Day 2 (Thursday, August 23)
Connection to Course Goals
Today's class focuses on close reading and begins to introduce rhetorical language.
Connection to Students’ Own Writing
Identifying thesis statements and writing collaborative summaries give students practice with summary writing. Developing questions for further inquiry will engage students in ongoing inquiry that they will write about in Phase 1 and Phase 2 assignments.
Before today's class, be sure you have reread "One Thing to Do About Food", created an "inquiry list" with questions and terms from Tuesday's WTL's, and written your own lesson plan.
"One Thing to Do About Food"
Identifying Thesis Statements activity instructions
Group Summary Activity instructions
Homework (or make handouts for homework--do the same thing that you did on Tuesday)
6 blank overhead transparencies (you can get these from the mailroom in Eddy)
6 overhead markers such as Vis a Vis (you'll need to supply these yourself)
For today's class, students have read "One Thing to Do About Food," have looked for thesis statements, and are expecting to discuss the reading. Note that it's not uncommon at all to have a few students come to class the second day without having done the homework. Usually this is because of technical difficulties that the students have waited until class to tell you about. Any unprepared student can join with a peer to look on with the reading and will be able to follow along ok during class. Be sure to arrange a way to help the student with the problems and point out how important it is to keep up with everything.
If you arrive to class a few minutes early, you might write the "agenda" on the board. A brief list of today's activities could go something like: "Discuss reading; Identify thesis statements; Introduce summary; Further inquiry." If you do this, make it a routine so that students know what to expect.
Attendance (2-3 minutes)
Take care of any remaining registration issues, and be sure to note which students are absent.
Introduction (1-2 minutes)
Begin today's class by previewing the activities you have planned: today we are going to continue talking about food ethics and we'll discuss how to write an academic summary so that we can continue on with our academic inquiry.
Discuss academic inquiry (3-5 minutes)
Explain the inquiry list. Here’s a sample explanation:
As we work over the next few weeks, we will be keeping track of the questions and terms we want to know more about. I started a list as I read your WTLs from Tuesday. During each class session, someone will be in charge of adding things to the list.
Read a few things from the list, and then ask for a volunteer “list-keeper” for today (or start with the first (or last) name on your roster). The "list-keeper" should listen especially carefully during discussions to make a record of the ideas and questions that come up. Also, the list keeper can add questions of his/her own.
Transition: one of the ways we will inquire is to discuss what we are reading.
Discuss "One Thing to Do About Food" (8-10 minutes)
Talk with your students about the reading. While the aim of this activity is to teach students what it means to read a text closely, it's very likely that students will have reactions and opinions they want to share. You might start off with a general question, such as "what writer did you agree with most?" or "which of these suggestions do you think would work best?" As students offer answers, encourage them to talk to each other by responding with questions like "how many people agree (or disagree) with that?" or "who had a different reaction?" Don't hesitate to ask "why" or for clarification. If your students are very reluctant to speak, give them a WTL and then ask for some responses. If your students are overly-exuberant, keep track of time so that you can move forward with class after 10 minutes or so.
Transition: these reactions show that, often, writing gets a conversation going.
Introduce the idea of writing as conversation (3-5 minutes)
Explain the ways in which writing is similar to conversation. Here’s a sample explanation:
Like a conversation, writing involves exchanges of ideas that help us shape our own ideas and opinions. It would be foolish to open your mouth the moment you join a group of people engaged in conversation—instead, you listen for a few moments to understand what’s being discussed. Then, when you find that you had something to offer, you wait until an appropriate moment to contribute. We all know what happens to people who make off-topic, insensitive, inappropriate, or otherwise ill-considered remarks in a conversation.
The following is a visual representation of the way in which this course is designed around the writing as conversation metaphor. Present it to students on an overhead, or draw it on the board.
Right now, we are at the first stage: reading what others have written. That is, we are listening in on the conversation.
Next, explain why you asked students to look for thesis statements. Here’s a sample explanation:
An important part of academic inquiry is being able to set aside ones’ own biases and preconceived ideas and really listen to what others are saying about the question-at-issue. This isn’t to say that readers don’t have reactions and responses but that it’s essential to be able to distinguish between subjective reactions to what the writer has said and an objective understanding of what the writer has said.
Transition We rarely begin a conversation with a thesis statement announcing what we will say; likewise, writers don’t always begin with a thesis statement.
Group activity: identifying thesis statements (8-10 minutes)
Take time to define "thesis statement." There are many ways of defining this term; for our purposes a definition such as "the main idea of which the writer wants to convince readers" works well.
How can a reader find a thesis statement? Brainstorm ideas.
The writers in "One Thing to Do About Food" have made their thesis statements pretty easy to find, because each essay focuses on answering the question: "What is the one thing we can do about food to make the most difference in current food-related problems?" Practice with Peter Singer's essay--what is his answer to the question? (He says, “don’t buy factory-farm products.”)
Now, give students a chance to practice this in small groups. Give instructions for group work on an overhead before you divide students into groups.
Identifying Thesis Statements
Work with your group to identify the thesis statement in one of the "One Thing to Do About Food" essays.
If you disagree, try to figure out why, and try to reach a consensus.
In a few minutes, you'll report your findings back to the class.
Group 5-Duster and Ransom
Have students count off from 1 through 8 to create groups (all 1’s will group together, all 2’s together, and so on). Direct groups to particular parts of the room. Give groups a chance to say "hello" to each other, and then remind them of the task at hand.
It probably won't take groups a lot of time to do this; ask the first two groups finished to come to the front of the room and write the thesis statement they came up with on the board.
