Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Portfolio 2 Weekly Plans

Week 5: Monday, September 23rd - Friday, September 27th

Note: Before beginning this portfolio, decide when you'd like to take your class to the library for research instruction. It's best to schedule a session at the start of Portfolio 2, before students begin researching their issues more extensively. Call Cathy Cranston to set up an appointment (she'd prefer that you call two weeks ahead of time).

Goals for this Week

  • Collect, respond to, and grade Portfolio 1
  • Create a transition between Portfolio 1 and Portfolio 2
  • Assign Portfolio 2 and review its four parts
  • Discuss the audience and context for the Issue Analysis (readers of Talking Back, an online writing journal at CSU - https://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/talkingback/)
  • Explore debatable issues for Portfolio 2
  • Establish criteria for what makes a "good" issue or research question
  • Assign Part 1 of Portfolio 2 - Topic Proposal (due at the start of week 6)
  • Review Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" from the PHG

Connection to Course Goals

This portfolio marks a shift from focusing on the arguments advanced by individual authors - that is, focusing on individual positions on an issue - to understanding the larger conversation about that issue. Four related concepts, each connected to the conversation metaphor that runs through the course, will help you and your students make the shift from focusing on the ideas articulated by individual authors to focusing on the shared concepts that underlie most publicly debated issues:

Accountability: Inexperienced writers might think that developing an argument about a public issue is as simple as stating a claim and supporting it with evidence. Doing so, however, results in an argument that fails to account for what’s already been written about the issue. Writers need to be accountable members of a conversation - that is, they should take time to listen to the conversation. They should read what other writers have contributed to the conversation; they should learn what types of evidence are valued by people involved in the conversation; they should figure out what’s the current topic of the conversation is. Failing to become an accountable member of the conversation not only increases the likelihood that an argument will fail, it demonstrates a lack of respect for the ideas and information that other members of the conversation have brought to the conversation.

Newness: The flip side of the obligation to be accountable is the obligation to contribute something new - something of value - to the conversation. Simply rehashing the arguments and rehearsing information that others have contributed to the conversation does not meet this obligation. Newness, fortunately, comes in several flavors. You can offer something radically new - the kind of newness that might win a Nobel prize, such as John Nash’s suggestion that not all situations involve winners and losers, and that in fact there are “win-win” situations. If you see your students providing this kind of contribution to an issue, please let the other members of the composition faculty know about it. A second kind of newness is a new way of looking at an issue, perhaps by suggesting new a new analogy or by providing a new analytic framework for understanding the issue, much as cognitive psychologist Herbert Simon did when he suggested that we can understand certain economic decision-making processes by examining them through the lens of cognitive psychology. A third kind of newness involves providing new facts or details that enhance our understanding of an issue, such as new first-hand accounts from victims of a particular natural disaster, a new interpretation of an event or work of art, or results from a scientific study that replicates earlier work. In fact, the third kind of newness is the most common kind of newness found in writing - or in life, for that matter.

Positions: When an author makes an argument, he or she is taking a position on an issue. A position is a specific claim made by an individual author. In the first Portfolio, your students defined the positions of individual authors in their summaries. They staked out their own positions on an issue when they wrote their responses.

Approaches: When a group of authors have positions that are fairly similar, you can say that they take the same approach to the issue. An approach is an interpretive device that helps you figure out how to make sense of a complex issue. Rather than trying to remember 30 or 40 positions on an issue - and make fine distinctions among them - you can define three or four approaches to the issue. Examples of approaches include the pro-life and pro-choice approaches to the abortion issue. Literally thousands of people write about this issue in a given month, and close analysis will indicate that there are subtle differences among each position. It’s easier for us to think about the issue in terms of pro-life and pro-choice approaches, however, even though doing so tends to obscure those subtle differences between approaches.

In this portfolio, your students will be making the shift from focusing on individual positions to understanding the similarities among positions that allow them to create approaches to an issue. This portfolio begins with identifying an issue that interests them, determining what their potential readers might know about that issue, creating an annotated working bibliography, grouping their sources into approaches, and conducting an analysis of those approaches.

The key in this first week of the portfolio is helping students understand what a debatable issue is and how they can explore it. By encouraging your students to select a debatable issue that interests them, you’ll increase the likelihood that they will produce better writing, since students are more likely to write well about issues they care about. We want students to be invested in their issues so that they will think critically about them and so that they revise their writing more willingly. We also want students to apply concepts involving the writing situation (context, audience and purpose) to their own thinking about writing. This goal is achieved by having them write for a public audience of college students. Even in the initial stages of their research, students will need to think about which topics are most relevant to their audience. The library instruction will help students hone their research skills and teach them to seek out current, credible, and valid sources.

Required Readings and Assignments

  • Read, "Narrowing and Focusing Your Subject" on pg. 570 - 571 in the PHG.
  • Begin reading about current, debatable issues (skim the Web, read newspapers, listen to KUNC FM (91.5), read magazines and journals, visit chat rooms, talk to friends, parents, and instructors, etc…). Find at least two issues that interest you and summarize them on the class forum for others to read.
  • Visit Talking Back online journal at https://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/talkingback/   and read at least three of the articles published there. Also, read the journal’s mission statement in order to better understand the context you're writing for. As you read the essays in Talking Back, think about the audience the essays address.
  • Read Deborah Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" on pg. 401 - 405 in the PHG. Note in the margins which points you agree/disagree with and which points raise questions or concerns.
  • Begin working on your Topic Proposal.

