Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Portfolio 3 Weekly Plans

Week 11: Monday, November 4th - Friday, November 8th

Note: The beginning of Portfolio 3 marks a new stage in your lesson planning. If you have not done so already, you should begin creating your own activities to accomplish the course goals. To support your efforts to accomplish this, we have provided more detailed discussion of teaching goals and have introduced a new section entitled “Resources.” If you have any questions about developing your lesson plans, please see Mike, Steve, Kate, Sarah, Kerri, Sue, Paul, or Liz.

Goals for this week:

  • Create a transition between the second and third portfolios. Note: Consider asking students to complete a WTL/postscript before you collect the portfolios.
  • Review the Writing Situation Model (see Resources, below) and introduce the “Great Circle of Writing” model (see Resources, below).
  • Introduce Portfolio 3 and the Context and Audience Analysis Report.
  • Review techniques for Writing Arguments (consider assigning pages 442 - 443 in the PHG and the Argument writing guide on Writing@CSU.
  • Brainstorm arguments, claims, readers and contexts for Portfolio 3 (see Resources, below).
  • Review types of claims on pages 444 - 448 in the PHG. To accomplish this, introduce different types of claims from the reading by designing a discussion that highlights for students the need to have a claim that is debatable and to understand the expectations that come with different types of claims they might use. Have students identify the types of claims addressed in the PHG reading (fact, cause-effect, value, solution) and how each type implies certain expectations for supporting it. 

Discuss what claims imply about development, reasoning, and evidence. Ask students to consider what types of evidence they’ll need based on the types of claims they might have. For example, a claim of value would necessitate a list of criteria, while a claim of solution would likely require evidence to prove both that a problem exists and that this solution would work or is better than other possibilities. Also, remind students that types of claims will suggest different types of proof. The PHG is set up to focus on different types of claims in different chapters. Ask students to review the chapter that deals with their type of claim.

Type of Claim:

Value - "Evaluating" Chapter

Solution/policy "Problem-solving" Chapter

Cause-effect "Cause-effect" Chapter

Fact "Informing" Chapter

  • Practice unpacking claims. To accomplish this goal, consider preparing sample claims that you can unpack as a class to prepare students for the group activity. For instance, a claim of solution - such as  Grades do not accurately represent a student's intelligence, therefore portfolios should be used instead - may work well because typically it will imply a claim of value as well. To unpack this claim, a writer would need to address all implied claims, including:

-         the criteria for intelligence (value)

-         grades fail at representing these criteria (fact)

-         portfolios will do a better job of meeting the criteria (fact)

Your discussion of a claim will depend on the audience and existing research. For example, if research has already shown that grades don't reflect intelligence, a writer could quickly support this sub claim and then focus on the solution -- using portfolios instead. However, if there is no evidence to support the claim that grades fail to represent intelligence, the focus for the argument should be on proving this claim.

  • Workshop claims in class. A typical workshop might involve asking students to determine what type of claim is being made (fact, cause-effect, value, solution), then “unpacking” the claim to determine how many subclaims are involved in it, identifying the types of evidence needed to support the subclaims, considering how readers might react to the claim and subclaims, and offering suggestions for revising and narrowing the claim.
  • Provide students with an example of a Context and Audience Analysis Report and review it in class.
  • Work on Context and Audience Analysis Reports in class (due at the beginning of Week 12 - Mon., November 11th or Tuesday, November 12th).

Connection to Course Goals

The two main objectives for this week are to have students construct their claims and arguments and to have students think critically about how their target audience and context will influence the choices they make when writing their arguments. The techniques listed in the PHG will introduce students to classical forms of argumentation, but instructors should emphasize that audience and context are just as important as "forms" when making choices about content and organization. To write successfully, students will need to think about their readers' needs and interests and shape their arguments accordingly. The Context and Audience Analysis Report is designed to help students write for real world audiences. It serves the overall goals of encouraging students to be active participants in culture and enabling them to write for audiences beyond academia.