Once you have two theses on the board, talk them through with the class. Ask groups to explain why and how they identified this particular thesis, and ask the class if they agree with this group's identification. You can refer to your own notes to add on to (or to correct, if needed) what the groups have come up with. Remind students that thesis statements don't always come in the first paragraph, nor are they always neatly packaged in one obvious sentence.
Transition Being able to find the writer's thesis statement is essential to writing an academic summary, which is the first writing assignment we'll do in this class.
Introduce summary writing (10-15 minutes)
We ask students to write summaries that demonstrate their accurate comprehension of the texts. Writing a summary requires one to set aside one’s own biases and preconceived ideas and really listen. The summaries that students write will enable us to assess their ability to distinguish between subjective reactions and objective understanding of what a text says.
Introduce academic summary by explaining the above in your own words. On the board, write:
Purpose: to offer a condensed and objective account of the main ideas and features of a text; to demonstrate your accurate comprehension of a text
Audience: your instructor
Make sure students understand what "objective" means, and then ask students to talk about how they might go about writing a summary that accomplishes the purposes for the audience. That is, how can students write a summary that will show you, the instructor, that they have understood what they have read?
This is a key moment of learning for students. They're probably used to being told how to write a particular kind of document. Give them time to think through your question, and be encouraging about even minor suggestions (provided they apply--if a student says "write about why I disagree," for example, you don't want to validate that because it will confuse everyone in the class). Below "Purpose" and "Audience" on the board, make a list of "Strategies." Once students have offered everything they seem to have, take time to assess the list of strategies. If there's anything that seems off, clarify it. If anything essential is missing, add it and explain why you are adding it. It's ok if this list isn't 100% complete because students will read more about writing summaries for homework, and you will cover it more in class next week. In a perfect world, the following would be on the list in some form (explanations you might give are in parentheses):
Choose one of the essays in "One Thing to Do About Food" and model the process of summary writing for students. Start with the thesis, and then help students identify key points. Here's an example from Peter Singer's essay:
Start by writing "Peter Singer, ‘One Thing to Do About Food,’ The Nation, and September 11, 2006" on the board.
You've already identified the thesis: "don't buy factory-farm products." Write this on the board, and then introduce the concept of "key points."
Often, key points are reasons, or "because" statements that support the thesis. Sometimes they are not phrased with the "because" conjunction, though they could be. Ask students to find particular language in Singer's essay that explains why he thinks we should not buy factory-farm products. Possibilities include: "Factory farming is not sustainable," it is “the biggest system of cruelty to animals ever devised," factory farmed animals have lost "most of their nutritional value," and factory farming "is not an ethically defensible system of food production."
How do these statements differ from ones like "pig farms use six pounds of grain for every pound of boneless meat we get from them" and "pregnant sows are kept in crates too narrow for them to turn around"? The difference, mainly, is in scope--the statements quoted in the paragraph above are broader and use general language; they are reasons. The statements quoted in this paragraph are narrower and give specifics; they are evidence for the reasons. A way to determine whether or not a statement is a reason or if it is evidence is to see if it can be grouped with other similar statements in the essay. Singer includes a few more statements about feed for animals--see paragraph 3. He includes other statements about animals' quality of life--see paragraph 4. Writers often offer several pieces of similar evidence to prove a reason; Singer has done so in this essay.
With a thesis and some reasons listed, you’ve got a good start. But does this cover all of Singer's main points? Not really; arguments often contain more main points than just a thesis and reasons (sometimes they offer concessions, refute counter arguments, or suggest solutions. These things do not offer direct reasoning for the thesis, but still they are integral parts of the argument). In Singer's case, he has included an alternative to his thesis: he says that the best thing we could do would be to "go vegan," or at least vegetarian. This is another key point, though it is not a reason for the thesis (saying "We should not buy factory farm products because we should go vegan" doesn't make logical sense). Leaving this point out of the summary altogether, though, would be misrepresenting the text.
On the board, now, you should have the basic things that would need to go into a summary of Peter Singer's essay. Ask students how they would turn this list into paragraphs. How long might the summary be? Might you incorporate quotes?
Transition Since I'm asking you to write a summary for homework, I'd like to give you a chance to practice writing one here in class.
Group summaries (20-25 minutes)
In this activity, students will work in their small groups to complete the same tasks you just worked through on the board, and to write the summary in paragraph form. They should continue on with the same essay they used in the previous activity. Explain the group work instructions (on an overhead transparency) and then give groups time to work.
Work with your group to write a summary of one of the essays in "One Thing to Do About Food":
First, read the essay closely and make an outline like the one we just did together
- Identify the author, title, magazine, and date
- Identify the thesis
- Identify the reasons/key points
Then, come up to the front of the room to get a blank transparency and an overhead pen.
Write an academic summary in paragraph form. Please write your summary on the overhead transparency so that we can look at it next week during class.
Circulate around the room to answer questions and to keep track of how much time the groups will need. You need a few minutes after this activity to assign homework. Once all (or most) groups are finished, collect the transparencies and markers. Talk about the writing process, and ask if students have questions about writing summaries.
Transition: For homework you have a new article to read and summarize--this one is by Michael Pollan (the one who wrote about the farm bill).
Homework (3-5 minutes)
Assign the following as homework:
Homework for Tuesday
Conclude classConclude class by saying something like, next week we will continue with our work of academic inquiry by working more on summary and by generating inquiry questions as we talk about Michael Pollan's work.
Connection to Next Class
On Tuesday, you will continue on with concepts you introduced today. Identifying a writer's argument will get more complex as we ask students to read more complex articles, so you'll need to spend more time with that. Students will be self-evaluating their summaries on Tuesday as well; to model that, you can use one of the groups’ summaries from today's class.