Day 4 - Thursday, September 4th
Lesson Objectives: Turning to a more lengthy and complicated primary document—Atkinson’s actual speech—we go to some length to master our understanding of summary principles, accentuating the importance of understanding and representing the author’s purpose for generating a text. Additionally, we introduce students to the three types of response developed in this course, and we provide an initial overview of how each response type is developed.
Connection to Course Goals: By the end of today we complete the classroom instruction on academic summary writing, and we move to response writing. We introduce the importance of fully developing a narrowed and focused response that is then developed with ample and relevant reasons, evidence and discussion—factors associated with strong writing throughout the course and the university. Introducing the three types of response prepares students to think about the various ways they can respond to a text and develop their ideas with reasons and evidence. Responding is also important for the thematic aims of this course because it allows students to invest their own ideas on issues of public importance.
A Possible Sequence of Activities
1. Use students’ homework to discuss the rhetorical situation of Atkinson’s speech as well as how to write a summary of Atkinson’s speech
2. Introduce the concept of responding
3. Show students how to develop responses using reasons and evidence
Sample Introduction: Today we’ll continue discussing summary, applying ideas to Atkinson’s proposal given in the form of a speech. Finally, we’ll look at the different ways you might respond to an essay after you’ve successfully summarized it.
1. Review the Writing Situation as applied to Atkinson’s speech, covering any points that you didn’t cover in anticipation of Atkinson’s speech last time.
· Can you describe Atkinson’s text? (a speech, an argument, a newsworthy headline …)
· When do you think this text was written and where did it appear? (New York Times—2001.)
· Who was Atkinson speaking to? Who were his intended listeners? (Think broadly here, considering the initial audience for the proposal and also the national news/consequence of his published recommendation.)
· What were his purposes for writing this text and giving his speech? What was he trying to accomplish?
· What cultural phenomenon is Atkinson's speech a response to? (The limitations of standardized testing as a criterion for admission to large, public universities) To what extent is the controversy over the SAT a part of his listeners’ (and later his readers') cultural environment or experience? How might this affect the way they read and respond to Atkinson’s speech?
· What assumptions might Atkinson have made about his listeners’ needs or interests? What did he think they needed? Why might he have chosen his audience?
· Was he right to assume these things? Why/why not?
Given whom his readers are and what he was trying to accomplish, how effective is Atkinson’s speech? Please explain.
1. Use students' homework to discuss summarizing Atkinson’s speech: This activity aims to get students thinking about how they might organize all of the key points and evidence from Atkinson’s speech into an academic summary.
Part I (10 minutes): Tell students that you'd like them to practice summarizing a complicated text by listing all of the main points and important evidence from Atkinson's speech on the board. Guide this discussion by writing the following template on the board, and have students use their homework to generate responses. This template may be useful for follow-on discussions of summary as well, so get them to write down the template.
Note to Instructors: Be sure you've read through Atkinson’s entire speech beforehand and have generated your own answers for this activity so you're prepared to deal with various responses in class. If students offer incorrect answers, ask them to refer to the text to show you where their ideas came from. If possible, try to avoid having to take on the role of correcting them yourself. Encouraging students to respond to each other's ideas will make the class more student-centered and means you don't have to come down on them for being wrong. But, of course, do correct them if the class fails to. A little discomfort now is better than leaving people with a misinterpretation of the essay.
Sample Transition to Next Activity: Now that we have some ideas abot what should be included in an academic summary for Atkinson’s speech, let's think about how we might select and arrange this information.
Part II (15-20 minutes): Have students break into groups of three.
Ask them to generate a tentative outline for how they might organize the information on the board into an academic summary. One method for facilitating this activity is to pass out transparency markers (non-permanent so that you can re-use the transparencies) and have them write on overhead transparencies. This way, students can easily present their group work to the class. Or, just have them write on paper. -
Ask students to consider: How would they start their summary? How long should it be? Which information seems most important to include? Which points seem less important? Tell them that they do not have to write out a complete summary for Atkinson’s speech; just an outline with a list of ideas is sufficient.
Have two or three groups present their outlines. You might wander around the room as they work and choose groups whose outlines look the strongest (secretly, of course). After they present, ask them to explain why they decided to structure their summary this way. Be sure to point out what you think is effective from their outline and also how it could be improved.
Sample Transition to Next Activity: Let’s shift our focus now from summarizing to responding. For homework today, I asked you to read about the different types of responses, given on pages 162- 163 in the PHG. If you recall, your audience for Essay 1 will be open and interested in your response. So it's important that we start thinking about the different types of response we can provide. Please open your books to… .
2. Introduce the concept of responding (10 minutes): The goal of this discussion is to briefly introduce students to all three types of response: agree/disagree, interpretive/reflective, analytic/evaluative. Point out that they will practice all three types with upcoming essays. For now, it's only important that they understand the differences between each type. Also, let them know that a combination of responses is possible for Essay 1. If they choose a combination, they simply need to be sure that their response makes an overall, focused point.