Potential Activities for this Week

*      WTL - Postscript for essay one (10 minutes): Use this activity to encourage students to reflect on their writing for Portfolio 1. Have them address questions such as: What part of this writing process was most valuable to you and why? Which parts of this essay were most challenging? How did you overcome these challenges? What did you learn about writing or about yourself as a writer while completing Portfolio 1?

Note to instructors: Postscripts are useful when evaluating student writing because in them students tend to recognize their own struggles. This frees you from labeling such struggles as "problems" within your comments. Rather than directly stating that a student needs to develop a claim, state that you agree with the student's own observation that development is something that needs more consideration. This approach creates a tone of, "I'm here to help you" as opposed to, "I'm the expert."

*      Transition between Portfolio I and Portfolio 2 (10 minutes): Revisit the writing situation model from Portfolio I to explain the transition between Portfolio I and Portfolio 2. This will help students see where the course is heading.

You can draw the model on the board or on an overhead and use it to explain that:

·        We begin as readers who encounter texts as a way to learn and explore what is happing culturally and socially.

·        Then, we become informed readers - drawn to certain specific issue that we want to learn more about.

·        We read and research various texts to locate the "conversation" that surrounds the issue we're interested in (find out what groups or individuals, who are active in writing about the issue, are saying).

·        Then, we analyze these texts to figure out how they are shaped by cultural and social influences. In turn, we consider how the texts that get produced are shaping society and culture.

·        Once we've critically examined the existing viewpoints on an issue, we become critical thinkers and informed writers. We then use our observations and critical thinking skills to construct new arguments.

·        We write our own arguments for public discourse (that is, for a specific group of readers in society who are arguing about an issue publicly) in the hope that our opinions and views will influence that argument.

·        Through this process, we become active participants in society and culture.




Cultural Contexts

·        Language / Media

·        Government

·        Shared cultural values and beliefs

·        Common traditions

·        Larger historical events (e.g. "Roe V. Wade")

Social Contexts

·        Organizations, universities, schools, churches, businesses, environmental groups…

·        Family, friends and neighbors

·        Shared values and beliefs among smaller groups

·        Local events and traditions

·        Community concerns (e.g. planning for growth along the front range)

Explain the shift from readers to writers:

In Portfolio I - you begin as readers exploring issues and forming opinions

In Portfolio 2 - you choose your own issue; then you research this issue and analyze the various approaches to writing about it

In Portfolio 3 - you become participants, writing arguments based on the research and critical thinking you've done in Units I & II

*      Introduce Portfolio 2 (15 minutes): Distribute all four assignment sheets and let students read through them. Fill in due dates, highlight key points, and address students' concerns along the way. Try to help them understand the sequencing for these assignments; and emphasize that all parts lead up to the Issue Analysis which is intended for an audience of college aged readers. (For more assistance with planning this activity, read the section on "Planning to Introduce an Assignment" in the teaching guide, Planning a Class, on Writing@CSU (https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/planning/). You can also find a copy of the Guide in your appendix.

*      Discuss Topics and Issues (10 minutes): The first step in writing for Portfolio 2 is to have students choose issues to work with. Emphasize that students will be sticking with the issue they choose for the remainder of the course (9 weeks) so they'll want to pick something they're interested in. The goal for this activity is to help students think about choosing topics and narrowing their topics into specific issues. Inform students that topics are too broad for the issue analysis and that they'll need to narrow their topics in order to focus their writing for Portfolio 2. Use the grid below (or one that you develop) to illustrate the differences between topics and issues. Also, point out that issues are often defined in the form of a debatable question.





Nuclear Waste

Where should we store it?



How should we transport it across the country?

Should we continue to use nuclear energy when we don't have a reliable solution for storing its waste?

School Violence

What is the cause of the recent school violence?



What should teachers' role be in managing school violence?

Should the government fund more counseling programs in schools to reduce violence?


*      Brainstorm possible topics and issues (10 - 15 minutes): Have students generate a list of topics on the board (ones that would interest them and other college students). Then, practice narrowing these topics down to specific issues. If you want to assign this as a homework activity, consider using the brainstorming, freewriting, or looping activities in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio on Writing@CSU.

*      Develop criteria for what makes a "good issue" (10 - 15 minutes):  Since writing situations (purpose, audience, and context) determine what makes an issue "good" - begin this activity by asking students to consider their audience and purpose for writing their issue analysis. You may review the various audiences and purposes (as listed below). But emphasize that while students may have various audiences and purposes in mind, their primary audience for their issue analysis should be college students. Their primary purpose should be to show that their issue is complex.



College Students


To show that an issue is complex

You (the writer)


To analyze your issue as preparation for writing an argument in Portfolio 3.

The Instructor

To prove that you can think critically about the writing situation (connections between readers, writers and culture) by analyzing an issue for college aged readers.

Here are some criteria to include for what makes an issue "good":

·        Your issue should appeal to college students (including yourself).

·        It should be complex enough to move beyond a simple pro/con debate.

·        It should be popular enough to find a range of opinions on (informative sources such as news reports are useful for learning about the issue, but convincing or persuasive sources, those that take a position, are needed for the analysis portion of the writing).

·        It should be fairly current or it should represent an ongoing concern.

·        It should build off of existing arguments. For example, you wouldn't want to research an issue that has already been explored over and over (e.g. "Does the media negatively affect a woman's self image?") This question lends itself to no surprise since it has already been asked many times. Rather than "reinventing the wheel" find out how an ongoing conversation has evolved. See what direction it has most recently taken. Then, build on that recent thread of conversation (e.g. "Much research has already shown that fashion magazines have a negative effect on a woman's self image, but little work has been done to see how magazines affect men. With the production of men's magazines on the rise, perhaps we should begin to consider these effects.")

