Day 4 (Thursday, August 30)
Connection to Course Goals
During today’s class students begin to see summary writing as a rhetorical act (that is, as a set of choices made to achieve a particular purpose with a particular audience), and they will, on a small scale, engage in an academic community by participating in peer workshop.
Connection to Students’ Own Writing
The work students do with quoting and paraphrasing will help them write effective summaries. Student writing becomes the focus of today’s class during the peer workshop.
For today’s class you need to have reread the assigned readings, marked the quizzes or WTLs from last time, and generated a list of discussion questions if you think you’ll have extra time at the end of class. Since today’s class includes a number of potentially time-consuming activities, you might take a moment to assess the way you have been customizing the lesson plans for yourself, and make any changes that would help you stay organized, focused, etc. during class.
Reading quiz or WTL prompt
Quoting and paraphrasing
6-8 blank transparencies for group activity
For today’s class students have read another Pollan article and they have drafted another summary. They may have questions about the summary assignment and they may be apprehensive about the prospect of peer workshopping.
Attendance (2 minutes)
Take attendance in the same way you did on Tuesday.
Introduce class (2 minutes)
Designate a student to add on to the inquiry list for today. Link to last class and preview your activities for today.
Conduct a reading quiz or WTL (5-8 minutes)
Design an activity that will both hold students accountable for the reading homework and that will get them into a good mindset for today’s class. Remember to put questions/prompts on an overhead transparency.
Discuss homework and reading (10-12 minutes)
As you did on Tuesday, take time to check in with students about the summary writing and their understanding of the reading. If you assigned both “Mass Natural” and “You Are What You Grow,” you’ll need more time for this activity, probably.
Generate summary points with students by asking two or three students to come to the board with their summary and write out the thesis statement they identified. While students are doing this, talk with the rest of the group about how they identified the thesis, and what key points they chose to include.
Note: you could ask two or three students to write on the board before class begins (just be sure you don’t have a quiz question about Pollan’s thesis!).
Once you have a few theses on the board, compare them to each other. It’s likely that they will be somewhat similar, though if they vary greatly you’ll need to spend time determining why that is. It might be a matter of scope (maybe one student looked more narrowly at Pollan’s argument than another student, for example), it could be a genuine misreading (if so, try to lead the class to an understanding of that rather than evaluating it on the spot), or it could be something else. In any event, work with your students to come to a consensus about which of the thesis statements on the board are both objective and accurate. Point out (again) that there is not just one way of representing Pollan’s argument (though there are limits to what passes as accurate).
Ask students to share the key points they chose to include. You don’t need to list these on the board as you did last time; students should be getting this concept by now.
Transition we’re getting pretty good at reading to understand a writer’s argument, and that’s key to writing a successful academic summary. Let’s look now at some of the more subtle aspects of summary writing.
Quoting and paraphrasing activity (18-20 minutes)
Introduce the concepts of quoting and paraphrasing first (use an overhead transparency to save yourself having to write everything out on the board):
Quoting and Paraphrasing
Both quoting and paraphrasing are methods of representing another writer’s language and ideas in your own writing. Since summary is a condensed version of another writer’s ideas, summary depends heavily on quoting and paraphrasing.
Quoting: inserting another writer’s exact words into your writing. The exact words are contained within quotation marks. For example:
Peter Singer says, “Going vegetarian is a good option, and going vegan, better still. But if you continue to eat animal products, at least boycott factory farms.”
Paraphrasing: rephrasing another writer’s language into your own language, voice, and style. For example, the quote above could be paraphrased like this:
Peter Singer wants us to become vegetarian or vegan but he says that if we still want to eat meat, eggs, cheese, etc. we should avoid those that come out of factory farms.
Or like this:
Peter Singer asserts that many of the nation’s food problems would be helped were U.S. citizens to become vegans, vegetarians, or, at minimum, unwilling to purchase food from factory farms.
Paraphrasing can be tricky because it requires true understanding of the passage’s original meaning. Some paraphrases are better than others. The following is a poor paraphrase because it misrepresents Singer’s point:
Peter Singer says that people really need to become vegan or vegetarian but since many people refuse to do that, they could help out a little by not buying things that come from factory farms.
