Day 8 - Friday, September 12th
Lesson Objectives: Today’s class introduces students to the third and final type of response that we’ll cover in CO150. The analytic response involves evaluating the effectiveness of a text, using specified criteria, for the purpose of judging a text’s success in meeting its purposes and audience expectations. The task of evaluating a text is a complex one, since it involves grasping the writer’s context and purpose and then judging it against criteria the writer deems appropriate for the context and purpose. Students must apply their critical reading and thinking skills to do this response well since evaluative responses will tend to become laundry lists of empty praise if not understood for the complex responses that they are intended to be. Part of the challenge for the writer who undertakes this response is that he or she must understand not only the argument being made in the text but also that argument’s adequacy. Such analytic capability can only come after a writer is familiar with the larger discussion and is able to look critically at the text in question.
Connection to Course Goals: The analytic response can be used for Portfolio 1 and is implicated in processes of text evaluation in Portfolios 2 and 3 as well. Moreover, the ability to do this type of response indicates a student’s growing confidence in engaging in the conversation on the issue at hand and implies full understanding of the debate and its participants’ arguments.
A Possible Sequence of Activities
1. Introduce third type of response - analyzing the effectiveness of a text, applied to Bollinger and the Thernstroms
2. Assign as reading a few Letters to the Editor (New York Times). Have them take note of the length of these letters and ask them to imagine how these “abstracts” might have been fully developed in the authors’ original letters. You might also assign the other short readings from the NYT electronic reserve readings.
3. Reflect on responses and make plans for revising a response for the context and purposes outlined in the Portfolio One assignment
Introduction: Write an introduction that suggests we are approaching the end of formal instruction in summary and response for Portfolio 1. Review the items that will be discussed in class today and let students know where they should be in the process of preparing Portfolio 1.
1. Review the third type of response - analyzing the effectiveness of a text (10 minutes): Begin by telling students that they could write an either of these essay for Portfolio One and that all types of response are available to them. (Ask: Could we agree or disgree with Bollinger or the Thernstroms? Could we challenge their assumptions and the implications of their arguments? The answer to both questions is, of course, yes.) However, for your immediate purposes, you’re going to focus on writing an analytic response.
Review the following definition. Put this on an overhead or refer students to the appropriate section in the PHG. You might point out that the example of response in the PHG that they read for today is, in fact, a text effectiveness analysis and thus provides a good example of this response type.
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, organization, evidence, language, and style. Your objective for writing an analytic response is to point out a text’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.
2. Check student understanding of the Bollinger and Thernstrom essays. Divide them first into “Expert Groups” of 4-5, asking them first to discuss the article they all (everyone in the group) wrote bullets about. Have the groups reach consensus on the main idea (thesis), supporting key points, contexts for the perspectives/positions of the authors, and judgments about tone, success of the argument’s development, and any other criteria for evaluation that you may wish to have them discuss. Then reorganize into pairs from differing essay groups and have them share their findings (Teaching Pairs). This activity is a variation on the “Jigsaw” in which students serve as “experts” for classmates and “teach” essays to one another. The idea also works when you’re reading multiple texts for class and want students to “share the load” or take responsibility for some of the substance. Be sure to mingle and eavesdrop so that you can check on their understanding of the texts.
Expert Group Questions:
· What is the main idea of this essay? How does this essay distinguish itself from other sources you’ve read in terms of its position?
· What are three or four key points that are made in support of this main idea?
· Who are the authors? What relationship might there be between who the authors are (roles, jobs, affiliations, etc.) and the positions they take on this issue?
· Where was this article published and what cues does that site provide to the writer’s affiliations and/or purposes?
· Where is this author(s) most clear about his or her point? Where do you struggle to follow the logic?
· What is the tone of the article? (Serious, sarcastic, mean-spirited, congenial?) How does the tone overlap with the writer’s purposes? Is he or she writing toward friends or toward adversaries?
· Based upon other arguments you’ve read on the SAT, how does this article’s argument hold up? Where would other people we’ve read disagree with this author—and why? How would someone who disagreed with this author likely challenge this author’s ideas or ways of stating his/her ideas? How effective is the author’s “case structure” or way of developing his/their argument?
· Select one or two of the above questions to focus on as you indicate to your new group members what they need to know about the article you read and are now evaluating. (Summary of main idea and key points)
· Be specific with your criteria for evaluation.
· Point to specific moments in the text that provide evidence of your evaluation points.
· Based upon your evaluation, how would you judge this article for your new group members? What would you want them to value about this article? What would you caution them to be wary of?
3. Begin a whole class discussion on how to write an analytic response to the Bollinger and the Thernstroms’ arguments (20 minutes): Review each of the elements or criteria for analytic evaluation. Encourage students to refer to the text when responding to the following questions. Try to push them beyond giving surface responses (remind them that in their essays they’ll need to develop answers with reasons and evidence rather than generalizations). Use the following questions as a guide to review the elements for evaluating a writer’s text analytically (feel free to add to these). You may want to focus on just one or two so that the discussion becomes more detailed and penetrating rather than just a superficial itemization of strengths and weaknesses without serious analysis.
· Did Bollinger/Thernstrom effectively accomplish the purpose in the text? What was his/their purpose, and why or why not were those goals achieved?
· Will the argument meet the needs and interests of the intended readers? Who are they? What are their values? What are their beliefs? Would they oppose or support his argument? Why or Why not? Is the article truly argumentative (challenging the audience in some way) or is it simply “preaching to the choir”?
· What can you say about the organization of the argument? Was it easy to follow? Did it progress in a logical order? Where did you falter as you read?
· What about the evidence used to support the argument?
· How does the author(s) support the main points? What is the quality of the sources referred to? Are they reliable? Does the writer(s) support all claims? What kind of evidence does the writer(s) use? Which claims are left unsupported?
· What can you say about Bollinger’s or the Thernstroms’ tone and approach in the essay—that is, does it seem fair and reasonable or is the tone somehow off-putting? Pinpoint locations that cause the effect you describe.
· Write a well-constructed analytic claim for the article. How do you judge the article as a whole and based upon what criteria? Are both your judgment and the criteria you used to make this judgment clearly stated in your claim? Write a brief phrase outline for how this essay would be constructed, including broad references to text evidence you would cite in constructing your evaluation of this text.
** Explain that analytical responses can serve to: praise a writer for the effectiveness of their text; point out the problems or shortcomings in a writer’s argument; praise some parts of a writer’s argument and challenge others. In short, however, the task of this response type is to evaluate and judge the text based upon a limited number of criteria that are then fully developed in support of the overall judgment. It would be a good idea to ask students to take a look at the PHG example of a text effectiveness response, on pages 164-65. This example is particularly good at showing the specificity with which the analytic response must be conducted.
Conclusion: Write a conclusion for today’s lesson. For assistance, look at the section on writing introductions and conclusions at Planning a Class located in the Teaching Guides on Writing@CSU.
Assignments for Next Time