*      WTL - Practice narrowing topics down to issues (10 - 15 minutes): Have students list two or three topics that they might be interested in researching. Then, have them narrow these topics into 3 - 4 specific related issues. Since you've already modeled this activity as a class, you probably won't need to thoroughly explain it. Verbal instructions or instructions on an overhead should be sufficient.

*      Peer Review (10 - 15 minutes): Have students exchange their WTL's in either pairs or groups. Ask them to read each others topics and issues and then decide which ones would best meet the criteria for what makes a "good" issue.

*      Discuss context and audience for the Issue Analysis (10 minutes): Be sure that you and your students have visited the Talking Back website before conducting this activity. Keep in mind that your students will be thinking a lot about their readers, college students, in Part II this portfolio, so focus more on context and the details of the actual website for now.

Here are some points that you should touch on:

·        Let students know if you plan to publish any of their essays on Talking Back. Usually instructors will allow several students to submit their papers (post essays on SyllaBase), but will only publish the one that the class votes on.

·        Ask them to describe Talking Back and discuss the site's Mission Statement. Then, ask them to describe what type of essay might get published here (given the founders' purpose and intentions for the site).

·        Explain that issue one is comprised of media analysis essays but issue two will be made up of issue analysis essays (thus, students should not use the posted essays as models since they're working with a different assignment). However, you may discuss ways that former CO150 students appealed to their college aged readers and whether or not it was effective (tone, language, style, content, evidence…)

·        Explain that students and instructors can enter Talking Back through the CSU writing center, but the published essays are also available though search engines. Given this larger context, ask students what they'll need to think about. (Their research will need to be accurate and credible, and their writing should be focused and cohesive. Their essay should also read like it was written for a public audience, not as a response to a school assignment) .

*      Introduce Topic Proposal (5 minutes): Review the assignment sheet with students and answer any questions they may have. Remind them to do some preliminary searching (talk with people about their issue and read two or three sources)before completing this assignment. Tell them that they do not need a bibliography page, but they should use author tags to credit ideas in their proposal.

*      Review Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" from the PHG (15 minutes): Facilitate a discussion for Tannen's essay. The goals for this discussion should be: to help students understand what is meant by the "dialogue" or "conversation" surrounding an issues, as opposed to a debate; to discuss the importance of looking at all sides when seeking "truth" on an issue in culture; and to explain the connection between Tannen's essay and the Issue Analysis Essay for Portfolio 3. For more assistance with planning this activity review the teaching guides on Planning a Class and Leading Class Discussions on Writing@CSU and in your appendix.

Week 6: Monday, September 30th - Friday, October 4th

Goals for this Week

  • Take your class to the library for research instruction (if you did this during week five, use the extra time during week six to catch up)
  • Share topics and issues in class
  • Collect Topic Proposals
  • Assign Part 2 of Portfolio 2 - Audience Exploration (due by Mon., October 7th
  • or Tues., October 8th)
  • Discuss importance of audience when writing for Portfolio 2
  • Discuss what makes effective interview and survey questions
  • Use peer review to workshop interview and survey questions

Connection to Course Goals

Sharing issues in class fosters a sense of writing community. Students learn that writers exchange ideas in public spaces and they gain insight from what others are exploring. They also learn that writers can share sources in a collaborative environment as a means to create new texts. This process draws students' attention to other students and away from the instructor allowing for a more comfortable atmosphere - and one that is more conducive to peer review and workshop.

The discussion about audience is important because many of the choices that students make (about content, language, tone, etc…) will be determined by their audience, in this case college-aged readers of Talking Back. You will also evaluate their issue analysis with the perspective of a student reader in mind, so students need to envision their audience as readers beyond you.

Finally, the discussion about writing effective interview and survey questions will help students think critically about their target readers and these readers' needs and interests. It is our hope that the audience exploration essay will help students see that public writing is situated among meaningful contexts and audiences.

Required Reading and Assignments

Read about "Interviewing" and "Writing Surveys/Questionnaires" on pg. 250 - 252 in the PHG. Write five to eight interview or survey questions for the audience exploration essay.

Potential Activities for this Week

*      Share topics and issues in class (25 minutes): First, decide if this activity will be useful to your students since it takes a lot of time. If your students are uncertain about their issue, this activity can help them learn more about other issues (it's okay if several students are working with the same issue). It can also be useful in encouraging students to collaborate more and to share their sources. If you don't want to take this time in class, have students share their topics on SyllaBase for homework.

Allow each student 1-2 minutes to answer the following questions in a group discussion. The "Round Robin" approach works well:

·        What is your topic?

·        What is your issue within that topic or your research question?

·        Why did you choose this issue (personal and social relevance)?

*      Collect Topic Proposals (3 minutes): You'll need to evaluate these quickly so students know if they're on the right track before proceeding with Parts II - IV. Let them know that you'll be looking to see that their issue is narrow, debatable, current and relevant to their audience.

*      Assign Part II of Portfolio 2 - Audience Exploration (5 minutes): Ask students to read over the assignment sheet and address any questions or concerns they have. This essay is due at the beginning of Week 7.

*      Discuss importance of audience for Portfolio 2 (10 minutes): As a group, generate a list of responses to the following question: Why is it be useful to find out what your readers already know and think about your issue?

