Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Week 10: Monday, October 27th - Friday, October 31st

Week 10: Monday, October 27 - Friday, October 31

Note: The beginning of Portfolio 3 marks a new stage in your lesson planning. You are now responsible for creating nearly all of your own activities to accomplish the course goals. To support your efforts to accomplish this task, we have provided detailed discussion of teaching goals. Also, you may consult the “Activity Bank,” which is offered as a supplemental source in the materials for this course and also will be available (and continuously enlarged upon) in the Teacher Resources of the Online Writing Center. We encourage you to integrate the course texts, the PHG and the New York Times, as well as technology components--the Online Writing Center, Writing Studio and Syllabase--into your lesson planning If you have any questions about developing your lesson plans, please see Mike, Steve, Kate, Sarah, Kerri, Paul, Liz or Sue.

Please remember to provide lesson and course connections each class day and to introduce and conclude your lessons along with providing helpful transitions between activities.

Goals for this week:

  • Create a transition between the second and third portfolios.Consider asking students to complete a WTL/postscript for Portfolio 2 before you collect the portfolios.
  • Get students reading nearly all of Chapter 10 of the PHG. Start with pages 441-455.
  • Engage students in reading and collecting the Editorial and Op-Ed pages from the New York Times as well as examples of graphics, photos, and other visual forms of story and argument development as demonstrated in the Times. Here you are continuing the News Clip Journal, with an emphasis on (1) argumentation and (2) the use of visuals or graphics for story/argument development.
  • Review the Writing Situation Model (see Resources, below) and introduce the “Great Circle of Writing” model (see Resources, below).
  • Introduce Portfolio 3 and the Context Comparison.
  • Review techniques for Writing Arguments (consider assigning pages 442 - 443 in the PHG and the Argument writing guide on Writing@CSU.
  • Brainstorm arguments, claims, readers and contexts for Portfolio 3 (see Resources, below).
  • Review types of claims on pages 444 - 448 in the PHG. To accomplish this, introduce different types of claims from the reading by designing a discussion that highlights the need to have a claim that is debatable and to understand the expectations that come with different types of claims they might use. Have students identify the types of claims addressed in the PHG reading (fact, cause-effect, value, solution) and how each type implies certain expectations for supporting it.
  • Discuss what claims imply about development, reasoning, and evidence. Ask students to consider the types of evidence they’ll need based on the types of claims they might have. For example, a claim of value would necessitate a list of criteria, while a claim of solution would likely require evidence to prove both that a problem exists and that this solution would work or is better than other possibilities. Also, remind students that types of claims will suggest different types of proof. The PHG is set up to focus on different types of claims in different chapters. Ask students to review the chapter that deals with their type of claim.

·       Type of Claim:

Value: See "Evaluating" Chapter

Solution/policy: See "Problem-solving" Chapter

Cause-effect: See "Cause-effect" Chapter

Fact: See "Informing" Chapter

  • Practice unpacking claims. To accomplish this goal, consider preparing sample claims that you can unpack as a class to prepare students for the group activity. For instance, a claim of solution - such as Grades do not accurately represent a student's intelligence; therefore portfolios should be used instead - may work well because typically it will imply a claim of value as well. To unpack this claim, a writer would need to address all implied claims, including:
    • the criteria for intelligence (value)
    • grades fail at representing these criteria (fact)
    • portfolios will do a better job of meeting the criteria (fact)

Your discussion of a claim will depend on the audience and existing research. For example, if research has already shown that grades don't reflect intelligence, a writer could quickly support this sub claim and then focus on the solution -- using portfolios instead. However, if there is no evidence to support the claim that grades fail to represent intelligence, the focus for the argument should be on proving this claim.

  • Workshop claims in class. A typical workshop might involve asking students to determine what type of claim is being made (fact, cause-effect, value, solution), then “unpacking” the claim to determine how many sub-claims are involved in it, identifying the types of evidence needed to support the sub-claims, considering how readers might react to the claim and sub-claims, and offering suggestions for revising and narrowing the claim.
  • Provide students with an example of a single Context and Audience Analysis (see appendix) and review it in class. Suggest the differences involved when analyzing two differing contexts.
  • Work on the Context Comparison in class (due at the beginning of Week 11 - Mon., November 3 or Tuesday, November 4).