The following paraphrase is poor because it doesn’t fully rephrase Singer’s idea:
Peter Singer hopes that people will choose to go vegetarian or vegan or at least boycott factory farms.
Next, lead students through an activity that allows them to practice these concepts.
Choose an important phrase or sentence from one of the articles we’ve read already and copy it out on an overhead transparency (since it will be a quote, be sure to use quotation marks).
Paraphrase the language in at least two ways. Write your two paraphrases on the transparency below the quote.
Give an example of a poor paraphrase as well.
Choose someone (or two) from your group to present your transparency to the class.
This kind of activity can take up tons of time, so keep an eye on your watch. If you tend to run out of time during class, you might select phrases or sentences ahead of time and write them on the transparencies yourself. Allow students time to work, and when all (or most) groups are finished, call groups up one at a time to present their work. It’s ok if every group does not have time to present. If your students are more interested in their transparencies and each other than they are in the presentations, you might collect the pens (you’re probably thinking that this would be unnecessary; pens and transparencies do, though, inexplicably fascinate some students!).
After the presentations, sum up with the following guidelines on the overhead:
In a summary, quote when:
-You want to capture the writer’s tone
-The writer has said something particularly memorable
In a summary, paraphrase when:
-It’s the idea and not the tone, voice, or style that is important
-You can rephrase the writer’s ideas both accurately and briefly
Summary workshop (18-20 minutes)
We’ve incorporated peer workshops into the syllabus in a number of different ways; we use workshop to help students engage in an academic community as well as to learn more about writing and its processes. The aim of a workshop is not to have a paper “pre-graded” by a peer (there are more problems with that idea than we have room to explain here) and so, more often than not, we ask students to describe the text they are workshopping and to explain their reactions as readers (not evaluators). Rarely do we ask students to evaluate their peers’ writing, though that is what many students will expect out of workshop. When we do ask for some evaluation, it is always linked to criteria such as, in this case, accuracy. Our aim, therefore, is to give students an idea of how their writing could be read. We encourage students to consider every reading and response as valid to some extent, and to make their revision choices as carefully as they read.
Still, many students expect that their peers will tell them that their paper is either “good” or “bad” and, depending on past experiences, some students will be eager for this kind of praise or will dread this kind of criticism. It’s useful, then, to work through a workshop with a sample summary (one of the group summaries from last week will work well) and discuss the kinds of comments that one could give.
Distribute copies of the workshop instructions (it’s worth it to make a handout so that students may refer to it as they revise and as they seek more feedback from others), give students a moment to read over them, and then practice on the sample summary. You don’t have to go through all of the workshop questions on the sample; go through enough of it them students get to see how to construct meaningful feedback as well as what kinds of comments are useful, and what kinds are not so useful.
Note: if you’re running short on time, you can skip the practice workshop. Take a moment to describe useful comments vs. not-so-useful comments (useful comments are specific, thoughtful, point out both strengths and weaknesses, etc. while not-so-useful comments are vague, hasty, too “nice,” too “mean,” etc.).
Then allow students time to find a partner. They should trade summaries, work through the workshop prompts on the handout, and then take time to consider the feedback they receive. After most everyone is finished, talk for a bit about revision. Explain that students don’t have to make every change that their partner suggested, nor are they limited to making only the changes their partner suggested. Remind students that revision is different from editing and proofreading, and that after revision their summary might be very different from its current state.
Students are likely to ask if you'll grade their paper based on whether or not they follow peers' workshop advice when revising their papers. This is a good opportunity to explain your workshop policies. We usually tell students that we evaluate the final paper on its merits when assigning a grade; however, we may comment on how they may have better used peer advice.
Summary Peer Workshop
In this workshop, one of your classmates will give you feedback on your summary’s accuracy and objectivity (accuracy and objectivity are the first two grading criteria for the summary, so the feedback you give and receive will be especially valuable!) as well as on attribution and quoting and paraphrasing.