Some possible responses:

·        to appeal to their interests

·        to connect with them so that you seem credible and trustworthy

·        to find out how informed they are and whether they're thinking critically about your issue

·        to avoid boring them or repeating what they already know

·        to avoid insulting them

*      Discuss writing effective interview or survey questions (20 minutes): First, have students consider which they'll use, an interview or a survey, by discussing the advantages and pitfalls of each. Use the points below and refer to pg. 250 - 252 in the PHG to guide this discussion. See if students can produce or add to the following points:


·        Provide you with more control because you're there to guide the discussion (you can ask interviewees to elaborate on their answers and you can clarify confusing questions for more accurate responses).

·        Provide a more comfortable atmosphere for raising personal questions.

·        Lend themselves to witnessing body language (you can note which questions interest your interviewees and which questions make them nervous).

Surveys or Questionnaires

·        Produce a wider range of responses.

·        Are much easier to tabulate.

·        May lead to more honest responses since writing is more anonymous that talking.

Second, discuss audience. Students should interview a range of other students at CSU. For example, rather than interviewing five freshman art students, tell them to interview one freshman art student, one senior political science major, one sophomore athlete, etc…

Third, discuss effective interview or survey questions. Use pg. 250 - 252 in the PHG and the points below to guide this discussion.

Effective questions will:

·        be clear and focused

·        be shaped for a target audience

·        avoid confusing or ambiguous language

·        be respectful and somewhat objective

·        take into account different uses for open ended and closed questions

Most importantly, effective questions will address the writer's purpose - which in this case is to find out what students already know about an issue, to realize their attitudes toward the issue, and to help determine the complexity with which they view the issue (Avoid asking questions for the sake of asking questions; stick to your purpose!)

Note: Tell students that the length of the interview or survey will depend on their purpose. Typically 5 - 8 questions works well.

*      If time: Allow students to draft their interview or survey questions (15 minutes): As students work quietly, offer to address their questions and concerns one on one. If you run out of time in class, consider finishing this activity on SyllaBase and having students provide responses to each others questions for homework.

*      Use peer review to workshop interview and survey questions (10 - 15 minutes): After students have completed a draft of their questions, have them exchange drafts in pairs or groups. Refer them back to the criteria established earlier on to provide some useful feedback. Also, ask them to refer to the audience exploration assignment sheet and the issue analysis assignment sheet when answering the following questions. You can put these on an overhead (revise and add to them as you see fit). For additional help with peer review, see the guide an Planning Workshops and Peer Review in the appendix.

Peer Review Questions:

  • Will these questions lead the writer to a better understanding of what their readers' knowledge of the issue is? Will these questions help the writer determine the complexity with which their readers view their issue?
  • Which questions most effectively meet these objectives?
  • Which questions seem less related to the goals for Portfolio 2? How might the writer revise these to better meet these goals?
  • What suggestions can you offer to help the writer develop more questions that will address the goals for Portfolio 2?
  • Where might the writer improve style, tone, language or clarity?

Week 7: Monday, October 7th - Friday, October 11th

Note to instructors: The English Department's "Reading Days" are on Thursday, October 10th and Friday, October 11th. Meeting for class during this time is optional. As a result, fewer activities are planned in the syllabus for this week. Since students will have started Part 3 of Portfolio 2 - collecting sources for their annotated bibliography - you may decide to give them this time to work at home or in the library. Or, you may decide to use this time to catch up with other things in class.

Goals for this Week

  • Collect Part 2 - Audience Exploration - of Portfolio 2
  • Assign Part 3 - Annotated Bibliography - of Portfolio 2 (due after conferences at the start of Week 9 - Monday, October 21st or Tuesday, October 22nd)
  • Define positions and approaches
  • Discuss evaluating sources
  • Discuss using Research Assistant HyperFolio for collecting and grouping online sources
  • Discuss using the Working Bibliography tool in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio to create the Annotated Bibliography

Connection to Course Goals

Collecting sources for the annotated bibliography will help students learn about the recent conversation surrounding their issue. Students' previous experience with research may have involved collecting and simply regurgitating information on a topic. Here, we are asking them to think critically about a) their role as researchers and b) the choices they make as writers, by evaluating their sources for a specified purpose. We hope that this approach gives them a better "real world" sense of how and why writers research and respond to public issues.

Required Readings and Assignments

  • Read "Evaluating Library Sources" on pg. 588 - 589 in the PHG.
  • Collect and begin reading sources on your issue
  • Complete the Grid of Common Points Activity in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio
  • Complete the Grouping Your Sources worksheet in Research Assistant HyperFolio
  • Bring a print-out of your annotated bibliography to class at the beginning of Week 8 (first class following the reading days)

Potential Activities for this Week

*      Collect Part II - Audience Exploration (5 minutes): Ask students for some informal feedback on this assignment. What did they learn about their audience? How will this knowledge affect the way they approach writing their issue analysis? What would they do differently next time they interview or survey readers?

*      Assign Part III - Annotated Bibliography (5 minutes): Give students a few minutes to read over the assignment sheet and address any questions or concerns they may have.

*      Introduce the concept of Positions and Approaches (20 minutes): Since "approaches" are addressed in the annotated bibliography assignment sheet, students will probably raise questions about what this means. Use the following explanation for positions and approaches (or one that you construct) to introduce students to this new concept . We acknowledge (as should you) that others may define "positions" and “approaches” differently outside this class, but for the purposes of CO150, students will need to learn and use these concepts.

