Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Week 12: Monday, November 10th - Friday, November 14th

Note: As you design your lesson plans for this week, consider how best to help your students prepare for the final few weeks of writing the first arguing essay. Mix work with pleasure by emphasizing key points about argument while integrating engaging activities such as the appeals activity described below. You are encouraged to use your creativity to design an interactive activity regarding logical fallacies (or see the Activity Bank for ideas) as energy may be low; you can expect that the cumulative effects of the semester will begin to take their toll now (if they haven’t already) on both students and instructors. Urge students to see it through and to get as much work done now as possible; after they return from Thanksgiving break, not only will their attention have been diverted but other final requirements in courses will begin to kick in.

Keep connecting lesson, portfolio, and course goals.

Goals and Options for this Week

  • Help students understand the implications of their publication analysis activities for their selection of a target publication and for the writing and design of their arguments
  • Discuss the use of argumentative appeals
  • Discuss logical fallacies
  • Keep discussing New York Times editorials and op-ed pages, use of visuals, as well as any current events of particular interest or (especially) related to student topics. Keep student engaged in the issues of our day.
  • Meet with students in conference or arrange for online or email conferencing so that you can gauge their progress and thwart any impending paper disasters

Connection to Course Goals

The activities this week continue to build student understanding of argumentative principles while keeping them focused on the publication/context analysis.

Required Reading and Homework Assignments

  • Read about types of appeals on page 448 - 452 in the PHG and Rogerian arguments on page 452 - 455. For additional information on appeals, consult the Arguing writing guide on Writing@CSU.
  • Write a 2 - 3 paragraph appeal for your argument. This can serve as the introduction to your argument, or as draft work to be incorporated into the argument later on. At the top, write down who your audience is and post your appeal to the SyllaBase Class Discussion Forum.
  • Read the appeal posted above and below your own. Provide a paragraph response telling the writer what is working with their appeal (be sure to consider their audience) and what improvements could be made.
  • Read about logical fallacies on page 492 - 494 in the PHG. One idea for getting fallacies on the table is to ask students to write the most outrageous examples they can imagine (the worse, the better). Require, for instance, the writing of 4-5 highly unlikely examples that could occur in an argument on their issue. These might also be posted and responded to on Syllabase—or you could have students role play an argument in which one or both parties scripted such fallacies into their debate with one another. Have fun with this one.

Schedule Individual Conferences: You may wish to spend 10 minutes or so with each student this week. During the conferences, focus on these main concerns:

·       Do they have a focused, debatable overall claim?

·       Do they have a clear sense of why they’re writing on this issue in the first place?

·       Do they have a clear sense of purpose in why they’re writing their argument for their defined audiences? Does the claim fit the purpose?

·       Are the audience, purpose and focus they’ve identified for arguing essay 1 coherent?

·       Do they understand what evidence they’ll need to support their sub-claims? What types of evidence do they plan to use? What evidence do they already have that can work?

Assign Work on Appeals and Logical Fallacies: Learning to write appeals and to avoid logical fallacies will help students construct effective arguments. Such learning also serves the larger course goal of developing critical thinking skills.

To use appeals effectively, writers must have a strong sense of who their readers are. Encourage students to read and analyze the use of appeals in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” located on pages 451-452. Discuss with students why “persuasive” argument (requesting action) requires much more use of appeals than does “convincing” argument (requesting only that readers “entertain or accept the idea”).

To avoid fallacies in argumentation, writers must critically examine their claims to ensure that they are being thorough, thoughtful, and fair. Students should understand that a writer shows respect for his or her readers by avoiding prejudice and preposterous reasoning. A certain way to demonstrate disdain for a reader is to interject fallacy.


Where to Look for Appeals:

·      Product labels (from shampoo bottles, skin creams, hair products, fancy beverages like Odwalla, food items, etc…)

·      Letters asking for donations (environmental groups, politicians, local clubs…)

·      Advertisements and full-page coupons*

·      Bribe mail from phone, internet and credit card companies

·      Web-sites

·      Arguments found on line or in texts

Note: The New York Times is a good resource for ads. Students may enjoy analyzing the advertising that is done by a national newspaper whose readership is largely located in a well-heeled and quite provincial urban center like New York City.

A Group Activity for Helping Students Analyze Appeals: Have students break into small groups (3-4) and give each group one or two sample appeals to look at. Put the following questions on an overhead for each group to address:

  • What is the writer's purpose?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What types of appeals do they use?
  • Are these appeals effective? Why or why not?
  • Do these appeals accurately represent a product or a situation? Are they fair to use? Why or why not?
  • What could the writers do to improve their use of appeals?

Allow each group 3 minutes to share their sample text and present some of their findings to the class. After all groups have finished presenting, emphasize that writers should use appeals to make effective arguments, but that they should also respect their readers and use the appeals fairly to represent their points (not to distort reality).

A Role Play Activity to Practice Using Appeals: Use this activity to get students thinking about how to appeal to an audience to meet a specific purpose. First, prepare five different tasks that require students to develop appeals. Print the tasks out and cut them into separate strips to distribute in class.

Sample Tasks:

  • Persuade your parents to give you $3,000 to start your own T-Shirt business
  • Persuade your landlord to let you have a pet goat
  • Persuade your best friend to go on a date with your 34 year old cousin

Then, break students into small groups (4 - 5) and have each group choose one strip at random. Once students have their strips, explain the following:

"Your group task is written on this slip of paper. Your group will have 10 minutes to develop an argument to persuade the rest of the class to act on. Someone from your group will then read your task to the class (the class will role play the designated audience) and you will have 5 - 7 minutes to present your argument as a group. Afterwards, the class will decide if your use of appeals was strong enough to persuade us to act on your argument. Be sure to anticipate opposing arguments along the way (as some of your peers may raise questions and objections to your claims). While developing appeals, also consider what your audience will value most. What are their needs and interests and how can you respond to these?"

Give students 10 minutes to prepare arguments before presenting. Tell students that they are free to add some inventive material to their situation (e.g. your cousin just got out of jail and he's feeling very low about himself - he needs a girlfriend to make him feel better). After each group presents, ask the class which parts of the argument were most effective, and which of the appeals worked best. Tell students to keep these observations in mind when writing appeals for their own arguments.

Finally, develop an activity to demonstrate logical fallacies or to test their understanding of the differences between the fallacy types. In addition to the ideas stated at the beginning of this lesson, you can find additional ideas in the Activity Bank. Letters to the editor often provide remarkable (often, remarkably awful) examples of logical fallacies. Perhaps review the Collegian or Coloradoan letters for fallacies.