Day 6 - Monday, September 8th
Lesson Objectives: Today we work with the drafted responses (agree/disagree) to the Atkinson speech in order to discuss how to develop better responses through reasons and evidence. We also move on to a second type of response so that students add a differing focusing and developing technique to their repertoire. Throughout these efforts, we check their understanding of the readings and the issues, building their sense of the multiple perspectives and positions on the issue of the SAT, clarifying that the discussion is more complex than a simple pro-con debate. Today we also hold students accountable for their reading of the newspaper by asking them to bring in three clippings on issues they find provocative.
Connection to Course Goals: (1) Discussing reasons and evidence helps students develop their own ideas with support. It encourages them to write more focused and thoughtful responses, as opposed to a list of unsupported reactions. Discussion of more than one response type exposes students to the variety of focuses and approaches for developing papers that are available to them. (2) Careful reading and examination of multiple texts related to the issue of the SAT provides a model and illustration for processes students will apply independently to the topical issues they select for Portfolio 2. Distinguishing one article from another and coming to some deep understanding of the perspectives and approaches of the writers being analyzed will prepare students for their application of these principles to their own selected issues in Portfolios 2 and 3
A Possible Sequence of Activities
1. Discuss news clippings and a few of the topical issues they’re seeing in their reading of the Times.
2. Show students how to develop their agree/disagree responses (on Atkinson’s speech) with reasons and evidence
3. Do a mini-analysis of Peter Sacks’ and Walter Williams’ writing situations
4. Introduce the second type of response - interpreting and reflecting on the text. Then practice applying this type of response to the two essays.
1. WTL (10 min): Open class today with a WTL engaging students on three clippings from the NYT. Have them write a summary (5 minutes) of one of the articles they’ve brought today as a news clipping. Discuss one or two of their issues for 5 minutes, perhaps focusing on one student and his or her clippings or form small groups to discuss all members articles and issues. You might also create a Discussion Forum for the occasional posting of article summaries and issue clarifications. Have them turn in all the clippings they brought to class today so that you can skim through the issue ideas and give them verbal (whole class) feedback next time.
Sample introductory points, but please write your own introductory message!
2. Briefly introduce the idea of the SuperReader Syndrome and how our discussion of reasons and evidence from last time (and review of it now) seeks to cure it. Explain that most ineffective writers make unwitting assumptions about their readers’ ability to “read between the lines.” Expecting your reader to fill in the blanks or read between the lines is known as the SuperReader Syndrome. Writers must learn to make reasonable judgments about their readers’ knowledge of an issue and must be careful about assuming they can follow a line of thought without careful reasoning and evidence. Explain that while you may, as their teacher, be able to guess at their meaning, you will almost inevitably insist that they provide more reasons, evidence, and explanation of their points. Explain that this is not boorish behavior on your part; it is helping them to develop the internal sense of audience (a complex set of judgments) that will guide all their writing in the future—and not just in the academic setting.
3. Informal discussion reviewing evidence (5 minutes):
· What is evidence?
· What are the different types of evidence (think back to the PHG)?
· Where might you need to use some evidence in your summary/response essay?
· What kind of evidence might you use in your summary?
· How might the kind of evidence differ depending upon your response type and focus?
· What kinds of evidence might you use in your responses?
4. Have students do a revision plan for their agree/disagree responses (5 minutes):
Have students reflect on the discussion you just had and ask them to check for the following (put these on an overhead): Check to see:
· that you've clearly made a point (agree/disagree)
· that you are responding to a main idea from the essay
· that you've given a sufficient reason for your opinion (tell us why)
· that you've provided some well-developed evidence (show us why)
· that your reasons and evidence are focused - they connect back to the overall point you’re trying to make
Ask students to read back through their responses and write a sentence or two of revision planning.
Tell students that others will be looking at their revised responses shortly (this will be incentive to stay on task).
Transition (Please write your own): Shift focus from agree/disagree responses to interpretive and reflective responses. Use Peter Sacks’ and Walter Williams’ arguments as a means for practicing this type of response.
5. WTL (5 minutes): What has your experience with admissions testing (SAT or ACT) been? How did it affect you? Do you believe that developing fair admissions criteria is an important issue? In what way has your position on this issue been influenced by your experiences or by the experiences of others that you know? Support your explanation with reasons and evidence.
6. Discuss WTLs (5 minutes): Ask students to share their responses to the WTL questions with two other people, forming a triad. Try to group them with people from across the room, perhaps sorting them by birth month, shoe size, or distance from home. (The goal of this informal exchange is to both "hook" students and to develop community.) In order to encourage them to think more critically about issues, it is useful to start with their ideas. Hearing from classmates they don’t yet know also extends the knowledge base of students, who may assume that their own experience with testing—or other issues for that matter--is universal. Students will experience the RISK of stepping out of their own shoes and instead of having their opinions RATIFIED may find their suppositions CHALLENGED by their peers. This is far more likely to happen if they meet with classmates they don’t know. Mix things up routinely and you’ll have a classroom that becomes a community where students trust and depend upon one another for not only support but for challenge to one another as well.)
Notes to help you transition into the next activity:
· Peter Sacks and Walter Williams clearly take different points of view on this issue.
· You may find yourself siding with one of them immediately, simply because you go into the article holding your own opinions.
· What elements of these articles challenge your beliefs, suppositions, or experience?
· What ideas intrigue you because of their different-ness from your own perspective?
· What news ideas did you get from your group?
· How has reading these two articles enlarged your sense of the debate?
· Look closely at where these two arguments are coming from (contexts) so that we can talk about how you might respond to essays like these - by looking at the main ideas and what these writers assume, what they imply, and what the consequences of their positions may be.