Review the points on page 162 in the PHG, highlighting important concepts and phrases, and check out the teaching guide on Types of Summary and Response (https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/summaryresponse/). Be sure to discuss kinds of evidence and ask students to consider which kinds of evidence would work best for different types of response. Since students will be writing an agree/disagree response to Atkinson’s speech for homework, you might focus the conversation here. Remind them that, in addition to giving a response, they must also provide reasons and evidence to show readers why they agree or disagree with an idea.
Sample Transition to Next Activity: Most of us understand what evidence is. But often, writers mistake evidence for reasons. They think that if they simply tell readers why they make a claim, it is enough to support that claim. However, most readers need REASONS and EVIDENCE to feel convinced. In addition to telling readers what you think, you need to show them why you think it. Let's look at an example…
3. Show students how to develop a response with reasons and evidence (15 minutes): The goal of this activity is to help students distinguish between reasons and evidence. Another objective is to help them see how reasons and evidence connect back to a writer's response. (Often students interpret evidence as "any personal experience that relates to my topic" which leads to stories and experiences that stray from their original point). See if students can draw connections between the evidence and the main idea from the sample (to reinforce the need for focus in a response). Also, warn them that phrases such as "this reminds me of" can lead to ideas that don't qualify as support.
For this activity, use the sample below or create your own. Put the example on an overhead and read over it with the students. Then, highlight the differences between reasons and evidence and ask students to draw connections between the evidence, the reasons, the response, and the main idea. Pose questions like, "Is the focus effective? Does the writer come back to their main point? Where? Could the focus be improved?" You might use an overhead pen to illustrate these responses. You may also want to spend a few minutes discussing how reasons and evidence might look different for other types of response (analytic or reflective).
One Key Point from Atkinson’s speech: Atkinson claims that a focus on admissions testing leads to obsessive test preparation in classrooms as early as middle school. He says that such a focus diminishes the important work of education, reducing the time spent on more important abilities such as reading and writing.
Reaction and Reason
I would have to agree with Atkinson and others who oppose the obsessive SAT preparation that goes on in most competitive public and private high schools. Test prep of this sort keeps students and teachers from realizing their full potential. The tests force them to focus on a narrow aspect of learning, robbing them of other opportunities.
Personal Evidence to Support Reaction
I remember my first art class in high school. Mr. Venini was the teacher, and before I took his class I detested school. My grades were poor because I couldn't understand how geography and vocabulary related to my life. But Mr. Venini's class was different.
One day, he asked us to close our eyes and mold a piece of clay into whatever we were feeling. I let my fingers sink into the clay. I twisted it into a tall, slender shape, like a sunflower, that conveyed my theme of "boundlessness.” Mr. Venini liked my sculpture, but he didn't give it a grade. He said it was an activity for our imaginations. After that, I looked forward to art class and I produced many beautiful paintings and drawings. It was the only class I ever received an A in.
There is no clay on a standardized test like the SAT. No place for the imagination or even for many important, standard demonstrations of academic achievement. For me, this fact has meant that I was never allowed to take another art class because my parents wanted me to focus on the SAT and the ACT. I sat through many test-prep classes and still did poorly on the exam. I never received another A in school and never paid much attention in my other classes. To this day I figure that if "learning" means "fill in the right bubble," it isn't worth my time. Surely there must be more to an education than this.
Sample Conclusion: Today we considered approaches to summarizing a more complicated essay. Hopefully, you’re starting to feel more comfortable with these concepts. We’ll continue to practice summarizing, but for the remainder of the portfolio, our discussions will focus on responding. If you’re still struggling with summary concepts, you should visit my office hours or drop by the Writing Center in the basement of Eddy.
Assignment for Next Time
· Choose a key point from Atkinson’s speech and write a one-and-a-half to two-page agree/disagree response to that idea. Start this effort by writing out the key point of the speech and relating it to the main idea of Atkinson’s proposal, providing author tags to show whose idea it is. Then, respond to the key point and main idea, stating whether you agree or disagree with the overall idea (proposal) and the key point you’ve selected to focus on. Give reasons for why you agree or disagree and provide specific evidence to show why you feel this way (personal experience, textual evidence, or cultural observations). Post your response to the Writing Studio. Bring a printed copy of your response to class.
· Read Peter Sacks’ essay from the Nation: “SAT—A Failing Test” and visit the Nation on the Web to gain a sense of where his essay was published and who his intended readers are. Also read Walter Williams “Radicals Undermine College Admissions Criteria” from Human Events. Again, visit Human Events on the Web to gain understanding of the readership of this publication. There is no need to write a summary or response to these essays at this time, but you should be ready to discuss both articles when you get to class.
Bring in three clipped articles from the NYT
related to debatable issues in