Day 27, 28, 29 (Monday, October 27 to Friday, October 31)
Connection to Course Goals. Conferences will focus on writing processes as well as the rhetorical choices students plan to make as they draft their Arguments, and examining other writers’ argument strategies will give students even more ideas.
Conference with each student.
Tip. Since you only have 10-15 minutes with each student, keep the conference focused—you can always recommend the student schedule another (perhaps longer) conference with you if he or she needs more help.
Tip: For more guidance on conducting conferences, check out the resources under Conferencing with Students under Links for Teachers.
Tip. Give suggestions as appropriate, but keep in mind that many students benefit most from talking about their own writing.
Tip. You’ll be busy with conferences, but remember to budget your time so that you’ll be able to grade the Proposals and return them at the next class—these documents will help students as they draft.
The primary goal of each conference is to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s Argument Proposal; that is, to talk with the student about how his/her claim and reasons may help him/her accomplish his/her purpose as well as the purposes of the assignment itself. Secondary goals of each conference are numerous; it’s important to be flexible (it’s very likely that some students will show up with no Proposal at all), so you can make each conference productive for each student.
Consider where you’ll hold conferences as well as where you and each student will sit. If you don’t want to use your office you can meet students in the library by the coffee cart or at a table in the 3rd floor Eddy hallway. Since you will be talking about the Argument Proposal, it may help to be able to sit next to the student so you can both look at the Proposal at the same time. This sets up an informal atmosphere that can be conducive to planning and generating ideas. However, some instructors and some students need more formality for various reasons. You might set up the conference space so that the students sit across from you instead.
Here are some possible conference starters:
Tell me about your Argument Proposal.
What topic have you chosen? What makes it important?
What central claim have you chosen? Which of the four claims is it?
When you read the student’s Proposal, give yourself time to think it through, and don’t hesitate to ask the student for clarification. You do not need to evaluate the Proposal on the spot; rather, discuss the ways in which the student envisions the argument accomplishing its goals.
Wrap up each conference as you see fit, aiming to motivate students to begin drafting the argument or to keep working on their drafts-in-progress. You might suggest that students take notes in a notebook (you’re collecting their Proposals and returning them at the next class); it’s easy for students to walk out of your office with tons of great ideas, then to forget them all once they leave the building. You might make your own notes about what you discuss with each student, too.
Analyzing "Is Welfare Still Necessary for Women and Children in the U.S.?" (15-20 minutes)
Take some time to talk with your class about their reactions to "Is Welfare Still Necessary…?" Your discussion need not be scripted, but try to work in the following:
How does this essay differ from students’ arguments-in-progress? [possible points of difference include: where the writer places the claim, how she organizes her ideas, how she uses paragraphs, her inclusion of evidence and cited sources, etc.]
How does the writer begin the paper? [Ask students for more ideas about introducing arguments. Give them time to jot down ideas for their own papers. Point out that some students will need to include some narration including background information in order for readers to understand the argument.]
What kinds of evidence does the writer use? [Make a list on the board and ask students to add to the list—what other kinds of evidence are possible for an argument? Give them time to make notes on their drafts.]
Demonstrate how to use evidence to develop an argument (12-15 minutes)
Tip. Be sure students understand that three isn’t a “magic number”—some reasons can be supported with two pieces of evidence, some might need four or five.
Development is one of the aspects of writing that CO150 students struggle with most, so they can benefit from guided practice on how to use evidence to support reasons to support a claim. Start by showing an example of sufficiently relevant evidence for a reason that supports the claim that the U.S. government should subsidize wind power:
Claim: The U.S. government should subsidize wind power.
Reason: Wind power could help to replace fossil fuel energy.
Evidence: The Kurtzweil Energy Center reported “that each turbine means less mining, shipping, and combustion of fossil fuels.”
Evidence: A 2003 John Hopkins study found that “every additional kilowatt hour generated by low- or zero-running-cost units such as wind turbines, hydro dams, and photovoltaic arrays translates one-for-one into reduced output by plants running on fossil fuels.”
Evidence: The US Department of Energy reports that “by 2030, the U.S. wind industry could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity needs, nearly leveling projected increases in CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.”