Connection to Course Goals

After creating a transition between Portfolios 2 and 3 and connecting these to course goals, the two main objectives for this week are to have students construct their claims and arguments and to have students think critically about how their target audience and context will influence the choices they make when writing their arguments. Use the PHG to introduce students to classical forms of argumentation, but also emphasize that audience and context are as important as "forms" when making choices about content and organization. To write successfully, students will need to think about their readers' needs and interests and shape their arguments accordingly. The Context Comparison is designed to help students analyze writing for two different, real-world audiences. It serves the overall goals of encouraging students to be active participants in culture and enabling them to write for audiences beyond academia.

Required Reading and Assignments

  • Read the beginning of the Arguing chapter in the PHG, pages 441-455
  • Read the Arguing writing guide on Writing@CSU
  • Draft a claim for your argument and post it to the SyllaBase Class Discussion Forum
  • Read and respond to the claim posted above and below your own. Is it clear narrow and debatable? What advice can you give to improve the writer's claim?
  • Read a sample (from the appendix) of a Context and Audience Analysis applied to a single publication. As a class or in groups, have students discuss the effectiveness of the sample and ask them to explain how it would need to be altered for the demands of the comparison they’re being asked to do. The goal is to set a standard for the Context Comparison (since too many students will skim over the questions without enough thought if you don't set a high expectation). Emphasize that students will need to do substantial research in order to succeed on this assignment. Their efforts here will contribute to their success with the final argumentative essay.
  • Do investigation into publications for the Context Comparison (due Week 11).
  • Read and clip editorials and op-ed pieces as well as graphics and visuals from the Times with a goal of including 10 Editorials/Op-Ed pieces and 10 examples of visual storytelling or argumentation. Begin analyzing the editorial/op-ed pieces for argumentative elements and structures. Also, as you search the Times for examples of visual argumentation and story development, ask yourself: How does this visual enhance or alter my understanding of the story? What message do I take from it? How does my interpretation differ from others’ interpretations? Connect visuals to the current assignment, asking yourself whether tables, graphs, photos, etc. would be useful and appropriate argumentative tools for the publication you have in mind.


Review The Writing Situation Model:


Key points from the Writing Situation Model: Be sure to cover the following points (in whatever order feels right for you):

·      Writers have purposes for writing

·      These purposes usually emerge from the writer's cultural or social context (something happens outside the writer that creates a need to write - something to respond to)

·      Writes make choices based on the context they are writing for (writing a letter home to your parents asking for money is a different than writing a letter to an organization to ask for contributions for a good cause). Therefore, different contexts will pose different requirements, limitations, and opportunities for a writer.

·      In addition to context, writers also need to think about readers.

·      Readers have various needs and interests, which are likewise determined by their contexts (their background, environment and experience).

·      In order to communicate effectively, a writer must anticipate what their readers' needs and interests are.

·      Cultural and social contexts shape the writing situation, acting on both writers and readers. Key elements of cultural context include language/media, government, shared values and beliefs, historical events. Key elements of social context include organizations, universities, schools, churches, businesses, environmental groups; family, friends, and neighbors; local events and traditions; community concerns (such as planning for growth along the Front Range).

Introduce The “Great Circle of Writing” Model: This model helps students see the shift in their roles as writers that takes place as they join, learn about, and now contribute to a conversation about a publicly debated issue.

Points to bring up about the Great Circle of Writing Model:

  • We begin as readers who encounter texts as a way to learn
  • and explore what is happing culturally and socially. (Portfolio 1)
  • Then, we become informed readers - drawn to certain specific
  • issues that we want to learn more about. That is, we became accountable members of the conversation. (Portfolio 2)
  • We read and research various texts to locate the "conversation" that surrounds the issue we're interested in (find out what groups or individuals, who are active in writing about the issue, are saying). (Portfolio 2)
  • Then, we analyze these texts to figure out how they are shaped by cultural and social influences. And in turn, we consider how the texts that get produced are shaping society and culture. (Portfolio 2)
  • Once we've critically examined the existing viewpoints on an issue, we become critical thinkers and informed writers. We then use our observations and critical thinking skills to construct new arguments. (Portfolio 3)
  • We write our own arguments for public discourse (a specific group of readers in society) in the hope that our opinions and views will influence society and culture. (Portfolio 3)
  • Through this process, we become active participants in society and culture. (Portfolio 3)

Sample Brainstorming Activity for Developing Claims and Arguments: The goal of this activity is to help students formulate possible arguments and claims for their issue. This activity takes place in front of the class using the white board. Lead students through one of the following strategies.