Required Reading and Assignments

  • Read the beginning of the "Arguing" chapter on pg. 441 - 444 in the PHG
  • Read the Arguing writing guide on Writing@CSU
  • Read about types of claims on pg. 444 - 448 in the PHG
  • Draft a claim for your argument and post it to the SyllaBase Class Discussion Forum
  • Read and respond to the claim posted above and below your own. Is it clear narrow and debatable? What advice can you give to improve the writer's claim?
  • Read the Sample Context and Audience Analysis Report on GMO's. As a class or in groups, have students discuss the effectiveness of the sample essay. Ask them to example how well it meets the demands of this assignment, where it is effective, and where it falls short. The goal is to set a standard for the Context and Audience Analysis Report (since too many students will skim over the questions without enough thought if you don't set a high expectation). Emphasize that students will need to do substantial research in order to succeed on this assignment. Their efforts here will contribute to their success with the final argumentative essay.
  • Begin research for the Context and Audience Analysis Report (due Week 12).



The Writing Situation Model:

Writing Situation

Key points from the Writing Situation Model: Be sure to cover the following points (in whatever order feels right for you):

  • Writers have purposes for writing
  • Usually these purposes emerge from the writer's cultural or social context (something happens outside the writer that creates a need to write - something to respond to)
  • Writes make choices based on the context they are writing for (writing a letter home to your parents asking for money is a different than writing a letter to an organization to ask for contributions for a good cause). Therefore, different contexts will pose different requirements, limitations, and opportunities for a writer.
  • In addition to context, writers also need to think about readers.
  • Readers have various needs and interests which are likewise determined by their contexts (their background, environment and experience).
  • In order to communicate effectively, a writer must anticipate what their readers' needs and interests are.
  • Cultural and social contexts shape the writing situation, acting on both writers and readers. Key elements of cultural context include language/media, government, shared values and beliefs, historical events. Key elements of social context include organizations, universities, schools, churches, businesses, environmental groups; family, friends, and neighbors; local events and traditions; community concerns (such as planning for growth along the Front Range).


The “Great Circle of Writing” Model: This model helps students see the shift in their roles as writers that takes place as they join, learn about, and eventually contribute to a conversation about a publicly debated issue.


Points to bring up about the Great Circle of Writing Model:

·        We begin as readers who encounter texts as a way to learn and explore what is happing culturally and socially. (Portfolio 1)

·        Then, we become informed readers - drawn to certain specific issue that we want to learn more about. That is, we became accountable members of the conversation. (Portfolio 2)

·        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). (Portfolio 2)

·        Then, we analyze these texts to figure out how they are shaped by cultural and social influences. And in turn, we consider how the texts that get produced are shaping society and culture. (Portfolio 2)

·        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. (Portfolio 3)

·        We write our own arguments for public discourse (a specific group of readers in society) in the hope that our opinions and views will influence society and culture. (Portfolio 3)

·        Through this process, we become active participants in society and culture. (Portfolio 3)

Sample Brainstorming Activity for Developing Claims and Arguments: The goal of this activity is to help students formulate possible arguments and claims for their issue. This activity takes place in front of the class using the white board. Lead students through one of the following strategies.

Strategy 1: Answer the question that you explored in Portfolio II to form an argument for Portfolio 3. For example:

If your research question for Portfolio II was:

        > Who is responsible for intervening when child abuse is suspected?

      Your argumentative claim for Portfolio III might be:

        > The government needs to impose stricter laws to deter child abuse.  


        > Teachers need to play a more active role in preventing child abuse.

Strategy 2: Brainstorm possible arguments by describing which parts of your issue you feel most strongly about. Then, imagine that you were involved in a conversation surrounding these aspects with some friends; what viewpoints might you offer? Which positions would you agree/disagree with? What overall arguments would you make?

Discuss Audience and Context for Arguments (15 - 20 minutes): Use this activity to model approaches to choosing a context and audience. Ask two or three students to put their claims up on the board (ask for volunteers - try pitching it as "free help" with their essay). Then, check to see if these claims are narrow and debatable. If they aren't, have students revise them to meet this criteria. If they are, use them as models for argumentation. Ask the class to brainstorm a list of possible audiences for each claim.

Use these points as a guide for this discussion:

-         Look at the claim and ask - who needs to hear this argument?

-         Who would be most interested in this argument?

-         Who would be the most realistic audience to target (those who would actually read it and be affected by it)?

-         Discuss how the argument would look differently based on each group of readers and their various needs and interests.

-         Where might these different readers encounter this argument? Where would they be likely to read about it? (If students have difficulty generating specific contexts, tell them they'll need to do more research in this area to find out which contexts are available. One way to do learn about contexts is to look back at the journals they encountered when researching their issues in Portfolio II. Also, tell them to do some topic searches to find out where their issue is being talked about).

