Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Day 3 - Friday, August 29th

Lesson Objectives: Today we apply both critical reading and the writing situation model to Schemo’s front-page article—noting that Schemo is functioning as a journalist reporting on the news of Atkinson, a public figure with a significant proposal given in the form of a speech. We develop our understanding of academic summary writing by applying its principles to Schemo’s article.

Connection to Course Goals: Today we strengthen student understanding of the writing situation model by applying it to an example of public discourse, Diana Jean Schemo’s front page NYT article, which originally included a sidebar excerpt of Dr. Atkinson’s speech. Course objectives are further developed through application of critical reading strategies and discussion and application of the academic summary writing principles, which will help students meet the goals of all the portfolios, but especially Portfolio 1.

A Possible Sequence of Activities for Today

1.     Apply critical reading strategies learned last time to Diana Jean Schemo’s article—engage class in a critical discussion of both the issue and the article by Schemo

2.     Apply the writing situation model to Schemo’s article

3.     Introduce summary principles

4.     Apply summary principles to Schemo’s article in preparation for homework


1. Critical reading applied to Schemo (15 min)

What is the essence of Atkinson’s proposal and why does he say he is making it?

What will be the immediate repercussions of his proposal, if it is applied?

What are the possible long-term repercussions if his proposal is followed?

What are the probable long-term repercussions even if his proposal is not enacted by the California Board of Regents?

Besides Atkinson’s proposal, whom else does Schemo represent in her article and for what purpose? [Instructors: Try to get students to articulate as many of the individual positions as possible.)

If you were to group the perspectives represented by Schemo, how might you name and characterize them? [Instructors: Aim for three or more shared perspectives or approaches to the discussion of the SATs. Because students may at first be inclined to simplify the debate (a debate that ‘s only hinted at here, of course) into a mere pro-con discussion, it is essential to the goals of this portfolio and course that we get them to see that the shared perspectives or approaches are more complicated than a simple polarization of views.]

Can you see more than a pro-con debate at work here? What motivates people who maintain these differing perspectives? What are their loyalties, beliefs, values, affiliations that contribute to their positions?

Sample Transition: Now let’s take what we know of the article and apply the Writing Situation Model to the discussion of Schemo’s article.

2. The Writing Situation Model Applied to Schemo (10 min) 

What is Schemo’s role in reporting this news?

As a journalist for a major national newspaper, what are Schemo’s obligations to her stories and her readers?

What her reasons for reporting this news or why does she consider it nationally news worthy?

What is Schemo’s role in making this news? When was her report written? How can you tell? Why is there such a rush to print news that hasn’t even yet occurred? What do you think about such practices? What larger writing situation is Schemo part of? What pressures is she under? What ethical principles is she bound to? We will read the speech in its entirety from the web site of the President of the University of California.

Here’s a Possible Transition to Next Activity: Even though your audience will mostly be concerned with your response, summary is still an important concept. If your summary is inaccurate or incomplete, your response will no doubt be misguided as well. Today (and for our homework next time) we are going to practice some restraint and only summarize ideas from the document in question.

3. Introduce the concept of summarizing (15 minutes): Use these questions as a guide for this discussion. You may pick and choose from this selection or add some of your own questions to meet the goal of introducing academic summary. (See page 160 - 161 in the PHG for summary guidelines, and view the Teaching Guide on Types of Summary and Response (https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/summaryresponse/) when planning this activity). It helps to use the board to focus this activity. You can create two columns: General Summary and Academic Summary. Then, list generated responses beneath the appropriate titles. Note: possible responses and prompts are listed in parenthesis following the questions.

  • What is summary (in general)? When do you use it?
  • When was the last time you summarized something that you did or saw (perhaps in an e-mail to a friend or on the phone)?
  • What is usually your goal or purpose for summarizing? (to inform or entertain; to give an overall impression without all the boring details)
  • Are your summaries objective (fairly representing everyone/everything involved) or are they subjective, colored by your own opinions or point of view?
  • How do you think general summaries compare to academic summaries? What are the similarities and differences? (academic summaries are more objective and focus on main ideas rather than events)
  • What are the purposes for an academic summary (consider the context for Essay 1)? How is this different from a general summary?

Present an overhead with three types of summaries on it as follows:

Main Point Summary - is brief and gives an overall perspective on text

Key Point Summary - represents an author's argument more fully by providing other key points and supporting evidence in addition to the main idea

Outline Summary - is used to explore the structure of an article or essay. Shortened phrases are used in place of full length sentences.

Read through each type of summary and ask students which one they think will be most appropriate for Essay 1 (Key Point Summary). Then ask them why they made this choice (they are writing to an academic audience who has not read the essay and needs enough information to follow their response). Finally, ask them to imagine other contexts where a main point summary and an outline summary would be more appropriate. The point you want to make is that the content and organization of a summary will vary based on a writer’s purpose, audience and context.

4. Apply Summary Writing Principles to Schemo (10 min)

  • What are the key points of Schemo’s article? [Engage students in writing these down in preparation for their homework.]
  • What seem to be the key points of Atkinson’s proposal? [Engage students in writing these down.]
  • How will you announce or introduce the ideas that originate with Atkinson but are reported by Schemo? [Have students write a first sentence that demonstrates how they’ll introduce the article, its author, and the fact that this author (Schemo) is reporting on news being made by another (Atkinson). Ask a few students to put their introductory sentence up on the board and discuss the issues with this summary, as suggested by the introductory sentence.]
  • Will it be enough to report Atkinson’s proposal and Schemo’s report of it, or how might we distinguish Schemo’s purposes in writing this article?
  • How might students represent the multiple reactions that Schemo represents in her article? [Draw upon their representation of the individual positions and shared perspectives discussed earlier.]

Conclusion: Write your own conclusion that summarizes the goals of the day and connects the classroom activity to their current assignment.

Assignment for Next Time

In preparation for the introduction of the New York Times, assign PHG reading on the shaping of journalistic stories using the “inverted pyramid” (page 253), and on the reporter’s collecting/investigating heuristic, which utilizes “Wh” questions (pages 245-246).

Review the guidelines for writing an academic summary in the PHG on page 160 - 161. Using these guidelines, along with our discussion from class about the writer’s purposes and key ideas, write an academic summary of Diana Jean Schemo’s article about Atkinson’s proposal, applying the conventions of summary writing and taking care to give the proper people credit for ideas—that is, Schemo is not responsible for all (or arguably ANY) of the ideas that she is reporting.

Post your summary as a message to the SyllaBase Class Discussion Forum or post it to your file on Writing Studio.*

Bring a hard copy of your summary to class next time.

Note to Instructors: A fundamental decision you will need to make about the summaries (and other writing assignments) that your students generate is whether you want them to post their writing to the public forum of Syllabase (risk: copying by others; benefit: a public forum of ideas) or whether you would prefer that students post to the Writing Studio where documents are more secure but, conversely, less available for reading and reply.