Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

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.