First, trade summaries with another student. Take out your copy of the article your partner has summarized. Re-read the article. Read your partner’s summary and then:
- Underline your partner’s restatement of the author’s thesis and then check it for accuracy. Does it fully capture the author’s main message? Is it worded fairly? On the back of your partner’s summary, explain your ideas. If you recommend revision, be specific.
- Put a star next to each reason or key point and then check these for accuracy. Do they fairly represent the writer’s ideas? Are any key points/reasons missing? On the back of your partner’s summary, explain your ideas. If you have time, make note of anything extra (minor points, evidence, etc.).
- Read back over your partner’s summary, looking closely for subjectivity. Has your partner included his/her opinions at all in the summary? (Look for moments of response: agreeing or disagreeing, supporting or refuting, etc.). Has your partner passed judgment on the writer or his/her ideas? (Look for adverbs and adjectives in phrases like “Pollan outrageously suggests that. . .” or “Pollan’s wise advice is. . .”). Suggest ways for the writer to revise any subjectivity out of the summary.
- Circle moments of attribution. These include information about the article such as its title, when and where it was published, and author tags. Let the writer know if at any point you lost track of the fact that he/she is writing about another writer’s ideas.
- Thinking back to the quoting and paraphrasing activity we just did, identify quotes and paraphrases by writing a “q” next to each quote and a “p” next to each paraphrase. Can you suggest any revisions? Be sure to tell the writer if any of his/her paraphrases are too close to the original phrasing.
When you receive your paper back, take time to consider your partner’s understanding of your summary: is the sentence he/she underlined what you intended to be read as your restatement of the author’s thesis? What about the key points? If not, try not to assume that your partner didn’t read carefully. What, in the writing, might have allowed the misreading? How can you revise it?
Finally, read over what your partner wrote on the back of your summary, ask your partner any questions you have, and then write a revision plan for yourself so you remember what you want to do when you sit down to revise.
Transition now that you have a revision plan, I want to make sure you understand what is due on Tuesday.
Review assignment sheet (3-5 minutes)
Ask students to take out the assignment sheet you handed out last time, to re-read it and to ask any questions they have. If your students don’t have any questions, verify that they understand what you are asking of them by posing questions like, “what is due on Tuesday?” and “what are the top two criteria for an academic summary?” Reiterate how you want students to turn in their work (electronically (and if so, by what time?) or hard copy, etc.).
If time: assess your inquiry
Use any extra time you have to discuss where you are now with your inquiry. Call to mind the WTLs from the first day of class, and ask students to compare what they knew then with what they know now. What new questions have come up? Is the question “what should we eat?” more complex than the students thought at first? Etc. If you have a lot of extra time, ask students to share their opinions about recent readings. You could project into next week by bringing up the term “animal rights” and asking students what their current ideas are about that topic. If you tend to have extra time in class, you might prepare a list of questions to refer to as you facilitate discussion.
Assign homework (2-3 minutes)
Assign the following as homework using the method you established on Tuesday:
Homework for Tuesday
Choose one summary to turn in for a grade on Tuesday. Revise and polish it and print it
out on a good printer. [Refer students to syllabus and assignment sheet guidelines for submitting assignments, late paper policy, materials to submit with final paper, etc.]
Read pages 17-29 and pages 157-163 in the PHG.
Access, print, and read “An Animal’s Place” (available in the class file folder). As you read, apply the critical reading strategies discussed in the textbook reading.
Please bring your textbook and the article to class.
Conclude class (2 minutes)
Remind students of office hours and/or email and encourage them to come to you if they are struggling. Also, remind students of any policies (late work, attendance, etc.) that could impact their grade on the summary assignment. Wrap up today’s class by explaining that next week, you will move from close reading (reading to understand a writer’s argument) to critical reading (reading to understand how a text works and how well a text works).
Connection to Next Class
Today’s class has gotten students as ready as possible to turn in a summary on Tuesday, and it has suggested a shift into more complex work next week.
At some point soon you should consider how to manage your normal prep work and lesson planning along with the grading work you will get on Tuesday (not to mention the work you have for the classes you are taking). You might get ahead a bit with your prepping and lesson planning so that grading doesn’t seem to take over your life.