continue to develop close reading strategies by reading a more complicated argument
hone summary skills by doing a self-workshop and by discussing samples.
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.
“Our National Eating Disorder” (annotated)
Your notes on and summary of the article
Summary assignment sheets
Quiz questions or WTL prompt
Group summaries from Thursday
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.
Activities Agenda (before class begins)
Write the agenda on the board if that’s what you’ll prefer to do throughout the semester. From here on out, the lesson plans in this syllabus won’t include this item, so remember to add it to your own lesson plans if you will be using it.
Attendance (2 minutes)
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.
Introduce class (2 minutes)
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.
Give a reading quiz or a WTL (or finish group summaries from Thursday) (5-8 minutes)
To set your expectations for reading homework, conduct an activity that will hold students accountable. Short quizzes work well, as do WTLs (provided you collect them). You may not have to do this for the entire semester, but setting a precedent now will help get students into the habit of doing the reading assignments.
If you give a quiz, put three to five questions on an overhead transparency, and give students a few minutes to answer using their own paper. Here are some sample questions that hold students accountable for the content of the reading and connect to today’s class:
Please use your own paper to provide brief answers to the following questions:
What is one thing Barbara Ehrenreich says about multiculturalism?
List two things that a summary needs to include (or not include).
What does Michael Pollan mean when he says that the U.S. has “a national eating disorder”?
Where was “Our National Eating Disorder” published?
Instead, you may choose to give a WTL with questions that allow students to reflect on the reading and their writing process while still enabling them to show you that they read. Here is a sample WTL prompt:
Please take a few minutes to write about the following:
What did you learn from reading about summaries in the PHG that you didn’t already know about summary writing?
What did you do to find Michael Pollan’s thesis in “Our National Eating Disorder”? How did this differ from what we did last week with the “One Thing to do About Food” essays?
Alternatively, you could combine this activity with the next one and begin your discussion by having each student contribute a comment or question about the reading assignment. Some questions may be complicated enough that you want to save them for later (i.e. “how do you find the thesis in Pollan’s article?”)—it’s fine to tell students, “we’re going to get to that later on today.”
Transitionthe reading homework for today should have helped you write your summary.
Discuss homework (5-6 minutes)
Allow students time to talk about the homework by asking questions such as:
How did the summary writing go?
How did writing this summary compare to the summaries we wrote in class last week?
TransitionThe 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.
Generate summary points (22-25 minutes)
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:
There’s been a “low carb” trend lately (2004)
There are a lot of diet trends in U.S. history.
It’s possible that in a number of years, we’ll see the low-carb trend (and others) as “quackery,” just as we see “old-fashioned” trends now.
Our culture buys into “nutritional swings” quite easily.
Other cultures rely on taste and tradition to help them decide what to eat.
We are unhealthy and obsessed about health.
We don’t trust our own taste; we want science to tell us what we should eat.
We’ve become really anxious about food.
We have the burden (and privilege) of choosing what we eat from many options (this is what Pollan calls “the omnivore’s dilemma”).
We have some biological tools to help us decide what to eat.
Cultural norms help us decide what to eat.
We have too many choices
We have no single tradition to stick with.
We focus a lot of time and money on determining what we should eat.
Marketing plays a big role in our food decisions.
We get more anxious, and even alienated, when the “rules” change, which they seem to do frequently.
We put a lot of trust in science and information.
Our anxiety about eating keeps us from enjoying eating
Our approach to eating is too scientific.
“How we eat, and even how we feel about eating, may in the end be just as important as what we eat.”
We need to be more relaxed about food, and we need to make eating more of a social endeavor.
We might be able to eat for health and for pleasure.
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 Thursday’s lesson plan 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).
Transitionthe 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.
Explain criteria for academic summary (5-8 minutes)
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?
Accuracy: Does the summary accurately represent the author’s thesis and reasons/key points? Does the summary contain misreadings? Does the summary omit key elements of the article?
Objectivity: Does the summary remain focused on fairly retelling the author’s main ideas? Has the summary writer included anything subjective (such as reactions, judgments, etc.)? Has the summary writer included minute details in addition to or in place of larger points?
Conventions: Has the writer observed the genre conventions of academic summary?
Attribution: Does the summary cite the author, title, date and publication of the article? Does the summary writer use author tags so that it remains clear that he/she is retelling the author’s ideas?
Quotes and Paraphrases: Does the summary contain both paraphrases and quotes? Are the paraphrased and quoted passages appropriately chosen? Are they well integrated into the summary? [we’ll go over how to quote and paraphrase next class]
Style: Has the writer maintained an objective tone throughout the summary? Is the summary carefully edited for clear communication?
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.
Transitionlet’s use these criteria to workshop the draft you brought in today.
Summary self-workshop (10-12 minutes)
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.
Underline the sentence(s) in which you have restated the author’s thesis.
Circle the author’s name, the date of publication, and the title of the magazine or newspaper in which the article was published.
Put a star by each reason or key point.
Draw a box around each author tag.
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.
Transitionin our first assignment, you’ll demonstrate your ability to accurately and objectively represent an argument.
Hand out and discuss assignment sheet (8-10 minutes)
Distribute the assignment sheet and give students a few minutes to read it over. Then, walk them through it (no need to read it word-for-word, but be sure to highlight the essentials) and allow students time to ask questions. If a student asks a question you don’t want to answer right away, simply say, “let me get back to you about that” and then be sure to return to it on Thursday. Since you’ve already looked at the criteria, you don’t need to do that again. Show students the letter-grade descriptions and ask that they read them over before next class.
If time: workshop group summaries from Thursday
You may have time left over; if so, use it to discuss a few group summaries. Ask students to refer to the criteria on their assignment sheets as you talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the summary at hand.
Assign homework (2-3 minutes)
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.
Homework for Thursday
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 Thursday’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 for a peer workshop on Thursday.
Reread the summary assignment sheet and email with any questions you have.
Wrap up today’s class by saying something like, next time, we’ll look at another article by Michael Pollan, we’ll go over quoting and paraphrasing and you’ll get a chance to get some feedback from a classmate.
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. You’ve gotten students used to bringing their own writing into the classroom and so some of students’ nervousness about peer workshopping might be lessened. Next time, you’ll do a practice workshop before students trade papers to give each other feedback and that will give you a chance to address concerns and misconceptions about what workshops will be like in CO150.