** Repeat the above process using 2 -3 sample claims.

Week 12: Monday, November 11th - Friday, November 15th

Goals for this Week

  • Collect the Context and Audience Analysis Report
  • Help students understand the basics of structuring an argument by assigning the PHG reading on structuring arguments on pages 487 - 488. You might consider creating an overhead based on the two pages and leading your students in a discussion of the pros and cons of each organizational strategy. You can emphasize that arguments take many shapes and that there is no single "correct" way to structure an argument. A thesis or a "map" helps readers see where an argument is heading. Responding to opposing arguments shows that a writer is more credible and informed on their issue. Using narration provides a context or background to illustrate what the writer is responding to in society or culture. All of these elements are important aspects of argumentation, but the writer must decide where and when it is best to use them. You may also want to reinforce that a writer needs both reasons and evidence (research) to support their claims. Providing specific evidence accounts for much of the development of an essay.
  • Discuss research strategies and organization. See Resources, below.
  • Review sample arguments about publicly debated issues. During the review, ask students to identify the writer's overall claim, to break the argument into parts and describe what the writer is doing in each part of the argument, to identify and evaluate (in terms of the writing situation model) the overall organization of the argument, and to evaluate the writer’s use of evidence. In carrying out this review, you might decide to use what is called a “Backwards Outline,” a technique designed to help students dissect arguments and examine their parts or structure. Many students complain that this activity “hurts their brains”, but we figure that they're paying us to make them think, so essentially we're doing them a favor. To learn more about backwards outlines, see Resources, below.
  • Help students understand how to analyze a target publication. They will need to select a publication in which to place their argument (e.g., TIME, Newsweek, the Coloradoan, College English, various professional or trade publication, Web sites, and so on). To select an appropriate publication, they should review and, ultimately, subject likely candidates to a careful analysis. The results of the analysis will provide them with enough information to help them determine whether the publication is appropriate for their writing situation. It will also provide them with insights into the typical organization, layout, and types of evidence used by articles in the publication. When you assign the activity to help students conduct this analysis, stress that they should also be aware of the design and format of the publication, since this plays an important role in conveying information and ideas to readers.
  • Assign HyperFolio worksheets for structuring arguments (due by the end of Week 13 - collect in class or via e-mail)
  • Sign up for conferences

Connection to Course Goals

The objective this week is to help students think about organizing and developing their arguments. By looking at sample arguments and discussing such things as claims, reasons, evidence, narration, and opposing arguments, students will begin to see that there are many approaches to writing arguments. We want to show students that there is no single correct way to organize or develop an argument. Rather, the effectiveness of an argument depends on the choices a writer makes in response to his/her audience and context. The HyperFolio assignment will allow students to practice making these choices with their own arguments.

Required Reading and Assignments

  • Read "Outlines for Arguments" and "Developing Arguments" page 487- 488 in PHG.
  • Assign the Analyzing a Publication Tutorial in the CO150 Room on Writing@CSU.
  • Design an assignment where students read two or three arguments (from the PHG or online). Use these samples in class to discuss how each writer makes different choices about structure and development based on their purpose, audience, and context. Most of this can be covered during class, but assign two or three questions for students to think about or respond to when reading each essay. This will encourage critical thinking and promote more discussion. The questions on page 482 in the PHG can be adapted for just about any essay to meet the goals for this activity. The arguments available in the PHG include: "The Internet: A Clear and Present Danger?" by Cathleen A. Cleaver page 458; "The Damnation of A Canyon" by Edward Abbey page 464; "Death and Justice" by Edward Koch page 472; "Death Be Not Proud" by Robert Badinter page 477; and "Death and Justice" by John O'Sullivan page 479. If you are using two or more of the "Death Penalty" essays, consider also assigning the introduction on page 471. In the questions section following the readings you can find Internet addresses for other topic related arguments.
  • Complete the HyperFolio worksheets for structuring arguments.


Research and writing strategies and organization: Prepare a lecture, discussion or activity where you review the following strategies for developing and organizing different parts of an argument. If you prepare a lecture, we suggest that you ask students to take notes.

Writing Introductions

Review the types of strategies for creating introductions (also, see page 314 - 316 in the PHG for additional help with writing lead-ins and introductions):

·        State the Topic: Come right out and say it. Tell your readers what your topic is, what the issue/conversation is you are focusing on, and what your argument aims to do.

