Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

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.