Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

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?