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Unit 1, Day 9:  Tuesday, September 18


What you’ll do today in class:


-         Connect focus to purpose and context

-         Practice “unpacking” claims to find expectations for support

-         Practice developing claims for Essay 2 with textual evidence

-         Discuss integrating textual evidence


Connection to course goals: The first activity is specifically designed to show how part of the writing process is asking the right questions to show what students must do to meet the context and where they can make choices.  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: Focus Activity—Generating questions to help focus an essay (5 minutes):


·        Write a list of questions you might ask about an essay to help narrow your focus for this assignment.  That is, if you're sitting down to start draft #1, what questions could you actively consider to help narrow your focus and purpose?  You might start by thinking about the context of the assignment, and then consider which parts of the assignment or essay you should ask questions about.  You can use general questions that would help focus any essay, or questions that are specific to this assignment.


3.      Discuss WTL and generate a list of questions for focusing on the board (10 minutes): What you're after here is helping students develop the ability to consciously focus an essay. The questions could include:


·        What part (or parts) of the text do I wish to focus on?

·        What, specifically, do I need to accomplish in writing this essay?

·        How narrow of a focus will I need in order for the audience to be able to follow me easily?

·        Which parts of the text I'm evaluating are most important?

·        What criteria would be relevant and meaningful to my reader?

·        What approach(es) for analysis would help me most with developing these criteria as part of my focus? 


4.      Summarize the discussion (10 minutes):  Focusing is really what the first step in evaluation asks students to do—state their overall claim, which should include a judgment for each criterion they will use (i.e. which aspects of the essay they see as important and relevant to their purpose that they’ll focus on, and how those aspects do or do not make the essay worthwhile for the professor's purposes).  A writer’s  thesis will clearly and concisely state the writer’s overall focus for a reader, including his judgment of the text and the defined criterion (or related criteria) upon which the 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.


-         Have students fill in the diagram for their own papers.


Transition:  “Now that we've generated some questions that can help narrow the focus for your Essay 2 (or any essay you write) and completed step 4, 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 (5-7 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 a tentative claim using what they wrote in the freewrite for homework that includes their judgment about the text (i.e. useful or not useful) and their criterion or criteria they’re using to make that judgment.  Students should write their claim 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?

·        What types of evidence would you expect the writer to provide in order to support these sub-claims?

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


7.      Have students begin to outline their evidence for their overall claim (10 minutes):


-         Ask students to return the sheets of paper with their feedback about their group members’ claim and read what others suggested.   

-         Have students write responses to the following questions for their own essay to begin to outline their support.

·        How well does your current thesis work for our context, audience and purpose in Essay 2?

·        What sub-claims will you need to prove in order to support your evaluation of the text?

·        What types of evidence will you need to support your thesis?  Could personal experience be useful in helping your evaluation?

·        What textual evidence can you think of from the essay you’re evaluating that helps substantiate your thesis?  Make a list of at least three specific examples you'll be able to use as support for your evaluation. Under each example, write a brief explanation of how this example supports your judgment(s) about the essay.


8.      Incorporating textual evidence (quoting and paraphrasing) (10 minutes):  The goal of this activity is to show students the need to integrate textual evidence in their essay and how to do so.  Emphasize to students the need to introduce quotes from the text (rather than letting them stand alone) and the use of proper punctuation. 


-         Ask students to articulate why writers need to incorporate textual examples into their own language in their essay.

·        Why is it important to introduce or provide a lead-in for textual examples you use?

-         to give credit to the author for his/her ideas

-         to make textual examples flow with your own language in the essay

-         to point readers back specific places or aspects of the text


-         Get students to discuss how paraphrasing and quoting can be used to introduce textual examples in their paper.

·        Based on the PHG reading, when should you quote and when should you paraphrase?

·        What are some different ways you can introduce a quote from the text?  What punctuation should you use?


-         Ask students to consider how they can integrate textual examples from the text they’ve chosen into their essay.  Have students look back at the list of textual examples they identified in #7 and consider how they’ll integrate each into their essay. 

·        Which textual examples that you’re thinking of using should you quote?  Which should you paraphrase?


9.      Hand out the Essay 2 sample:   See the appendix.





Assignment for Day 10:


-         Read the Essay 2 sample and “Introductions and Lead-ins” in PHG (299-301). 

-         Write an introduction for your Essay 2 that includes a lead-in, states your overall claim, and indicates your purpose for the reader.