The following is just one example intended to illustrate the difference between positions and approaches. Feel free to substitute "legalization of drugs" with your own model topic. You might also find it useful to reference Deborah Tannen's essay "The Argument Culture" from the PHG when running this discussion. For more assistance with planning this activity, see the "Introducing a New Concept" section in the Planning Class Discussion guide located in your appendix.

Discussion of Positions and Approaches: In high school most of us learned to simplify approaches into two categories, "pro" and "con," in order to examine a debate. However, approaches typically run much deeper than "pro" and "con" since every person's views are complicated by various social and cultural factors. Here's an example: Let's say we reduced the issue of legalizing drugs to "pro" and "con"--then it could be said that both government officials and members of religious groups take the same approach toward legalizing drugs, since both groups oppose making these substances legal. A closer examination of the arguments made by members of each group indicates, however, that they do not share the same views. Government representatives are likely to oppose legalization because they claim that drugs are harmful to society as a whole. In contrast, authors who oppose legalization because of their religious beliefs might do so largely because it goes against the teaching of their faiths.

Let’s consider another group--parents. Some of these individuals may oppose drug legalization because their children have become a victims of drug abuse. These positions would differ from those advanced by members of the previous groups due to different experiences that have shaped parents’ lives. However, depending on the specific argument they make, a parent who writes a text protesting the legalization of drugs might share the approach taken by a government official or member of a religious group. Thus, although a parent will have his or her own position on this issue, he or she would take the same approach as that taken by certain government officials and members of particular religious groups.

Yet another group weighing in on the issue of legalization is civil libertarians-who believe that individuals should be free to make decisions about drug use free of regulation by the government. These authors argue that drug use is an individual choice and, even if it harms the individual, is nonetheless something that the individual should be free to do. This argument is similar in many ways to arguments about mandatory use of helmets on motorcycles and even to some arguments that “risky” sports such as skiing should not be regulated by the government.

Two additional groups interested in this issue adopt economic approaches. One group argues that the amount of money the government is spending attempting to combat drug use has largely been wasted. Since drug use has declined only somewhat since the government began fighting the drug war, the government should reconsider its tactics and, as it did when it lifted the prohibition on alcohol, legalize drug use. The core of this argument is that the money now spent on the drug ware would be better spent on societal needs. The other group taking an economic approach - albeit a very different approach - are companies that would view the legalization of drugs such as marijuana as a threat to their viability might include representatives of alcohol and tobacco companies. It's fair to say that alcohol and tobacco companies don't oppose drug use solely because drugs are harmful to people (after all, the consumption of both results in many deaths per year). It’s also fair to say that these authors would be unlikely to come out and say, “Don’t legalize drugs because it will cost us money.” As a result, while representatives of tobacco and alcohol companies might oppose legalization of drugs for economic reasons, they would probably avoid couching their arguments in those terms.

Given these examples, clearly it would be inaccurate to clump these very different arguments into "pro" and "con". If we did, much of the meaning or truth behind the issue would be lost. The goal for a "good" writer of public discourse should always be to produce texts that seek to fairly represent the issues (for the betterment of society). Thus, it can be viewed as dishonest for writers to reduce the complexity of an issue unnecessarily. In part, this is why you (student writers) are being asked to think critically about these different positions and approaches.

After you've read and summarized your sources, look for common threads that cut across sources as a way to group them into different approaches. Here's what it might look like for the example above.

Topic: Legalization of Drugs

Approach 1: Oppose legalization because it is harmful to society as a whole

Approach 2: Oppose legalization for moral reasons because it is against religious teachings

Approach 3: Favor legalization for individual rights reasons

Approach 4: Favor legalization for economic reasons because the war against drugs has been ineffective

Approach 5: Oppose legalization for economic reasons

Of course, you could argue that the government is also economically motivated and that representatives of alcohol and tobacco companies may legitimately believe that drugs are harmful to society. If the support for these claims outweighs the others, you'd need to group the positions of authors arguing about differently. Keep in mind that grouping positions into approaches is far from an exact science; you'll need to read various arguments before generalizing views into approaches in order to represent each group fairly. (Tell students that you'll review the concept of positions and approaches more after they've collected and read their sources for the annotated bibliography. This is just an introduction to the concept).

*      Mini-Debate on an issue (35 minutes): If you would like to further reinforce the concept that approaches to an issue run deeper than pro/con, try using this activity. The goal of this activity is to have students understand and practice the process they’ll need to go through in analyzing their own issue. One of the most effective ways to reach this goal is to have students generate a debate on a familiar issue. If you’re having trouble coming up with an activity or want ideas, see the sample activity in the appendix that asks students to analyze the positions and values of different authors involved in the issue of the legalization of marijuana. This debate activity can be done with any issue, but the question of whether marijuana should be legalized has worked well in the past because it lends itself to easily describable groups and some interesting alliances that help distinguish between approaches. Whatever activity you plan, be sure to emphasize these key concepts:

·        People take different positions because they have different values and concerns.

·        There can be different positions within a particular approach (i.e. parents and government representatives might both be against legalization of drugs because it harms society, but parents are likely to make different - most likely more personal - arguments than government officials).

·        When we talk about approaches, we’re not referring to pro, con, and something in between. It’s much more complicated than that.

·        In making an academic argument, you have to consider and address the audience’s values and concerns (possibly their opposing arguments) in order to be effective.

·        We research an issue to get a sense of what approaches exist (e.g. legalizing marijuana lends itself to easily distinguishable groups who would take different opinions).