·        Define Your Argument: If your readers are familiar with disagreements among authors contributing to your conversation, you can get right to your main point—what you think should be done about the issue or what you think they should know about it. In other words, you can introduce your argument by leading with your thesis statement. By using your thesis statement in your introduction, you can let your readers know, for example, whether you are explaining something, making an argument to convince them of your points, offering a solution to a problem, etc…

·        Define a Problem: Depending on how you define a problem, you’ll call attention to different solutions. There’s a tremendous difference, for instance, between saying, “We have a problem with education: our teachers are not prepared to teach the skills needed in the 21st century” and “We have a problem with education: our students can’t learn the skills needed in the 21st century.”

·        Ask a Question: Asking a question invites your readers to become participants in the conversation you’ve joined by considering solutions to a problem or rethinking approaches to an issue or problem.

·        Tell a Story: Everyone loves a story, assuming it’s told well and has a relevant point. Featured writer Patrick Crossland began his research project with a story about his brother Caleb, a senior in high school and a star wrestler who was beginning the process of applying to colleges and universities.

·        Provide a Historical Account: Historical accounts can help your readers understand the origins of a particular situation, how the situation has changed over time, and how it has affected people.

·        Lead with a Quotation: A quotation allows your readers to hear about the issue under discussion from someone who knows it well or has been affected by it. You can select a quotation that poses a question, defines a problem, or tells a story. You can also use quotations to provide a historical perspective.

·        Review the Situation: You can provide a brief review of the situation, drawing on other sources or on your own synthesis of information about the issue. A brief review can be combined with other strategies, such as asking a question, defining a problem, or defining your argument.

Writing Conclusions

Introduce strategies for concluding an essay:

·        Sum Up Your Argument: Offer a summary of the argument you’ve made in your document.

·        Offer Additional Analysis: Extend your analysis of the issue by offering additional insights.

·        Speculate about the Future: Reflect on what might happen next.

·        Close with a Quotation: Select a quotation that does one of the following:

o       sums up the points you’ve made in your document

o        points to the future of the issue

o       suggests a solution to a problem

o       illustrates what you would like to see happen

·        Close with a Story: Tell a story about the issue you’ve discussed in your document. The story might suggest a potential solution to the problem, offer hope about a desired outcome, or illustrate what might happen if a desired outcome doesn’t come to pass.

·        Link to Your Introduction: This technique is sometimes called a “bookends” approach, since it positions your introduction and conclusion as related “ends” of your document. The basic idea is to turn you conclusion into an extension of your introduction:

o       If your introduction used a quotation, end with a related quotation or respond to the quotation.

o       If your introduction used a story, extend that story or retell it with a different ending.

o       If your introduction asked a question, answer the question, restate the question, or ask a new question.

o       If your introduction defined a problem, provide a solution to the problem, restate the problem, or suggest that readers need to move on to a new problem.

Using Illustrations

Find a few examples (from magazines or Web sites) to illustrate how some writers use illustrations to support their arguments. Pass these around in class:

  • Images (photos, drawings, animations, video, audio)
  • Tables
  • Lists
  • Charts and Graphs

Tell students that they will be expected to include some type of illustration (common to their chosen context) when shaping their final arguments.

Writing Narration

Consider where your argument fits into the larger, ongoing discussion about your issue. Then, provide some setting to show readers what you're responding to so that your essay isn't floating in space. The narration can be personal (a story that you've experienced) cultural (recent trends in society, or a speech or text that you're responding to) or political (recent government-supported actions). By connecting your issue to a something concrete, readers will realize its significance and see the reason for your argument.

Organizing Research

  • Label and group your notes and sources using one or a combination of these methods:

o       chronological order

o       cause > effect

o       beneath multiple approaches or viewpoints

o       compare and contrast

o       strengths and weaknesses

o       problems and solutions

  • Brainstorm connections between your purpose, your claim, your reasons and your evidence and group these ideas accordingly
  • Cluster or create a visual scheme where you sketch out the relationships between your claim, your reason and your evidence.
  • Consider your audience. What reasons and evidence should they hear first? What reasons and evidence should you save for later? Will they be able to follow your organization given what they know about your issue? How much narration or background will they need? What structure lends itself to the greater focus and coherency?
  • Write out a very rough draft and then read through it, drawing lines between related ideas. Use scissors to cut up your draft and try rearranging paragraphs in various orders on the floor. Also, try looking at the argument from the POV of your readers and ask, which order seems most logical and fitting to their needs and interests?