Next, show an example of the above written in paragraph form:
Wind power could help to replace fossil fuel energy. The Kurtzweil Energy Center reported “that each turbine means less mining, shipping, and combustion of fossil fuels,” and a 2003 Johns Hopkins study found that “every additional kilowatt hour generated by low- or zero-running-cost units such as wind turbines, hydro dams, and photovoltaic arrays translates one-for-one into reduced output by plants running on fossil fuels.” The US Department of Energy has released a report announcing that “by 2030, the U.S. wind industry could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity needs, nearly leveling projected increases in CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.”
This paragraph is typical of CO150 writing. While it starts out with the reason and then presents evidence for the reason, it does not explain how the pieces of evidence connect to each other nor how they support the reason. This paragraph asks readers to make the logical connections between the evidence and the reason. This compromises the purpose of the argument; if a reader is already skeptical or even just indifferent, how likely is it that he/she will be willing to do the work to understand how the evidence supports the reason?
Present another example that uses the same reasons and evidence much more effectively:
Wind power could help to replace fossil fuel energy. For every wind turbine that goes up, we can reduce our use of fossil fuels to create the electricity that we need to run our society. The Kurtzweil Energy Center reported “that each turbine means less mining, shipping, and combustion of fossil fuels.” Some have argued that the uncertain output of alternative energy sources like wind and solar—which stop making electricity when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining—keeps them from being a realistic replacement for fossil fuels, but as a 2003 Johns Hopkins study states: “every additional kilowatt hour generated by low- or zero-running-cost units such as wind turbines, hydro dams, and photovoltaic arrays translates one-for-one into reduced output by plants running on fossil fuels.” Even if wind energy can’t supply the entirety of our energy needs, it can still help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere—or at least keep us from adding more as energy needs increase. The US government has started to take notice. The Department of Energy has released a report announcing that “by 2030, the US wind industry could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity needs, nearly leveling projected increases in CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.” If a concerted wind strategy can at least keep CO2 emissions from increasing, other conservation strategies might have a better chance of actually reducing them.
This second example is much more effective in showing how the evidence supports the reason. The writer has done the work that the first example asks readers to do. It directs readers to the writer’s preferred interpretation of the evidence, thus making readers much more likely to agree with the reason and with the argument as a whole. If your students need more of a push to see the benefits of the second example, point out that the first example is 101 words long while the second example is 238 words long (a third of a page vs. almost an entire page). This can help students who tend to say what they have to say and then fill in the rest of the required length with “fluff.”
Group activity for practicing using evidence (25-30 minutes)
Use these examples from an argument about organic food for the following activity in which students will practice providing evidence and showing how evidence supports reasons.
Reason: Organic farming is much easier on the environment.
Evidence: The FDA says that, “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.”
Evidence: Whole Foods Market lists these environmental benefits of organic food:
Evidence: A 2006 study at Stanford found that organic farming reduces groundwater contamination and nitrogen gas emissions while being the most sustainable method of agriculture.
Reason: If the price of organics decreases, demand will go up (resulting in a healthier population and environment).
Evidence: I used to have to pay $5.00 for a gallon of organic milk at the local food co-op. I could only afford to do this now and then. Now, I can find organic milk at Whole Foods for less than $4.00 and at Safeway for around $3.00. I buy organic milk a lot more now.
Evidence: According to Chip Wilson, author of Principles of Economics, “the law of demand states that, in general, price and quantity demanded in a given market are inversely related. In other words, the higher the price of a product, the less of it people would be able and willing buy of it.”
Evidence: The USDA reported that in 1997, consumers spent 3.6 billion dollars on organic products. In 2003, consumers spent 10.4 billion dollars on organic products. During that time, the price of organics decreased.
Break students into small groups and give each group a handout that includes a reason and a few pieces of evidence. Also give each group an overhead transparency and pen. Present the following instructions on the overhead:
Work with your group to develop the reason you are given. You may use the evidence provided in any order and you may omit some of the evidence if you find that it is somehow flawed.
Remember to set up each piece of evidence and then to explain what it means, how it supports the reason, and how it relates to other pieces of evidence.
Write in paragraphs as though you are writing an essay. Please write on an overhead transparency so you can present your work to the class.
When groups have finished, collect transparencies and pens, and call on groups to present their work.
Work on your argument draft.
Read “Welfare is Still Necessary for Women and Children in the U.S.” on pages 583-591 of the PHG.
Read “Death and Justice” by Edward I. Koch in PHG (pp. 534-540) and about audience appeals on pages 516-520.
Bring your PHG and your draft to class next time.