backReturn to Unit 3: MWF

Unit 3, Day 30:  Friday, October 26


What you’ll do today in class:


-         Generate possible educational issues for Unit 3

-         Connect choosing a topic to inquiry and social exigence

-         Discuss the process of choosing a topic


Connection to course goals:  Generating topics that have social exigence can help students turn the critical eye we’ve been developing onto the educational institution and also show how writing can serve as a way to gain a voice in trying to change culture.  We also want to show students how finding a valuable topic to write about begins with the process of inquiry and research.




1.      Discuss the educational issues students found on the web sites they read (10 minutes): The main goal of this discussion is to generate more possible issues that could work as choices for writing in this unit and to start analyzing those issues.  Prepare discussion questions that get students to identify the educational debate they read about, the “participants” (those people involved in each debate), and what these participants are interested in and why.  Be sure to add these new issues to the list you began generating last meeting and remind students that issues like these are already in the public sphere and thus provide a clear exigence for writing about them.




2.      Connect choosing a topic to inquiry and social exigence (15 minutes):  The main goal of this activity is to show students the importance of thinking about how they’ll decide which possible topics are good enough to write out.  That is, we want to emphasize here in the beginning of the unit that students should be looking at topics in terms of what possible “social need” (i.e. exigence) there is in exploring and writing about them. 


-         Practice as a class with the list of topics students have generated so far:  Based on the topics students came up with, ask them to talk about which ones seem most valuable or pressing to write about now and why. That is, why would anyone want to write about that topic in the first place?  (What possible exigence can students think of for the topics they suggest are valuable?)  Have students consider, for example, what topics would appeal to someone not in their own personal situation and why.  Or discuss briefly what kinds of educational concerns they’ve heard in the public sphere and which of these issues best connect to those conversations.


3.      Assign WTL to practice generating a social exigence for a topic of interest (5 minutes): 


·        Choose ONE of the topics we’ve listed on the board that we haven’t yet defined an exigence for and do a freewrite to generate some ideas for possible social exigencies for that topic.  Why might it be valuable for others in the American public to know about this topic?  Of all the education-related topics out there, why is this one especially important to write about right now? 


4.      Discuss WTL responses (5 minutes):  In this discussion be sure to re-emphasize the importance of choosing a topic about which there is a visible cultural need for writing.  Have a few students talk about the topic they chose and potential exigencies for writing about it.  Ask other students to respond by discussing whether they agree that each topic is valuable to write about now and why.





5.      Discuss the type of process students will need to go through in finding a good topic (15 minutes): 


  1. Articulate why effective written argument needs to begin with a good research question: Connect finding a good topic to the concept of inquiry by emphasizing that students must take on an “investigator” role and begin thinking in terms of finding the right questions and pursuing a particular narrowed question through ongoing research.


·        Why start your research with a question?

- Part of academic research and argument is going in with as open a mind as


- The goal is to see all of the sides and evidence before deciding where you stand.

            - DON’T just go in knowing your answer to the question and finding evidence to                                     support it.

·        If you’re going to do some research, what do you think makes an effective research question?  What’s going to help you find the information you’re looking for?

- narrow (though if you’re just starting your research, you might stay a bit

   broader and see how you can narrow as you discover more about the issue)

- answerable

- of personal interest


B.     Convert a topic into a research/inquiry question:  Ask students to write some sample inquiry/research questions with the various topics they generated. You might choose 2 or 3 topics from the list and have the whole class translate them into a research question that meets the criteria you just defined.  If time, have students convert the topic they chose in the WTL into a research question.








Assignment for Day 31:


-         Read the introduction section of the “Schooling” chapter in RC, including Sizer’s “What High School Is” (108-17).   Also read Gatto’s “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher” (see appendix).  Finally, read the beginning of the “Arguing” chapter in the PHG (431-34).

(NOTE:  The Gatto article is included in the appendix, and can be placed on reserve at the library.  Copying the article for the whole class would violate copyright laws.)

-          Write a list of all the issues you find raised in Sizer’s and Gatto’s articles.