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Unit 1, Day 2:  Thursday, August 23


What you'll do today in class:


-         Introduce learning how to write to a rhetorical situation—context, purpose, audience, focus, support

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

-         Introduce “critical thinking” and “reading culture”

-         Introduce Essay 1 assignment and context


Connection to course goals:  Introducing these key terms starts to get students thinking of writing as a contextual act, and the grocery and homework activities show that we make choices within writing 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 Tuesday.  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.      Discussion of critical thinking and studying culture by referring to 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:  “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.”


3.      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.


4.      Discuss cultural influences and contexts we bring to reading (15 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.


Transition:  “While we all come to a text with certain expectations, in order to read critically we must be able to step out of that position to recognize the author's position.  Similarly, to write effectively, we have to consider the context of our audience and our own contexts in order to clarify our writing in such a way that it communicates to someone with different expectations.”


5.      Introduce the importance of purpose/audience/focus (10 minutes):


-         Ask students to each take just a minute to jot down their basic grocery list if they were to go shopping.

-         Ask one student to offer his or her list to put on the board. After you put that student’s list on the board, ask how this list might change if students were writing the list for their moms to do the shopping for them. They should add more detail to this list, for example maybe "cool ranch doritos" on this list vs. "chips" on the first list. They also might adjust the list based on amount, location, health concerns (low sodium or cholesterol foods), etc.

-         Repeat with another student's list, and provide a different context again (e.g. a roommate, a husband).


6.      Purpose, Audience, Focus chart with their homework (10 minutes):  The goal of this activity is to show that for any given writing context there are likely several different ways to write effectively for the context—different audiences, different purposes, etc.  Now that you've shown how purpose, audience and focus are important in a simple writing task like a grocery list, discuss these three in regard to their own homework on the board.


-         Make columns for "Purpose," "Audience," and "Focus."

-         Ask students to say who they envisioned as their audience for their homework writing—was it themselves? Was it the class as a whole? Was it simply you as an instructor?

-         Next, ask what purpose they had in mind for that audience.  Was it to show the teacher their writing skills? Was it to explain their cultural identity to themselves? Was it to let others in on what they think influences their lives? Was it just to fill a page to complete the assignment?


7.      Discuss how context influences a writer’s choices in producing a text (5 minutes):  Read the material in PHG that students read for homework to see what you want to highlight here. Emphasize that no matter what anyone writes, there is always a purpose, a focus, context, and an audience (which might be just the writer).  Here it would also be useful to offer students a few examples of how context would change the text.  You might talk about some of the texts you have written to illustrate.


Transition: “Now that we've talked a bit about how purpose, context, and audience in the writing process, let's examine the first essay assignment to identify these three concerns.”


8.      Introduce Essay 1 (7-10 minutes):


-         Handout assignment sheet.

-         Let them read over it.     

-         To check their understanding of the terms in general, and the essay in particular, ask students to restate the purpose, context, and audience as a class:

·        What is the purpose of this essay assignment?

·        Who is your audience for this essay?

·        What will you have to do to meet the assignment?


-         Then, move to discussing how these responses will affect their choices when writing Essay 1. Since the students are part of the audience, include them by asking what type of response they would like to read.

·        Given your audience, what will readers want to know about your reaction?

·        What will you have to do to successfully explain your reaction to the class?

·        What type of reaction would you want to read?

-                                                                                                                  They should be able to generate such concerns as:

-                                                                                                      a reaction that isn't a rant

-                                                                                                      a reaction that doesn't go off on tangents or try to cover too much (focus)

-                                                                                                      a reaction that has an appropriate tone

-                                                                                                      a reaction I can relate to

-                                                                                                      a reaction that explains why the writer reacts the way he or she does

-                                                                                                      a reaction that doesn't offend the audience 


CONCLUSION: “Today we looked at how cultural contexts influence us as readers and writers, as well as how a writing context influences the texts we produce. On Tuesday we'll turn toward responding specifically to the context of Essay 1.”


Optional Activity (if you have extra time)—Practice "critical thinking and reading": This activity asks students to think about how they can become close and critical readers and practice this process.  Use this activity to emphasize to students that being a critical thinker and reader is important in being able to meet our course goals and that it requires paying close attention to texts they read.


-         Ask students to identify what it means to be a “critical reader.”

·        What makes an effective critical reader?

·        How does one become a close reader of the text?

·        What can you do to be more active and critical when reading an essay?

-                                                                                                      Close reading (marginal markings, notes outside of text)

-                                                                                                      Consider the context in which the essay was written

-                                                                                                      Consider your context (what you are bringing to your reading and why you react the way you do)

-                                                                                                      Consider how cultural context influences your reading (turn the critical lens inward and examine your beliefs and influences)


-         Ask students to practice being a "critical reader" of the Zoellner essay. Have them skim the “Readings Strategies” in RC (20-21) and practice using the first two suggestions with the Zoellner essay.  (Have an OH of the Zoellner essay prepared and then annotate as a class.)

·        What would you annotate, underline or mark in the margins that you see as a controlling idea or viewpoint in Zoellner’s argument that he’s trying to get across to readers?

·        What parts of the text did you react strongly to or find key to his argument?


Assignment for Day 3:


-         Read Chapkis, “Dress as Success” in RC (236-39), Hine, “Goths in Tomorrowland” in RC (68-73) and “Techniques for Reading” in PHG (149-57). 

-         Write a list of the main ideas from each reading and write a 1-page personal reaction to either Chapkis or Hine.