Day 6 (Thursday, September 11)
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 Tuesday’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 Tuesday.
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 (3 minutes)
Begin class as usual, being sure to preview activities and connect this class to Tuesday’s.
Discuss PHG reading (8-10 minutes)
Tip. You might show the rhetorical situation visual again, and recap how the parts are interrelated.
Check that students understand the reading by asking for definitions of the terminology from chapter 2, by asking small groups to paraphrase definitions of particular terms, and/or by going around the room and asking each student to contribute one piece of information (or a question) from the reading. If you ask, “did you understand the reading?” you may not be able to address all of the gaps in understanding, so be sure you cover the terms.
Ask students to discuss the double-entry logs and the critical reading guides—which did they choose? How did they choose? What did they learn? Focus the conversation on the insights students gained from writing as they read, especially those things that they would not have noticed otherwise.
Tip. If you collect this, you can record that it’s done and respond to the whole class concerning general strengths and weaknesses.
Tell students that they may need these notes for the next paper and that you will collect them with the paper. Or you may choose to collect them today in order to assess how well students are grasping the concepts (and to hold them accountable for homework).
Transition. Develop a transition that will show how the textbook reading connects critically to “Big Foot.”
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” (20 min)
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.
Tip. This activity allows students to see the connections between parts of the rhetorical situation.
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 (8-10 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.
Transition. Develop a transition that connects this activity to the next.
WTL or discuss possible paper strategies (8-10 minutes)
Tip. If you do a WTL, be sure to provide an overhead with directions, and remind students that these are just prewriting ideas.
Assign a WTL or conduct a discussion that will prompt students to articulate their initial ideas about the paper. Ask questions such as: What specific arguments would you need to be aware of if writing to Friedman? To Specter? If you had to choose between Friedman and Specter, which audience would you choose? Etc.
Think through and write down your “if time” and “if I run out of time” ideas here.
Transition. Develop a transition that connects the WTL or “Plan B” activity to the homework assignment.
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 Tuesday
Tip. Since Specter’s website is just an archive of his past articles, you might suggest students do some searches—there are several online interviews and podcasts with these authors.
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.