Finding Substantial Evidence

You have already completed research to gain an understanding of the ongoing "conversation" about your particular issue, and to identify the range of positions on the issue. Now you'll need to do further research to 1.) consider the range of opposing arguments for your own argument and 2.) find substantial evidence to support your overall claim and sub claims. Use the following strategies to locate further research.

  • Review the library handout (on your own time) and continue to search online databases.
  • Find periodicals: Here are some of the magazines (beyond more general-audience magazines such as Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report) that may offer articles on important current issues:

- Harper's         - Independent

- Atlantic Monthly   - The Economist

- New Republic      - The Nation

- National Review   - Business Week

- Utne Reader        - The Christian Science Monitor

- The Humanist       - Scientific American

(** Note that this list is by no means comprehensive.)


  • Consult reference texts: Reference texts provide statistics, facts, definitions, demographic, and other useful types of information. You may find them useful especially early in the process of researching your topic.
  • Use live sources. Talk with friends, family, and teachers but also think of ways to use the web to find live sources (i.e. discussion forums, chat-rooms, using schools’ web sites if the research involves schools, etc.). Also, briefly consider how live sources might be useful as evidence for the paper, given the target audience and context for your argument.

Using different Arguing Approaches (from PHG - more traditional vs. Rogerian)

This discussion should give students more of a sense of the different approaches or strategies available to them. Emphasize to students that their argument doesn’t have to be completely traditional or Rogerian. Instead, they might use Rogerian techniques for the most sensitive points in an argument that is otherwise more traditional.

Backwards Outline Analysis Directions: On a sheet of paper, (or on the board) write down the author’s main claim or the controlling idea in the essay. Divide the rest of the paper (or board) into three columns. Then complete the following tasks, one by one:

  • In the left-hand column, write a brief summary of the content and purpose of each paragraph (e.g. Suzy Q example to support argument about body image). If there are two distinct ideas or purposes in the paragraph, write a brief phrase for each.
  • In the middle column, write a sentence that explains the connection between what this paragraph says/does and the overall claim at the top. If you don’t know or it isn’t clear, write a question mark.
  • In the third column, write a sentence that explains the connection between the paragraphs (i.e. paragraph one and paragraph two; paragraph two and paragraph three, and so on). If there is no clear connection, put a question mark in the third column.

Week 13: Monday, November 18th - Friday, November 22nd

Note: As you design your lesson plans for this week, consider whether it would be best to meet in class, to schedule individual conferences, or to do both. If you believe conferences would be most valuable, cancel one or more of your class meetings this week and meet with students one on one. If you sense that students are having trouble with their research, spend a class in the library gathering sources. If you think students would benefit most from meeting formally, design a mini-workshop where students can peer review HyperFolio drafts in groups. Use this week to reinforce important concepts for Portfolio 3 and to catch up before Thanksgiving Break.

Goals for this Week

  • Take students to the library to continue gathering sources for their arguments
  • Help students understand the implications of their publication analysis activities for their selection of a target publication and for the writing and design of their arguments
  • Workshop drafts of the HyperFolio worksheets in class
  • Meet for individual conferences. See Resources, below.

Connection to Course Goals

The activities this week support the concept that writing is a process involving collaboration and revision. By interacting with other writers (through research), peers, and instructors, students allow their previous ideas to take on new shapes. They make crucial decisions about content development based on observations made during research or the feedback received from potential readers.

Required Reading and Assignments

  • HyperFolio worksheets are due this week. If you run into trouble collecting them (due to conferencing and Thanksgiving Break) have students email them or drop them by your office at a designated time.
  • Students should prepare for their individual conferences


Individual Conferences: Plan to spend 10 to 15 minutes per student. During the conferences, focus on these main concerns:

·        Do they have a focused, debatable overall claim?

·        Do they have a clear sense of why they’re writing on this issue in the first place?

·        Do they have a clear sense of purpose in why they’re writing their argument for their defined audience? Does the claim fit the purpose?

·        Are the audience, purpose and focus they’ve identified coherent?

·        Do they understand what evidence they’ll need to support their sub-claims? What types of evidence do they plan to use? What evidence do they already have that can work?

