Let’s look at the other criteria now.

Remind students of a summary’s purpose and audience as you present the following on an overhead transparency:

Purpose/Audience: Does the summary convince the reader that the writer has read the article closely and understands its argument?

Conventions: Has the writer observed the genre conventions of academic summary?

Point out that this is a hierarchy.  That is, the items at the top of the list are more important to a successful summary than are the items at the bottom of the list.

Transition let’s use these criteria to workshop the draft you brought in today.

Present the following prompts on an overhead transparency, and ask students to work through them with their own summaries (anyone without a summary can work on drafting one now).  Explain how they reflect the criteria you just reviewed so that students don’t think of them simply as a checklist.

Summary Self Workshop
This workshop will help you determine how well you have accomplished the goals of representing the writer’s argument both accurately and objectively. 

1. Underline the sentence(s) in which you have restated the author’s thesis.
2. Circle the author’s name, the date of publication, and the title of the magazine or newspaper in which the article was published.
3. Put a star by each reason or key point.
4. Draw a box around each author tag.
5. Draw [brackets] around anything superfluous: any of your own opinions or reactions and/or minutiae from the article (evidence, anecdotes, etc.).

Now, look over your paper.  You should have: an underlined sentence or two, three circles, a few stars, and a few boxes.  If any of those things are missing, make a note to yourself that you need to add them in revision.  If you have anything in brackets, be sure to remove them in revision.

If you're concerned that you will run out of time, you might consider discussing criteria one at a time and asking students to look at their own summaries to see if they meet the criterion.  For example, you could first explain "Accuracy," then ask students to underline the thesis and reasons and then make a marginal note about whether they are represented accurately.  Then you would move on to "Objectivity."  This way, if you don't have time to get through all the criteria today, you can address them Wednesday. 

Collect the summaries, with however much of the self-workshop done.  You can read through these to assess students' progress toward summary goals.  You might make a single comment on each summary to let students know how they are doing on accuracy and/or objectivity.  You can look at how the class as a whole is doing on other criteria and address their strengths and weaknesses in Wednesday's lesson.  Collecting summaries today will also help hold students accountable for homework.

Today you can begin to assign homework in the way you will do so throughout the rest of the semester.  If you plan to post homework to the Writing Studio, it is fine to remind students of that and simply talk through the homework assignment.  You might continue to put the homework on the overhead and/or create handouts, but be aware that your students might come to rely on that and ignore the Writing Studio calendar.  Some teachers choose to write the homework on the board with the agenda.  Whatever you choose to do, today is the day to start the routine.  Be sure to collect the inquiry list before students leave.

Homework for Wednesday
Access, print, and read [Instructors, add your choice of articles here: “Mass Natural” and/or “You Are What You Grow.”  If you choose to assign both, be sure to specify which you want students to summarize, and be sure to adjust Wednesday’s lesson plan so that you have time to discuss the content of both].
Draft a summary of Pollan’s article.  Bring a printed copy of your summary draft.
Find the Academic Summary assignment sheet under Assignments.  Print it and bring it to class. (This is one option for dealing with assignment sheets.  You may forgo this and simply make copies for the class and bring them on Wednesday.)

Wrap up today’s class by saying something like, next time, we’ll look at another article by Michael Pollan, and we’ll go over quoting and paraphrasing.

Connection to Next Class

Today you’ve emphasized the importance of taking time to understand what an author is saying.  Next time, you won’t need to spend as much time on this because, presumably, students will read more closely this time around.  Because you've focused on discussing the homework and you've collected it, any students who came unprepared today should be more inclined to prepare for Wednesday.