backReturn to Unit 1: MWF

Unit 1, Day 2:  Wednesday, August 22


What you'll do today in class:


-         Discuss students’ expectations for the course

-         Introduce “reading culture”

-         Examine the context of the composition classroom

-         Examine how we all read from a given context that is influenced by culture (activity with Zoellner)


Connection to course goals:  The discussion of students’ expectations for the course helps clarify course goals.  Critically “reading culture” is key in helping students to meet the course goals.  Furthermore, discussion of the interview activity highlights the idea of how culture creates contexts that influence our actions; awareness of this situation is key to eventually being able to write within  academic, cultural and civic contexts.  The activity on responses to Zoellner begins to show students that culture plays an active part in the choices we make in writing and reading, setting the stage for later using writing to act critically toward culture (i.e., if culture influences our reading and writing choices, presumably awareness of that influence gives us more control and allows us to change that influence).




1.      Take roll (2-5 minutes):  Find out who has added or dropped since Monday.  Remember that some students who may not have attended the first class will likely show up today.  If you have room, you can sign an add form for anyone on your waiting list, and if someone has missed both classes you can dis-enroll them through the form you were given with your roster after class.


INTRODUCTION:  “Today we'll be returning to the idea of how context influences our choices and actions.  We'll look specifically at contexts created by culture and how they influence us as writers, readers and individuals.  We'll then discuss cultural analysis as a focus for this class, and finally look at how writing occurs within a context that influences a writer's choices.”


2.      Write to Learn (WTL) (5 minutes): Tell students they can expect to do some in-class writing like this to help them collect their thoughts to jump-start a discussion, remember a text they read for homework that is about to be discussed, or to generate ideas for their papers. You may want to let them know that you won't always collect their WTLs on a daily basis but will at some point (with their portfolios).  (See the “Collecting Homework” section in the introduction to the syllabus.)  You can put the following prompt on the board or on an overhead.

·        Take out a piece of paper and write for five minutes or so about what you expect out of CO150 and also what you hope to contribute.


3.      Discuss their responses to the WTL (5 minutes):  Generate a list on the board to show commonalities and differences between answers and how those expectations will (or will not) be met in this course.  It’s okay to address issues like “I think this class will suck.”  A lot of times it helps to let students express these views on the first day so they can see that you are willing to listen to (although not necessarily believe) their views.


Transition:  “In order to meet our course goals, it’s essential that you’re able to consider culture critically and understand how culture shapes our reading and writing.”


4.      Discuss critical thinking and studying culture by referring to the reading from RC (10 minutes):


·        What does it mean to “read culture”?  (Turn them to page 3 for an exact discussion, or to generate discussion by highlighting passages if the first approach falls flat).

·        Why should we read culture in a writing class?  Why not just "write"?


            Possible Responses:                        

-                                                                                                                  Need a context and purpose for writing (something to write about!)

-                                                                                                                  Cultural messages, as we'll discuss, are transferred through a variety of texts. This class will broaden people's definition of "texts" to include television and other media. We'll be "reading" culture just like a text, because it serves as another form of communicating ideas and beliefs within different contexts (academic, civic, etc).

-                                                                                                                  When writing, it's useful to be able to understand the cultural contexts of your audience, so you can address them more effectively.

-                                                                                                                  Understanding the entire rhetorical context—including cultural concerns—allows a writer to choose a more appropriate purpose.

-                                                                                                                  Literate and educated members of society should be able to apply the tools of critical analysis to the world around them. Critical analysis allows us to understand how things work and to make better informed decisions. (You many want to define "critical" and "analysis" for them).

-                                                                                                                  We all need to think about our choices/values and make these decisions as informed decisions, not just operating on received wisdom.  We're participants in culture, so why not be more active participants?


Transition:  “Now that we’ve discussed why it’s important to study culture, let’s go back to the interview activity from last class to consider the role of cultural context in the composition classroom.”


5.      Discuss the interview activity (5 minutes):  Your goal in this discussion is to highlight how context and rhetorical situations define what we can say and how we can say it.  Our context and rhetorical situation here is a college composition classroom and that affects how we asked questions and what questions we asked.  Put up the OH list of categories from last class and discuss them using the following questions:


·        What wasn't asked and why do you think that is?

·        Why are these things people will ask and will tell?

·        What does this say about our expectations of social interaction? of a composition classroom  and what can be said there?

·        How are these answers specific to what an American of your age (or others) might think is important?

·        How would our questions have differed if you were interviewing your instructor? Why?

·        How would your questions and answers have differed if you were talking to someone you met at a fraternity or dorm party? Why?

·        How would your questions and answers have differed if you were just meeting your host family for a semester in a foreign country? Why?


Transition:  “In this first unit, you'll be concentrating on how cultural context influences the reading and writing of texts.  What kind of societal pressures influence our individual lives?  What kinds of power can individuals exercise over society?  What aspects of our lives help define our cultural identity?  The readings in the first unit will all deal with these issues, and critical reading is a necessary component of critical thinking, two of the skills you'll be developing this semester.  Since part of critical reading is considering the influences readers (including ourselves) bring to texts, let's examine how context influences our reactions.”


6.      Group activity on cultural influences and response to Zoellner (10 minutes):  This activity aims to give students a chance to talk with a few classmates in order to generate a list of cultural influences people face, and then discuss their responses to Zoellner with some attention to how their responses may connect to these influences. The overall goal is to show how we bring our own contexts to our readings of a text. That is, just as the context the students were in influenced their choices with the interview activity, the context(s) they bring to a text when they read influences how they’ll read and respond to that text.


-         Break students into four groups. Each group should respond to the following prompt. (Put these directions on the OH):


1.)    Using your homework assignments, compile a group list of various cultural influences that influence people’s actions.  You might also consider the following questions:  What makes up someone’s background or identity?  How might these aspects influence a person?

2.)    After you've compiled that list, turn to the Zoellner essay and have each member of your group give a quick explanation of their response to his essay. Did you like it? Do you agree with Zoellner? Do you disagree with him?  Why?

3.)    If time permits, look at your list of cultural influences and think about which items might impact how someone would react to Zoellner.


7.      Discuss cultural influences and contexts we bring to reading (10 minutes): 


-         Create a two-column grid to illustrate.  On one side of the board, make a class list of the cultural influences they compiled within their groups.

-         On the other side of the board make a list of the types of responses people had to Zoellner’s essay.

-         After you've got lists on both sides, move to the following discussion questions aimed at seeing how our cultural influences are carried through to our readings of text:


·        Are there any clear connections we might make between a reaction from this side and a cultural influence from the other?

·        Looking just at the influences, what reactions might they produce and why? (You might pick one influence at a time and ask how you think a person with that influence would react to the essay.)

·        Look at the reactions and try to think of certain influences or beliefs that might lead to these reactions.

·        How might a smoker react to this essay? How do you think a non-smoker would react? Why?


-         Summarize this discussion by emphasizing again that context, while influencing the choices we make when creating texts, also influences the choices (reactions) we make when reading texts.


CONCLUSION: “Today we looked at how cultural contexts influence us as readers and writers.  On Friday we’ll turn toward considering how a writing context influences the texts we produce.”


Assignment for Day 3:


-         Read  “Purposes for Writing” and “Purpose and Audience” in PHG (21-26), “The Writing Process” in PHG (126-37), “Reading Strategies” in RC (19-21), and “Text Annotation” in PHG (178-79).

-         Annotate Zoellner’s essay to mark key places you find and write comments or reactions.

-         Bring your list of influences on cultural identity (today’s homework) back to class on Friday.