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Unit 3, Day 20:  Thursday, October 25


What you’ll do today in class:


-         Write Postscript responses and hand in Essay 3

-         Introduce Unit 3 and Essay 4 and discuss how they connect to our course goals

-         Use personal experience to generate possible topics for writing in Unit 3

-         Connect choosing a topic to inquiry and social exigence


Connection to course goals:  Today we’re trying to teach students how to generate valuable topics that they can use in responding to the new writing situation within which they’re being asked to work in Unit 3.  Generating topics that have social exigence can help students see ways to 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.


1.      Have students write Postscript responses and hand in their folders with all process work for Essay 3 (5 minutes):  Create your own Postscript questions. 



Transition to Unit 3:


2.      Introduce Unit 3 and Essay 4 (10 minutes):  Design an activity that introduces students to the main goals and concepts of this unit and final paper.  Highlight for students, for example, how the Unit 3 context is different from the first two units and how they will have to determine even more of the rhetorical situation for their writing.  Connect this unit and paper to our overall course goals to show students how Unit 3 follows from the earlier units and fits with the main goals of this writing course.  To help make those connections, you might use the explanations of course goals and unit goals in the syllabus for ideas.


Some suggestions for introducing Essay 4:


- Hand out Essay 4 assignment sheet and give students a few minutes to read over it to

   make some annotations and jot down any initial questions they have.

- Highlight various aspects you think are important for students.

- Emphasize the need to focus on a particular issue.

- Explain sequence that we will follow during this unit.  That is, articulate why we are

reading and researching for much of this unit before students begin writing their own papers (i. e. emphasize that educated argumentation must begin with inquiry into topic and context to provide a "reasoned" response to the issue a writer chooses).  Remind students that it is better to hold off on forming an opinion until they become well- informed on the issue.


3.      Generate a list of skills and strategies that apply to writing in Unit 3 (5-7 minutes):  Have students come up with a list of all the skills and strategies they’ve learned in the previous units that are applicable to their writing in responding to the context for Essay 4.  Also, ask students to consider what new skills and strategies they’ll need in defining an issue and writing an argument for their audience in Essay 4.  For example, what will they have to do differently?   What new expectations does the Essay 4 context produce for audience, purpose, focus and modes of development?




4.      Brainstorm Activity—Defining student concerns about education (20-25 minutes):  Your main goal in this activity is to generate as many topics as possible that might lead to relevant educational issues students could focus on in this unit.  We want students to see that their current concerns based on their own experience are a good starting place in critically exploring education as an institution.


  1. In a WTL, have students identify some concerns they have about school or the educational process:  Let students know they can include any level of schooling here.  For instance, you might ask these types of questions to prompt topics for discussion about education:  What’s unfair or troubling about school?  What gets you most angry? What’s confusing about the educational process?   How would you like to see the educational system—at any level—changed?


  1. Discuss students’ responses:  Let your students lead most of the discussion while

you keep track of any possible issues they raise on the board.  Encourage students to share their experiences and opinions on each topic or question that comes up. This should be a free-flowing discussion where experiences and opinions are openly shared; feel free to add your own as well.  You might want to have students write down the issues as well, or have one student copy the list so you can type it up and hand it out next class period.


5.      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 with some of the topics students just generated:  Based on the topics students just 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.


6.      Discuss the type of process students will need to go through in finding a good topic (10-15 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.


- 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.

- 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.





Assignment for Day 21:


1)      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.)


2)      Visit one of the following websites (or one that you find on your own) and read one of the education-related discussions provided:  

-          Education Week on the Web—This site includes a “Hot Topics” page with a list of 32 current educational topics and a list of “Articles from the Archive” for each topic. 

-          Education World—This site contains recent articles relating to 31 current educational topics.


3)      Write a 1-page typed response that includes the name of the internet site you visited, a brief summary of the discussion or debate you read about (including the main participants in the debate that you observed), and a list of all the issues you noticed in the discussion/articles.