Strategy 1: Answer the question that you explored in Portfolio II to form an argument for Portfolio 3. For example:

If your research question for Portfolio II was:

> Who is responsible for intervening when child abuse is suspected?

Your argumentative claim for Portfolio III might be:

> The government needs to impose stricter laws to deter child abuse.


> Teachers need to play a more active role in preventing child abuse.

Strategy 2: Brainstorm possible arguments by describing which parts of your issue you feel most strongly about. Then, imagine that you were involved in a conversation surrounding these aspects with some friends; what viewpoints might you offer? Which positions would you agree/disagree with? What overall arguments would you make?

Discuss Audience and Context for Arguments: Use this activity to model approaches to choosing a context and audience for the first arguing essay. Ask two or three students to put their claims up on the board (ask for volunteers - try pitching it as "free help" with their essay). Then, check to see if these claims are narrow and debatable. If they aren't, have students revise them to meet this criterion. If they are, use them as models for argumentation. Ask the class to brainstorm a list of possible audiences for each claim.

Use these points as a guide for this discussion:

  • Look at the claim and ask - who needs to hear this argument?
  • Who would be most interested in this argument?
  • Who would be the most realistic audience to target (those who would actually read it and be affected by it)?
  • Discuss how the argument would look differently based on each group of readers and their various needs and interests.
  • Where might these different readers encounter this argument? Where would they be likely to read about it? (If students have difficulty generating specific contexts, tell them they'll need to do more research in this area to find out which contexts are available. One way to do learn about contexts is to look back at the journals they encountered when researching their issues in Portfolio II. Also, tell them to do some topic searches to find out where their issue is being talked about).

After discussing these points, shift the discussion to an analysis of the Editorial page of the New York Times.

  • Bring in a few examples of the editorial and op-ed pages and discuss them
  • What shifts in thinking will you as a writer be required to do when considering the well
  • educated, often urban, but largely inclusive audience of the Times?

·      What portion of this argument is most relevant to the population of tax payers, informed citizens, educated adults, and active voters such as generally read the Times?

·      Why is it important that such an audience be made to understand the issue as you do?

·      What kind of background information might this audience require that the first audience did not?

·      What kind of result might you hope to accomplish with this audience—to convince them of some principle or to persuade them toward some action?

Help students understand how to analyze a target publication. They will need to select a publication to target for their argument (If possible avoid general news sources such as TIME and Newsweek as well as the Coloradoan, and the Collegian. A scholarly publication such as College English, various professional or trade publication, even Web sites, would be better. Emphasize that you want them to showcase their talents by selecting a publication that is unlike the Times Editorial context they’ll use for the second arguing essay). To select an appropriate publication, they should review and, ultimately, subject likely candidates to a careful analysis. The results of the analysis will provide them with enough information to help them determine whether the publication is appropriate for their writing situation. A good place to start would be to examine sources cited in the News and Issue Analysis. Analyzing the targeted publication will also provide students with insights into the typical organization, layout, and types of evidence used by articles in the publication. When you assign the activity to help students conduct this analysis, stress that they should also be aware of the use of visuals in the publication, since graphics often play an important role in conveying information and ideas to readers.


·      Read the “Analyzing a Publication Tutorial” in the CO150 Room on Writing@CSU .

·      Assign “Comparison and Contrast” in the PHG, pages 254-55 and page 370. Note that you DO NOT need to follow the development of a typical comparison/contrast paper to complete the Context Comparison successfully. However, it is helpful to see how comparison analysis is conducted.

·      Assign each student to select and analyze one graphic that’s used in the PHG and one graphic they find in the Times. Have them bring their examples to class, ready to explain them.