Week 14: Monday, December 2nd - Friday, December 6th

Goals for this Week

  • Introduce types of argumentative appeals and provide students with an opportunity to practice making them. See Resources, below, for related activities.
  • Help students understand logical fallacies. Your goals is to ensure the students understand what types of logical fallacies exist and why each is problematic. T prepare to meet this goal, read over the fallacies identified in PHG and highlight the ones that you think they’ll be most likely to have trouble with in reasoning through their arguments. Then design an activity where students pick out logical fallacies from texts. Or, have them work in groups to write their own logical fallacies as models to "teach" the class. Another option is to have them look at each others' drafts of their arguing essays in search of logical fallacies. Many GTA's have developed useful activities for teaching logical fallacies, so ask what others are doing and check out the sample fallacies in the appendix.
  • Look at argumentative appeals and logical fallacies in texts that contribute to conversations about publicly debated issues.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to evaluate sample argumentative essays.
  • Review the goals and expectations for the arguing essay.

Connection to Course Goals

Learning to write appeals and to avoid logical fallacies will help students construct effective arguments. It also serves the larger course goal of developing critical thinking skills. To use appeals successfully, writers must have a strong sense of who their readers are. To avoid fallacies in argumentation, writers must critically examine their claims to ensure that they are being thorough, thoughtful, and fair.

Required Reading Assignments

  • Read about types of appeals on page 448 - 452 in the PHG and Rogerian arguments on page 452 - 455. For additional information on appeals, consult the Arguing writing guide on Writing@CSU.
  • Write a 2 - 3 paragraph appeal for your argument. This can serve as the introduction to your argument, or as draft work to be incorporated into the argument later on. At the top, write down who your audience is and post your appeal to the SyllaBase Class Discussion Forum.
  • Read the appeal posted above and below your own. Provide a paragraph response telling the writer what is working with their appeal (be sure to consider their audience) and what improvements could be made.
  • Read about logical fallacies on page 492 - 494 in the PHG
  • Read the sample essay(s) for essay 3.


Where to Look for Appeals:

  • Product labels (from shampoo bottles, skin creams, hair products, fancy beverages like Odwalla, food items, etc…)
  • Letters asking for donations (environmental groups, politicians, local clubs…)
  • Advertisements and full-page coupons
  • Bribe mail from phone, internet and credit card companies
  • Web-sites
  • Arguments found on line or in texts


A Group Activity for Helping Students Analyze Appeals:  Have students break into small groups (3-4) and give each group one or two sample appeals to look at. Put the following questions on an overhead for each group to address:

  • What is the writer's purpose?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What types of appeals do they use?
  • Are these appeals effective? Why or why not?
  • Do these appeals accurately represent a product or a situation? Are they fair to use? Why or why not?
  • What could the writers do to improve their use of appeals?

Allow each group 3 minutes to share their sample text and present some of their findings to the class. After all groups have finished presenting, emphasize that writers should use appeals to make effective arguments, but that they should also respect their readers and use the appeals fairly to represent their points (not to distort reality).


A Role Play Activity to Practice Using Appeals: Use this activity to get students thinking about how to appeal to an audience to meet a specific purpose. First, prepare five different tasks that require students to develop appeals. Print the tasks out and cut them into separate strips to distribute in class.

Sample Tasks:

  • Persuade your parents to give you $3,000 to start your own T-Shirt business
  • Persuade your landlord to let you have a pet goat
  • Persuade your best friend to go on a date with your 34 year old cousin

Then, break students into small groups (4 - 5) and have each group choose one strip at random. Once students have their strips, explain the following:

"Your group task is written on this slip of paper. Your group will have 10 minutes to develop an argument to persuade the rest of the class to act on. Someone from your group will then read your task to the class (the class will role play the designated audience) and you will have 5 - 7 minutes to present your argument as a group. Afterwards, the class will decide if your use of appeals was strong enough to persuade us to act on your argument. Be sure to anticipate opposing arguments along the way (as some of your peers may raise questions and objections to your claims). While developing appeals, also consider what your audience will value most. What are their needs and interests and how can you respond to these?"

Give students 10 minutes to prepare arguments before presenting. Tell students that they are free to add some inventive material to their situation (e.g. your cousin just got out of jail and he's feeling very low about himself - he needs a girlfriend to make him feel better). After each group presents, ask the class which parts of the argument were most effective, and which of the appeals worked best. Tell students to keep these observations in mind when writing appeals for their own arguments.

