backReturn to Unit 1: MWF

Unit 1, Day 13:  Monday, September 17


What you’ll do today in class:


-         Have students write a claim with criteria

-         Demonstrate the relationship among judgment, criteria, mode of analysis, and evidence

-         Practice “unpacking” claims to find expectations for support


Connection to course goals: The initial activities are designed to show students how they can set up an effective focus for their paper that takes into account their context and purpose in Essay 2.  The other activities demonstrate that in order to effectively evaluate a text for the seminar professor, students will have to focus their essay and support their judgments about the selected text to convince the audience.




1.      Give students the handout that includes the list of approaches for analysis you’ve compiled from the OH so they can use it as they focus and shape their papers (2 minutes):


2.  WTL to focus Essay 2 (5 minutes):   Have students respond to the following prompt:


·        Based on your homework, write down your ultimate judgment about the usefulness of your chosen text for the context of Essay 2.  Will you recommend its use or not?  Then, list what criteria you used in making this decision.  Which criteria will most convince the seminar professor to “use” or “not use” this essay?


3.      Connect judgment, criteria, mode of analysis, and evidence (10 minutes):  Explain to students that once they’ve made a judgment on the text, they will need to focus on how they can convince the seminar professor of the validity of that judgment—specifically by focusing on the criteria most relevant to both their recommendation and the professor’s concerns.  Focusing in this way will lead to their thesis, while modes of development serve as their reasons for supporting this thesis.  A writer’s thesis, then, should include both his/her judgment about the text and the criterion or criteria upon which that judgment is based.


-         To help students see that they are being asked to choose both a thesis (their judgement) and modes of analysis/development for that thesis, suggest that they use this type of diagram:


Judgment / Criterion / Mode of Analysis / Evidence


-         Talk through a sample topic (one elicited from students or one of your own) to illustrate how this diagram might serve as a prewriting tool.


4.      Have students fill in the diagram for their own papers and write a tentative claim (5 minutes):



Transition:  “Now that we've worked on narrowing the focus for your Essay 2 (or any essay you write), let's look at how the next step in evaluation—supporting the judgments you've made—is closely tied to the focus you choose.”


5.      Review the PHG reading on evidence (5-10 minutes):  Use the following questions to get students to generate key points they’ll need to consider for their evidence in Essay 2. 


·        Based on the PHG reading, what are the different types of evidence?

-         personal experience (what they used in Essay 1)

-         evidence from the text

-         evidence from other texts


·        Which of these seem most relevant to the context of Essay 2?  Which might you have to use as support for your essay?

-         Potentially students can answer all three, but certainly evidence from the text should be the most relevant.  If they’re evaluating a text, they have to support their evaluation by showing that what they say about the text is, in fact, true.

-         Personal experience could also come into play, especially if they show how well an essay works for discussion or perhaps how it can be a thought-provoking text.


·        No matter which type(s) of evidence you use, how do you ensure that it will be effective? That is, what does any evidence need to be in order to convince the reader that your point is valid? What did you have to do with your evidence in Essay 1 to make it effective?

-         Relevant—if students are using quotes or personal experience, make sure it's directly relevant to the point they're making. Remind them to use evidence that's appropriate to the focus or thesis and approach or mode of development.  If a writer says that the tone of an essay is sarcastic and turns a reader off but then goes on to describe a personal experience with someone sarcastic he didn't like, this shows that sarcasm can turn people off, NOT that the essay turns people off through sarcasm.  A reader needs TEXTUAL evidence to see that the text in question is sarcastic.  Also, if a writer says that a particular reading would produce a strong agree/disagree response from students and would therefore be useful, that writer must offer readers specific textual evidence of what exactly students might agree/disagree with.

-         Specific—remind students that if readers don’t know their personal experiences they also won’t know what their talking about in the text unless they SHOW readers.

-         Explained—remind students not to just give a specific example and leave it.  A reader needs to see an explanation of what a writer’s example means or proves, given the writer’s focus.


6.      Connect claims to evidence (15-20 minutes): The goal of this activity is to show students how a writer’s thesis (overall claim) sets up certain expectations for support.  Explain to students that the process of “unpacking” an overall claim involves critically considering its language to see what is actually stated and what is implied that the writer would need to prove in order to substantiate that thesis.  As students begin to define and revise their thesis for their Essay 4, this unpacking activity can be useful to help them anticipate what reasons and evidence they’ll need to provide in their paper.


A.     Have students write the tentative overall claim they wrote in #4 at the top of 2 sheets of paper so they can exchange them later.


B.     Have students practice unpacking a sample thesis or two to show see what sub-claims are implied that the writer would have to support.  Here are a few examples you might use:

·        Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic American novel and should be required reading for all students at the high school level.

-         (Implied claims to prove:  Huck Finn is a “classic” novel; Huck Finn could not be replaced by another novel and should therefore be required.  High school is the appropriate place for it to be read versus middle school or college.)

·        Elizabeth Wong’s “The Struggle to be an All-American Girl” raises important questions about dealing with cultural pressures that would produce a beneficial discussion from students in a freshman seminar made up of students from diverse backgrounds.

-         (Implied claims to prove:  Wong’s essay addresses questions/topics that are relevant to the goals and concerns of the seminar professor, which the writer will show with textual evidence. The essay could produce good discussion if students are able to interact with Wong’s ideas from different viewpoints, which could be supported by textual and perhaps personal evidence.)


C.     Have students workshop each others’ overall claims to identify what sub-claims are implied that the writer would need to prove.  Get students to work in groups of 3-4 and get two students to offer feedback on their overall claim using the following questions as a guide:

·        What specific sub-claims are implied by the writer’s thesis that would need to be supported?

·        How well does this tentative thesis fit with our context, audience and purpose for Essay 2?


D.     Ask students to return the sheets of paper with their feedback about their group members’ claim.




Assignment for Day 14: 


-         Read the Essay 2 sample (see the appendix and choose one).

-         Write a 1-page freewrite using your revised claim from class and REASONS you support that claim.


OPTIONAL TECHNOLOGY (Forum): Consider using the web forum feature provided by SyllaBase to have students write and post this free-write as a “prospectus”—a tentative plan for how they will approach Essay 2.  Using the forum will help students plan and choose how they can write to the rhetorical situation in Essay 2 by considering how their audience and purpose influence their focus (claim and criteria), organization and support/evidence.  The benefits of the forum include these:  the forum allows you to see and anticipate concerns for how students understand the assignment and what they’re being asked to write in response to it; this approach also allows you to respond briefly to each student’s plan/prospectus as it is posted; finally, a forum posting may also get students to begin outlining Essay 2 sooner.  (See the appendix for a sample SyllaBase instruction sheet and a way to set up the “prospectus” posting as a homework assignment.)