7. Mini-Analysis of Sacks’ and Williams’ writing situations (10 minutes): This activity is designed to prepare students to accurately represent these authors’ ideas and to look for assumptions and implications in their arguments. Help students to understand that in order to fully understand a writer's argument, it's important to understand the situation he/she is writing for. Likewise, in order to determine the assumptions which inform a writer's argument or what that argument suggests, it is important to know where the writer is coming from. Finally, it is important to anticipate where arguments take us—or what the implications or possible consequences of a position might be.
Create your own activity (overhead points, class discussion, group work, etc…), incorporating the following questions:
· Where were these essays published? (The Nation and Human Events)
· What can you tell about these pubs from looking at their online subscription pages? (Perhaps that one is conservative and the other liberal?)
· Who appear to be the target audiences? Who do they hope to reach, affect, or influence?
· What can we infer about the writers (Sacks and Williams) based on these contexts?
· What is the argument Sacks and Williams make for their intended audiences?
· How do the writers support their arguments? (Ask students to refer to specific places in the texts and explain their answers clearly)
· What are the implications or possible consequences of each position? (Ask students to explain how they derived their sense of consequence or what they base that forecast on.)
Write a Transition to the Next Activity. Point out that we have built a general sense of where Sacks and Williams are coming from and what their arguments are. Now the goal is to talk about how we might develop a response to the ideas in these essays.
8. Discuss responding to the essays (10 minutes): The goal for this activity is to reinforce concepts from the agree/disagree response and to introduce a new type of response - interpreting and reflecting. On an overhead, highlight the three kinds of response from the PHG:
· Agreeing and disagreeing with the ideas in a text
· Interpreting and reflecting on the text
· Analyzing the effectiveness of a text
Ask students if these essays lend themselves to the agree/disagree type of response (yes). And invite them to elaborate on which ideas they might respond to in an agree/disagree format. Then, explain that you will use these essays to explore another kind of response - interpreting and reflecting. Note: Be sure that you explain the following points (include these on the overhead that you used for the types of response above):
· The goal of an agree/disagree response is to emphasize one important idea from a writer's text and support or refute that idea using reasons and evidence. Here, you want to convince a reader that your position is a favorable one.
· The goal of an interpretive response is to look critically at an argument in order to explain what it fully means. Looking critically at a text requires you to inquire beyond what the text actually says. One way to do this is to locate the assumptions that inform a writer’s argument and find out what the writer's argument implies. Along the way, you may find yourself agreeing with or refuting the writer's ideas and the assumptions and implications that are tied to these ideas.
· The goal of an analytical response is to determine a text's effectiveness by examining its parts. You might look at the purpose, the intended audience, the thesis, the main ideas, the organization and evidence, and the language and style. Here, your aim is to point out an essay’s strong points and/or where it falls short. Analyzing the text's effectiveness allows you to make more informed decisions about the usefulness and credibility of a writer's argument.
Inform students that you'll be focusing on the interpretive response for the Sacks and Williams essays. Since locating the assumptions and implications of an argument are an important part of interpreting an essay, you'll want to define the following terms for them as well:
Assumption - is what a person believes to be true. However, assumptions are not always true; they are not shared by everyone or supported by unquestionable evidence. Writers make different assumptions based on their background and experience. Assumptions inform a writer's argument. If you look closely at a writer's use of language, tone, and evidence you can sense the assumptions a writer is making about their topic and their audience (their beliefs, their values, and their expectations).
Implication - is a suggestion that is not directly stated. Writers may imply something when they are hesitant to write a bold statement or reluctant to make unsupported claims (for example, a writer may not state that the Vice President is too old to be in office, since this could be viewed as inappropriate. But their argument may suggest this none the less). This type of implication is usually driven by the writer’s opinions, so it tends to be hidden "between the lines." In order to fully understand an argument, you’ll want to locate the implications a writer’s argument makes.
Implications can also be the logical ramifications of an argument that the writer may or may not be aware of. For example, one of the implications of making abortion illegal is that back alley abortions would increase and the fatality rate, due to botched abortions, would rise. One way to look for this kind of implication in an argument is to ask, "What does this argument suggest is happening or could happen in the future? Does the argument hint at an escalating problem? Does it suggest anything in the way of “effects” or what could result if a particular action is taken?
9. Practice using the terms "assumptions and implications" (5 minutes): Use the following questions or devise your own to get students thinking about what assumptions are:
What assumptions might we make about:
· someone who reads the Collegian?
· someone who reads the New York Times?
· someone who watches Dawson's Creek?
· someone who watches Star Trek?
someone who lives in
someone who lives in
Use this activity to reinforce the point that assumptions aren't always completely fair and shared by everyone. Also, remind them that assumptions are shaped by one's own experience and environment. Include the following questions to show students why it is important to examine a writer's assumptions:
· When are readers likely to agree with a writer's assumptions?
· What assumptions do Sacks and Williams make (about the SAT or about their readers’ beliefs and values in general)?
· Will all readers agree with these assumptions? Who won't?
· How will looking at assumptions help us to fully interpret these essays?
· How might looking at assumptions help us write an interpretive essay?
Design an activity where you get students to practice using the term "implications."
You might use advertisements, look at political cartoons/arguments, or develop sample claims/arguments that contain various implications. Be creative!
At the end of the activity, make sure students understand the distinction between assumptions and implications. If they don’t fully understand, inform them that assumptions already exist without the argument. Assumptions inform a writer's position. Implications result from the writer's argument. They might think of implications as the possible or probable consequences of the argument’s acceptance and application.
Conclusion Points to Emphasize:
Assignments for Next Time