Week 15: Monday, December 9th - Friday, December 13th

Goals for this Week

  • Discuss sample essays. As you do so, ensure that students understand that sample essays are not models for writing, but that they serve as vehicles for discussing the effective and ineffective choices writers make in response to their writing situation. You can use the sample essay(s) from the appendix or find/create your own. To facilitate the discussion, you can place them on an overhead or have students examine the essays in groups and report back to the class with their findings. You’ll find an expanded discussion of strategies for meeting this goal in "Planning to Model or Critique Students Samples" the teaching guide Planning a Class on Writing@CSU and in the appendix.
  • Discuss the use of document design, formatting, and illustrations to enhance arguments and to conform to a target publication. See the discussion of this issue under Connection to Course Goals, below.
  • Help students assess the effectiveness of their drafts. Although there are a number of strategies for meeting this goal, consider the “backwards outline” activities found in Resources, below.
  • Provide students with peer responses to their drafts.
  • Help students develop a plan to revise their drafts for submission. To accomplish this goal, ask students to take notes on what they'll need to revise based on the feedback they received from their peers. This will encourage them to think critically about their peers’ responses to their writing.
  • Complete course evaluations.
  • Provide students with updated information about when to be ready to submit Portfolio 3. Depending on the progress your students are making on their essays, you can choose to collect the portfolios prior to or on the date of the final exam. Be sure to remind students that they need to include a cover page with their final essay (describing the writing situation for their essay). Tell them that you will evaluate their argument with their various writing situations in mind.

Connection to Course Goals

The activities for this week emphasize (1) the importance of ongoing revision during the writing process, (2) the role of document design and formatting in the preparation of polished essays, and (3) the use of illustrations (charts, graphs, images, animations, video, etc.) as persuasive and informative devices. In terms of revising, your overall goal is to help students understand that writing continues even after they've completed their first draft. It would be ideal if they begin to see and value the improvements made during this process of rewriting. In terms of document design and formatting, your goal is to help students understand, first, that they must adapt their documents for publication in a specific venue and, second, that (among other things) document design calls a reader’s attention to specific information and ideas. In terms of illustrations, your goal is to expand students’ understanding of “evidence.” Students should understand that, in addition to such devices as paraphrases and quotations, they can draw on a wide range of illustrations, tables, charts, and so on to support their arguments.

Required Reading and Assignments

  • Revise and proofread your arguing essay draft. Be prepared to hand it in with all process work and portfolio contents on the assigned due date.
  • Prepare for final meeting.


Backwards Outline Activity: The backwards outline activity encourages students to look closely at the organization, focus, and coherence of their essay by considering how each paragraph functions in relation to the overall claim. Students can complete a backwards outline on their own draft or on their peers’ drafts. Since the directions for this activity can seem complicated, you might try to lead students through each step verbally (announcing each task and waiting five-to-ten minutes for students to complete the step). The outline below is a guide. Revise it as you see fit.

Backwards Outline Workshop

Read through your draft once without making any marks. Then re-read it while completing the following steps:

1.      On a separate sheet of paper, write down the main claim of the essay. Quote directly from the essay and/or put it in your own words.

2.      Then, divide the sheet into three columns.

3.      In the left hand column, number and summarize what each paragraph says. If there is more than one idea in the paragraph, list the ideas as separate points.

4.      Review the list in the left-hand column and see if similar things show up in different parts of the draft. (e.g. Are both #2 and #8 examples that prove the same point? Do #4 and #7 bring up the same example?) If so, suggest some possible reorganizations on the reverse side of your outline (and/or on another sheet of paper).

5.      In the middle-column, write a sentence that summarizes the connection you see between what each paragraph does and the overall claim at the top of the page. If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.

6.      Look back to see if each connection is made obvious in the draft itself. Under each connection you’ve written, make a note of “obvious” or “not obvious”.

7.      In the third column, write down connection you see between each paragraph (e.g. between paragraph one and paragraph two, between paragraph two and paragraph three, and so on). If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.

8.      For those paragraphs where you could see a connection, go back and examine the draft to see if the author has provided a transition for the reader explaining this connection. Mark each connection you listed with a note of “transition” or “no transition.”

9.      Based on your analysis of the organization and coherence of this essay, make suggestions about how to re-organize and where stronger connections are needed. In your suggestions, be sure to consider whether any lack of clarity in organization, coherence, or evidence may result from the claim itself (i.e. ask whether the organization is hard to follow because the claim is trying to prove too much).

10.  Finally, re-examine the draft one more time for evidence and provide suggestions about where more examples or proof are needed to support the argument.

11.     When you receive comments on your draft, use them during revision.