Connection to Course Goals. Today’s class offers a formal introduction to the concept of rhetorical situation, which applies directly to every assignment students complete in this class.
Tip. Developing ways to explain “context” to students will help you meet their needs, as this tends to be the most difficult concept for students to grasp.
Today’s class may require a lot of prep. You’re introducing complicated concepts and discussing a complicated text. To be confident in teaching the material for today, you might need to spend considerable time reviewing the rhetorical situation model and the related terminology, as well as rereading “The Power of Green” and analyzing its rhetorical situation.
Rhetorical situation graphic
Rhetorical situation questions
Your copy of “The Power of Green” (annotated)
Instructions for group work (unless you choose to conduct a class discussion instead)
For today, students have revised a summary and are preparing to turn in the first graded assignment of the semester. Also they have read a longer piece (by Thomas Friedman) and probably have reactions to share.
Tip. Since it’s been 5 days since your last class, it’s a good idea to remind your students of what happened last time.
Take attendance and introduce class (3-4 minutes)
By now you probably have a routine established for beginning class. Write out your own introduction for today—remember to preview the day’s activities and to keep the inquiry list going.
Discuss revision, assign a postscript and collect summaries (12-15 minutes)
Chat with your students for a few minutes, asking them to talk about how they revised their summary, what they did with the workshop feedback, etc. If your students don’t want to get specific, ask them to talk generally about the experience of writing and revising summaries.
Tip. Asking a question like, “What was the most useful idea from your workshop?” can start a discussion that reinforces the value of workshop.
Alternative: Have students write their postscripts first, then discuss their responses.
Next, put “postscript” questions on the overhead and give students a few minutes to answer them. You might ask them to write answers on the backs of the summaries they’re about to turn in. We do a postscript at the end of each graded assignment, and this allows students to reflect on the writing process as well as to communicate with you about their writing. Think about what kinds of things you want to hear as you grade your students’ writing. Questions like “what did you get out of workshop?” or “what should we do differently as we work on our next assignment?” leave students very open to give all kinds of feedback that’s not directly relevant to their writing process and/or the final product they are about to turn in, and can be saved for a mid-semester evaluation.
General postscript questions follow that tend to work well for most any assignment. Feel free to modify them to suit your students’ needs and to suit each assignment.
Postscript Questions 1. Are you satisfied with your final draft? Why/why not? 2. What was most successful about this project? 3. Where did you struggle most? How did you overcome that struggle? 4. What did you do to revise? How did you use your workshop feedback? 5. What else should I know about your writing process as I read your final draft?
Tip. The postscript shouldn’t be an opportunity for students to vent or complain, so construct your prompts carefully. You may want to review the postscript questions in each chapter of the Prentice Hall Guide for more ideas.
Tip. On the overhead, tell students where to write their answers, where to insert the postscript (if they’re turning in a portfolio), etc.
Collect summaries from students and explain your grading practices—you use the same criteria for every summary, you write comments that are intended to help them recognize their strengths and ways to improve for the next assignment, it’ll probably take about a week for you to grade the summaries, etc.
Transition. Our next project will build on the close reading techniques we’ve been learning.
Review close reading and writing as a conversation (5-7 minutes)
To transition students into critical reading, spend a few minutes reviewing what it means to read closely. Students have this knowledge now, so you can rely on them to explain it to each other. Get them started with a question like, “What does it mean to read closely?” and record their answers on the board. Leave some room to one side so that, in a few moments, you can compare critical reading with close reading.
Remind students of the writing as conversation metaphor. If they seemed to pick up on this well last week, you can ask “in what ways is writing similar to conversation?” or you can explain it again. Have the conversation model overhead handy so you can remind them that the class is designed with this metaphor in mind. Right now we’re still in stage 1 (reading what others have written), but we’re no longer reading only to understand the writer’s argument.
Transition. We’re going to continue reading about our question-at-issue (What should we do about climate change?), but now we’re going to be evaluating what we read as well.
Introduce critical reading and the rhetorical situation (12-15 minutes)
Ask for student ideas regarding the concept of critical reading. If students get caught up in “criticism” and “criticizing,” present them with the alternative phrase “active” reading. What does it mean to read actively? What can you do to/with a text beyond reading closely?
List student ideas on the board next to your “close reading” list. There will be some overlap, since it’s impossible to read critically if you’re not also reading closely. Let students come to this realization on their own; if they don’t, be sure to point it out. Here is the language that the PHG uses to describe critical reading: “Critical reading simply means questioning what you read. You may end up liking or praising certain features of a text, but you begin by asking questions, by resisting the text, and by demanding that the text be clear, logical, reliable, thoughtful, and honest.” Students will read more about critical reading for homework, so it is not essential that you cover all of the ground now.
