Day 8 (Friday, September 12)
Connection to Course Goals. Students are immersed in inquiry and practice rhetorical analysis, both of which are crucial to “Writing a Letter.”
Your prep for Wednesday’s class carries over into today; you need only to reread and annotate “Big Foot” to be prepared for today’s class. Hopefully you have had time to read over the summaries you collected on Tuesday. Maybe you’ve already begun grading.
Tip. Try to budget your time so that you can return the Academic Summaries by next Friday.
Group work instructions
Writing a Letter assignment sheet handouts
“The Power of Green” and “Big Foot” (annotated)
For today’s class, students have, in effect, completed a rhetorical analysis of “Big Foot” (that is, they have done a double-entry log or a critical reading guide).
Take attendance and introduce class (2-3 minutes)
Begin class as usual, being sure to preview activities and connect this class to Friday’s.
Critically read “Big Foot” (15-20 minutes)
Tip. This shouldn’t take long, since students already have their own notes, but be sure to provide written instructions.
Tip. This analysis isn’t new to students, so feel free to push them further in their explanations, and add/correct as necessary.
Tip. Encourage students to focus on their responses and what about the text causes those responses.
Since students have already critically read “Big Foot,” today’s discussion can go deeper into evaluation. You can divide students into groups and assign each group a particular aspect of the rhetorical situation to discuss. Pose at least one evaluative prompt to each group as well, and encourage students to show evidence from the text (“Explain with evidence how well Specter accomplishes his writing goals”; “Explain why Specter’s assumptions about his audience are fair or why not”; etc.). Allow groups time to present.
Before you move on to the next activity, be sure you tie the pieces together in some way. It’s good to analyze something by breaking it down into parts, but if you don’t answer the “so what?” question, you haven’t understood how the text functions. What does your analysis tell you about the text? Often, analysis leads to evaluation. The goal is not simply to judge the text “good” or “bad” necessarily, so encourage students to use other adjectives, such as "entertaining," "vivid," "sensationalistic," "credible" (or not), "logical" (or not), "confusing," "amusing," etc.
Transition. Develop a transition that connects reading one essay to critically comparing the two.
Compare/evaluate “The Power of Green” and “Big Foot” (15-20 min)
Tip. This activity allows students to see the connections between parts of the rhetorical situation.
Another aspect of inquiry is connecting the different parts of the conversation that one encounters. Demonstrate this by informally comparing “Big Foot” and “The Power of Green.” You might make a chart on the board with two columns (one for each essay) and three rows (one for purpose, one for audience, and one for context). Prompt your students to help you fill in the grid with descriptions.
Next, you can informally evaluate the pieces by posing questions like “Which essay is more successful?” and “Which essay engages its readers the most?” and (to preview the assignment) “Which essay offers more to debate?” Avoid asking questions about which is “better” or which the students “like more.” Students may interpret a question like “which essay best accomplishes its goals?” as “which do you like more?,” so be sure to bring the discussion back to the text whenever students get into their own general likes and dislikes.
Transition. Develop a transition that connects this activity to the assignment.
Distribute and discuss Writing a Letter assignment (5-7 minutes)
Hand out the assignment sheet and go over it together. You can allow students time to read it silently, then highlight important aspects and answer questions or you can have students read sections of it aloud to the class. If you put the assignment sheet on an overhead instead of handing out copies, be sure the font is large enough (at least 16 pt.) that students can see it, and be sure you reiterate the importance of accessing the assignment sheet through the Writing Studio. This assignment is considerably more complicated than the summary, and students will need to be familiar enough with the assignment sheet that they can accomplish the basic assignment goals.
Assign homework, collect the inquiry list, and conclude class (2 minutes)
Assign the following as homework, collect the inquiry list and then wrap up today’s class:
Homework for Monday
Connection to Next Class
Today, students began thinking about the next essay, which you’ll continue to work towards during class next week. You’ve raised the intellectual bar quite a bit with asking students to compare and evaluate complicated texts, and you’ll practice these skills more in the next few classes. Students might start to identify common strategies Friedman and Specter use as they write while comparing the two pieces.