·        For your own issue, you’ll need to find research to show that each approach you identify is actually valid.

*      Discuss evaluating sources (15 - 20 minutes): The goal for this activity is to guide students in choosing effective sources for their issue analysis. Explain to students that they'll save time researching and writing if they know how to determine which sources will be most useful to them later on. Refer to pg. 588 - 589 in the PHG to guide this discussion and include the following points:

What kinds of sources are relevant for Portfolio 2?

§         Informative sources (facts, dates, news reports, etc..) will help you in the beginning stages to gain background knowledge on your issue.

§         Opinionated sources, written by reputable individuals and groups will be most useful in helping you meet your purpose for writing the issue analysis. These will provide a range of different positions and approaches to help you show that your issue is complicated.

§         "Objective" reports from news sources will not "take a position" on an issue, but they can lead you to more argumentative sources if you follow up with research on names mentioned in the report.

How current should sources be for Portfolio 2?

§         This will depend on the issue you're researching.

§         Discuss this using some of your students' issues as examples.

Which sources are reliable for Portfolio 2?

§         Many of the sources you'll need for Portfolio 2 will contain biases. One of the goals for this portfolio is to examine the ways that beliefs and biases shape a writer's approach to writing about an issue. Therefore, you'll want to collect opinion based texts so that you can analyze where these viewpoints come from and how they affect the conversation surrounding your issue. However, you'll also want to use credible sources. Don't be misled to think that "Robby Republican's" personal web site can accurately represent the views of all Republicans.

**Note to instructors: You may also want to bring in a range of sample texts (on a debatable issue that you choose) to have student practice evaluating texts. Try using editorials, political cartoons, chat room scripts, personal web sites, government documents, scientific texts, and research. Add 20 minutes to this activity if you decide to practice evaluating sources in class. Try putting these sample texts on an overhead in an effort to save paper.

Week 8: Monday, October 14th - Friday, October 18th

Note to instructors: This week you will meet with students to conference about their progress with Portfolio 2. If you are teaching a T/TH section, cancel one class. If you are teaching a MWF section, cancel two classes. Plan to meet for 10 minutes with each student or plan to meet for 20 minutes with small groups of students working on similar issues. You may choose whichever approach you prefer. Detailed instructions for what to cover during conferences are provided in the activities section for this week.

Goals for This Week

  • Review positions and approaches
  • Work on annotated bibliographies - use the grid of common points
  • Introduce the Research Assistant HyperFolio worksheet for arranging sources
  • Sign up for individual or group conferences
  • Meet for conferences outside of class

Connection to Course Goals

Reviewing positions and approaches will encourage students to think critically about their issue, specifically about the reasons why authors take certain positions on their issue and why its helpful to think about similar groups of positions as approaches. The work they do with the annotated bibliography will set them up for their issue analysis and help them to meet the goal of showing that an issue is complicated. Conferences reinforce the idea that writing is a process which involves collaboration and revision. By exchanging ideas with their professor, students will learn that writing is a process that involves making careful choices (in regards to purpose, audience, and context).

Required Reading and Assignments:

  • Complete the grid of common points for at least 10 sources
  • Work on the annotated bibliography - use HyperFolio worksheet to arrange at least 10 sources into approaches
  • Meet for individual conferences

Potential Activities for this Week

*      Review positions and approaches (20 - 25 minutes): Most likely, students will still be confused about how to arrange their annotated bibliography into approaches. The goal for this activity is to guide their thinking by modeling the process of arranging positions into approaches. This activity will also prepare students for the analytical thinking that we ask them to do in the issue analysis portion of this portfolio.

Use the board and follow these steps:

a.)    Choose a larger topic such as gun control and ask students to write down what they think about this topic. Which arguments do they support and oppose around this topic?

b.)    Write students responses on board. Try to generate a large list of maybe 8-10 possible responses or reactions to this topic.

Rounded Rectangular Callout: -	I oppose gun control. We need to protect ourselves from the government when they decide to come get us. 
-	People should be allowed to buy guns, but only if they pass rigorous security and background checks.

c.)     If students don't include reasons for their positions, ask them why they take these positions. Include a reason to support each view.

d.)    Then, ask students to look for common threads or themes that cut across each response. Have them group the many responses into common approaches (maybe 3 or 4). Encourage them to create narrow categories (beyond pro and con). As you group positions into approaches, ask them to be attentive to what factors determine how positions get grouped (writers with common purposes, audiences, beliefs, values, background experiences, etc…)

e.)    Once you've arranged positions into 3 - 4 approaches, label each group with a phrase that accurately represents each the group. Explain to students that this is what they'll need to do with their own issue to complete the annotated bibliography portion of Portfolio 2.

f.)      Then, tell students that you're going to use this arrangement to illustrate what they'll need to think about for the issue analysis. The issue analysis will ask them to critically analyze the social and cultural factors that have shaped these positions and approaches. Students will need to consider why people take the positions they do. What has influenced their viewpoints? This is an essential step in the writing process, because in order for a writer to make an effective argument advocating his or her own views, he or she needs to understand where others' views come from. Also, in understanding others' views a writer is encouraged to look beyond personal (sometimes limited) views, and seek a fuller understanding of an issue. Often, a writer will change their original position based on their understanding of the origins of other writers’ positions.