Observe the lists you’ve made on the board, and ask students to point out similarities and differences. The major difference is that close reading involves finding out what a writer is saying, and critical reading involves evaluating how (and how well) a writer has composed his/her text.
During this discussion, you may also want to talk about the role of critical reading in academic inquiry to help students understand why we do it. For example, understanding how an author addresses purpose, audience and context can help us evaluate the quality of information and arguments.
To begin looking at how the text is composed, readers need to ask questions about the rhetorical situation. Your students likely have never heard of “rhetorical situation” (though they may have heard the same concept referred to as the “writing situation”), so this will be new to students. Introduce the key terms and relationships with the Rhetorical Situation graphic on the overhead.
Next, show students questions they can ask to find out about the rhetorical situation (see pages 153-156 of the PHG).
Questions for Understanding the Rhetorical Situation
Writer and Purpose
Who is the writer? What does the writer know about the subject?
What is the writer’s frame of reference (or lens or point of view)?
What is the writer’s purpose?
Who are the intended readers?
What do these readers likely know and think about the subject?
What assumptions does the writer make about the readers’ knowledge or beliefs?
What is the occasion for this text?
What genre is this text?
What is the cultural or historical context for this text?
What key questions or problem does the writer address?
Thesis and Main Ideas
What is the writer’s thesis?
What key points support the thesis?
Organization and Evidence
Where does the writer preview the text’s organization?
How does the writer signal new sections of the text?
What kinds of evidence does the writer use (personal experience, descriptions, statistics, interviews, authorities, analytical reasoning, observation, etc.)?
Language and Style
What is the writer’s tone (casual, humorous, ironic, angry, preachy, academic, other)?
Are sentences and vocabulary easy, average, or difficult?
What key words or images recur throughout the text?
Once a reader has answered these questions, he/she can go on to respond and evaluate, asking questions like: “Is the overall purpose clear?” and “Does the writer misjudge the readers?” and “Did the tone support or distract from the writer’s purpose or meaning?”
The above questions show that close reading is embedded within critical reading—it’s important to know what a writer says and how he/she says it before we go on to offer our opinions about how well the text works.
Transition. There are many new terms here; let’s take some time to work through them as we discuss “The Power of Green.”
Read “The Power of Green” critically (18-20 minutes)
Depending on your class, you might be able to work through the questions one by one, discussing them as a whole class. If your class is timid, you can avoid feeling like you are pulling teeth by designing an activity in which small groups take on one of the categories above and then report back to the class. If you do this, consider working through the thesis and main ideas as a class first, since that can be more time consuming than the other categories. Also, since you have just begun to introduce rhetorical terminology, each group will need detailed instructions as well as their textbooks (they can refer to chapter 2 for further explanations of the rhetorical terms they’re responsible for), and they’ll probably want your input. Consider handing out customized instructions to each group. After groups have had time to work, ask them to present their ideas. It’s ok if their ideas are incomplete at this point, as students will be reading more about these concepts for homework and you will continue to cover them in class.
Transition. Critical reading isn’t easy, but it’s an essential part of inquiry.
Take stock of Friedman’s inquiry and assess your own (10 minutes)
Remind students what it means to inquire, and generate a list of ways in which Thomas Friedman inquires. How does he decide what to inquire into? How does he find answers to his questions? Where does he position himself as he inquires? What does he do with his inquiries once they’re complete? How do his inquiries spring from other inquiries? Etc.
Next, point out that we are inquiring as we’re reading and discussing these articles. Generate a list of ways in which we have been inquiring. Add to this list any ideas students can think of for ways in which we could push our inquiry further.
Tip. No teacher can predict with 100% accuracy how long activities will take, so it’s important to think through some lessons plan alternatives before class.
In the first two weeks of lesson plans, we included “If time” activities as well as suggestions for ways to manage if you run out of time. By now you probably know if your class tends to get carried away with some kinds of activities and/or if they finish some activities very quickly. It’s a good idea to have one activity on hand that serves not just to fill time, but, more importantly, enhances existing activities and concepts. It’s also a good idea to think through (and write down) what you can cut out or modify if you run short on time.
Assign homework, collect the inquiry list, and conclude (3 minutes)
Assign the following for homework, collect the inquiry list, and wrap up class by reviewing key concepts from today and explaining what students can expect next time.
Homework for Thursday
Read about rhetorical situations on pages 17-29 of the PHG, and read about critical reading on pages 151-158.
Access, print and read “Big Foot” (in File Folders). Try out one of the critical reading strategies explained on pages 153-156 (either a double-entry log or a critical reading guide). You may hand write or type this. On Thursday, bring your double-entry log or critical reading guide, your textbook, “The Power of Green,” and “Big Foot.”
Connection to Next Class
Next time you’ll come back to the rhetorical terminology you introduced today, and you’ll discuss another longer article. Students might start to identify common strategies Friedman and Specter use as they write while comparing the two pieces.