Note: Ask students to discuss the social and cultural factors that have informed each approach. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:

·        What historical events might have influenced these approaches? (terrorist attacks, Columbine shooting)

·        What personal events/experiences? (a robbery at home or a break in)

·        What laws may have influenced these approaches? (background checks, safety locks)

·        What values are associated with each approach? (safety, freedom, choice,)

·        What are the goals or purposes for each approach? (to allow guns but make them safer, to eliminate gun sales, to allow gun sales for all…)

·        If each approach became an argument, who would be the target audience for that argument? Why?

·        How might purpose and audience shape the way those who take this approach present or “spin” the issue?

·        In turn, how might the various presentations of the issue affect the way readers react to it and thus affect the course of the debate? (Emotional appeals involving Columbine may create overly sympathetic readers who ignore rational arguments for gun use or scare tactic used by the NRA may frighten readers into supporting gun use.)

·        Finish by asking students why it might be important to think critically about the social and cultural forces that shape a conversation about an issue. Why might this be worthwhile for a writer to consider as he/she constructs an argument?

*      Introduce the grid of common points (5 minutes): Show students how to use a Grid of Common Points to identify key ideas in sources and to note the similarities and differences in the responses of individual authors to those key ideas. For example:


Causes of School Violence

Effects of School Violence on Society

Solutions to School Violence

Source 1

Parental neglect or abuse

Bunker mentality

Source 2

Widespread depiction of violence in the media

Source 3 …


*      Work on the grid of common points in class (15 - 25 minutes): After completing the activity above, allow students to work on grouping their annotated bibliographies into approaches on the grid. As students work, address their concerns and questions one on one. If you are teaching a T/TH section, you might allow some extra time for this activity. Or you might have students peer review their grids in pairs or groups if they finish early.

*      Introduce the HyperFolio worksheet for arranging sources (10 minutes): Tell students that once they've finished their grid of common points, they'll need to work on visually arranging their positions into approaches on HyperFolio. Provide some handouts of the HyperFolio worksheet and lead them through the process of creating groups of sources, annotating those sources, drawing circles around the sources, and so on. Then assign the worksheet as homework.

*      Sign up for individual or group conferences (5 minutes): Tell students that instead of meeting for class, next time you will meet with them individually (or in groups). Pass around a sign up sheet specifying dates and times for conferences. Explain that the reason for conferencing is to see how students are progressing on Portfolio 2 and to clear up any questions about the first three parts of the portfolio. Students will probably have some confusions about the issue analysis portion of the portfolio, but tell them that you'll address these later on. The focus for the conference should be on their issue (its relevancy, clarity, currency, focus…) and the sources they're gathering. Let students know that you'll discuss the issue analysis with more detail after they've turned in their annotated bibliography, specifically in regards to developing their analysis of social and cultural influences. Otherwise, you may find yourself "teaching" the issue analysis over and over during conferences.

Week 9: Monday, October 21st - Friday, October 25th

Goals for this Week

  • Collect Part 3 - Annotated Bibliographies - of Portfolio 2
  • Assign Part 4 - Issue Analysis Report - of Portfolio 2 (due at the beginning of Week 11)
  • Discuss the purposes for the Issue Analysis Report
  • Model how to analyze the "conversation surrounding an issue" by reading sample essays and applying them to the Issue Analysis Grid
  • Assign Issue Analysis Grids

Connection to Course Goals

Experienced researchers and writers learn to draw connections between sources and make choices when organizing ideas for their writing. The issue analysis grid helps students think in more complicated ways (like these researchers and writers) by asking them to critically examine their sources and synthesize ideas. Since this kind of thinking might be new to college students, modeling the process will prepare them for this activity.

Required Reading and Assignments

  • Instructors: Read through activity #3 and decide which parts you'd like to assign for homework and which parts you'd like to complete in class
  • Complete 3 Issue Analysis Grids (due at the start of Week 10)

Potential Activities for this Week

*      Assign Part 3 - Issue Analysis Report - of Portfolio 2 (10 minutes): Give students a few minutes to read over the assignment sheet and address any questions or concerns they may have. Review the purpose for writing the Issue Analysis Report. Have students brainstorm a list of reasons that support the purpose for writing this report. Ask them:

o       Why is it important to show that an issue is complex (based on what you've learned so far from researching and writing in Portfolio 2)?

o       Why is it especially important for college students to see the complexity of an issue?

Tell students that they should use this discussion as a way to think about how they'll introduce their issue in the analysis. Ask them to consider how they will appeal to their audience and give them a reason to read their analysis. This conversation will help students understand their purpose for writing (beyond completing an assignment). In turn they will produce more thoughtful and focused essays.

*      Model how to analyze the "conversation surrounding an issue" (you decide): Since the issue analysis report will pose a new challenge for students, begin this portion of Portfolio 2 by modeling how writers critically examine their sources. Many students have never been asked to think or write analytically, so they'll need to see some examples in order to succeed with this assignment. This activity could take anywhere between 40 - 75 minutes, depending on which parts you complete in class and which parts you assign for homework.

Outline for this activity:

a.)    Choose a debatable issue that interests you.

b.)    Tell students that this is "your own issue" and that you'd like to use it as a class model before having them analyze their own issues. (Try pitching it as if you're also writing for Portfolio 2 and you need their help). Let them know that this process will clear up their confusions and also set the standard for your expectations.

c.)    Find a range of sources on your issue beforehand (3 - 5)

d.)    Pick 3 of these sources for students to read, and link them to your class reading list on SyllaBase (please don't make hundreds of copies). Also, if some of your students don’t have access to computers/printers, put copies in the library on reserve. Have students make copies of the readings beforehand and read them for homework (or in class)

e.)    After students have read all three articles, apply each of the articles to the Issue Analysis Grid. Do this activity as a whole class (at the board or on an overhead) so that you can model the process.

Suggestions for modeling the grid:

·        Encourage students to look closely at the texts when filling in responses.

·        Define phrases such as "readers' needs and interests" and "cultural norms and beliefs" along the way (suggest that they take notes).

·        Construct questions that ask students to "read between the lines" looking at reader and writer assumptions, cultural influences, historical events, etc…

·        Ask them to do further research. For example, if a writer doesn't come out and say, "I believe that Mickey Mouse is the axis of evil…" some students will be quick to respond with, "This writer has no values, beliefs or biases." Try not to let them get away with surface responses without doing some digging first.

f.)      Be sure that you've filled in the grid before doing this activity in class, and that you've done some research and digging yourself. Having done so, you can set a standard and model your expectations in class (e.g. "Since I couldn't tell from this article who Joseph Biden was or what he believed in, I visited his website. Turns out that he's the Democratic Senator of Delaware and he supports such issues as fighting crime and drugs, protecting women from violence, and nuclear arms control. This information helped me decide which approach to group him with).

g.)    Explain that your model is only a small sample to illustrate the process of thinking critically about texts. Students will need to include 8 - 15 sources or their grids. Let them know that he grid aims to help them organize viewpoints so that they can write a focused Issue Analysis for their target readers.

*      Assign Issue Analysis Grid (5 minutes): Explain that students will need to complete a grid for at least 3 approaches that include a total of 8 - 15 sources. To avoid making 3 copies for everyone, give students 1 copy in class and then paste the grid onto SyllaBase for students to print at home.


CO150 - Issue Analysis Grid

Name of Approach _____________________________________


Part I: The Writers

Sources for this approach

Writer's purpose

Writer's background and biases

Writer's beliefs and values

Writer's knowledge or expertise


























Part II: The Readers

Sources for this approach


Who are the target readers?

Reader' s needs and interests?

Reader's background and biases?

Reader's beliefs and values?


























Part III: Social and Cultural Influences

Sources that take this approach



What Historical events shaped this position?

What recent events or experiences shaped this position?

 What laws and social codes shape this position?

What assumptions, social norms or cultural beliefs shape this approach?

























Week 10: Monday, October 28th - Friday, November 1st

Goals for this Week

  • Discuss Issue Analysis Grids and HyperFolio worksheets
  • Address introductions, organization and development
  • Read/review a sample Issue Analysis essay (in the appendix)
  • Workshop Issue Analysis essays in class

Connection to Course Goals

If you decide to model your own sample essay in class, you might also show students earlier drafts to illustrate the point that effective writing involves a process of revision. You can also meet this goal using the sample in the appendix if you discuss ways that the "sample" student could make their paper stronger with revision. The workshop reinforces students’ understanding of writing as a process and contributes to the sense of community that writers need.

Required Reading and Assignments

·        Finish the Issue Analysis Grids and HyperFolio worksheet

·        Bring two polished drafts of your Issue Analysis Report to class for workshop

·        Read and comment on at least one other students' Issue Analysis draft

·        Make revisions to your Issue Analysis Report and prepare to turn in Portfolio 2

Potential Activities for this Week

*      Discuss Issue Analysis Grids and HyperFolio worksheets (5 minutes): Briefly address any concerns with these assignments and tell students that you won't collect these until the portfolio is due because they will need them to write their Issue Analysis essays.

*      Address introductions, organization and development (10 min): By this point, students are probably asking, "What should my report look like?" In CO150, we generally try to avoid prescribing forms for writing. We tell students that purpose and audience should guide the choices they make; and that they should focus on questions like, "What am I trying to accomplish in writing this? Who are my readers? What are their needs and interests? How can I best reach them?" Yet, many students have only been taught to write using forms, so they feel lost at sea when writing for a purpose. Here are a few points to address for those who need more direction. Explain that this is only one way to approach this assignment. Creative individuals with a strong sense of purpose may develop variations and still write a successful essay.

In your Introduction:

-         Address your target readers

-         Briefly introduce the issue

-         Address the purpose for writing and explain why this purpose should interest readers (this will serve as your claim or essay map)


-         When writing about approaches describe each approach and who takes this approach; then explain what their purpose is, who their readers are, and what social, historical and cultural factors have shaped their views on the issue.

-         Overall, your goal is to attempt to describe the situation as whole, rather than to focus on the particular situations shaping each approach. You may distinguish among approaches and use specific positions as examples to illustrate the differences, but the goal is to look at the conversation as a whole. Use the details of your analysis to serve this larger purpose, rather than getting caught up in the analysis (and losing sight of the purpose).

*      Read/review the sample Issue Analysis Report (25 - 30 minutes): Use the sample in the appendix or create your own sample Issue Analysis Report. Have students read the report and write down what was effective and what needs improvement. Then review the sample in class. For further assistance with this activity, see the section on "Planning to Model or Critique Student Samples" in the Planning a Class teaching guide, located on Writing@CSU and in your appendix.

*      Workshop Issue Analysis Reports (you decide): If you have time, consider giving students a full class period to exchange and read drafts in groups of three or four. Then, use the following class to have students discuss the comments they wrote for homework. If you are short on time, have students exchange drafts in pairs and complete the workshop in one class period. Use the sample workshop guide in the appendix or create your own. For assistance with this activity, read the guide on Planning Workshops and Peer Review located in your appendix.