< Week 5: Monday, September 22<sup>nd</sup> - Friday, September 26<sup>th</sup>

Week 5: Monday, September 22nd - Friday, September 26th

Note: Before beginning this portfolio, decide when you'd like to take your class to the library for research instruction. It's best to schedule a session at the start of Portfolio 2, for either Week 5 or Week 6 before students begin researching their issues more extensively. Call Cathy Cranston at 491-1906 or email her at cranston@manta.colostate.edu to set up an appointment. (She would prefer that you call at least two weeks ahead of time).

Goals for this Week

·      Create a transition between Portfolios 1 and 2

·      Assign Portfolio 2 and review its parts and sequence, clarifying that the sequence of assignments leads directly toward the final essay and contributes toward making it a successful final essay.

·      Discuss the audience and context for the News and Issue Analysis. Refer students to Talking Back to familiarize them with the kinds of discussion associated with this analysis as well as with the kind of audience they’ll write for (their CO150 classmates and instructor)

·      Explore debatable issues for Portfolio 2, collecting and reviewing their ideas and their News Clip Journals.

·      Establish criteria for what makes a "good" issue or research question

·      Assign a Discussion Forum in which an audience analysis in conducted, requiring the responses of two peers from class and you, the instructor

·      Take students to the library or arrange to take them in Week 6

·      Assign Part 1 of Portfolio 2 - Topic Proposal (due at the start of week 6)

·      Review Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" from the PHG

·      Assign that NYT articles on issues to be considered for Portfolio 2 be brought in for the next class. Assign the continued collection of news clips—10 total by the end of Portfolio 2--now with an emphasis on social and cultural “contact zones” or areas of conflict or debate caused by competing values, beliefs, or contexts.

As you write your specific lesson plan for each class day, be sure to include an overall LESSON OBJECTIVE as well as a CONNECTION TO COURSE GOALS. Remember also to introduce the plan for your class each day and to review at the end what was accomplished and why. To the greatest extent possible, ask students to conduct the review at the end or perhaps to provide a review at the beginning of the next class. Asking students to do this work instead of doing it all yourself encourages them to take responsibility for making connections. Quite simply, they will learn more by doing it this way. Their direct involvement is also more engaging than simple lecture and summary.

This Week’s Connection to Course Goals

This portfolio marks a shift from focusing on the arguments advanced by individual authors - that is, focusing on individual positions on an issue - to understanding the larger conversation about an issue. This portfolio also shifts the selection of articles from the instructor to the student. Four related concepts, each connected to the conversation metaphor that runs through the course, will help you and your students make the shift from focusing on the ideas articulated by individual authors to focusing on the shared concepts that underlie most publicly debated issues:

Accountability: Inexperienced writers might think that developing an argument about a public issue is as simple as stating a claim and supporting it with evidence. Doing so, however, results in an argument that fails to account for what’s already been written about the issue. Writers need to be accountable members of a conversation - that is, they should take time to listen to the conversation. They should read what other writers have contributed to the conversation; they should learn what types of evidence are valued by people involved in the conversation; they should figure out what the current topic of the conversation is. Failing to become an accountable member of the conversation not only increases the likelihood that an argument will fail, it demonstrates a lack of respect for the ideas and information that other members of the conversation have brought to the conversation.

Newness: The flip side of the obligation to be accountable is the obligation to contribute something new - something of value - to the conversation. Simply rehashing the arguments and rehearsing information that others have contributed to the conversation does not meet this obligation. Newness, fortunately, comes in several flavors. You can offer something radically new - the kind of newness that might win a Nobel prize, such as John Nash’s suggestion (popularized in the recent movie A Beautiful Mind) that not all situations involve winners and losers, and that in fact there are “win-win” situations. If you see your students providing this kind of contribution to an issue, please let the other members of the composition faculty know about it. A second kind of newness is a new way of looking at an issue, a reframing of the issue, perhaps by suggesting a new analogy or by providing a new analytic framework for understanding the issue, much as cognitive psychologist Herbert Simon did when he suggested that we can understand certain economic decision-making processes by examining them through the lens of cognitive psychology. A third kind of newness involves providing new facts or details that enhance our understanding of an issue, such as new first-hand accounts from victims of a particular natural disaster, a new interpretation of an event or work of art, or results from a scientific study that replicates earlier work. In fact, the third kind of newness is the most common kind of newness found in writing - or in life, for that matter.

Positions: When an author makes an argument, he or she is taking a position on an issue. A position is a specific claim made by an individual author. In Portfolio 1, your students defined the positions of individual authors in their summaries. Students probably noted that each participant stakes a somewhat unique position while sharing essentially similar philosophies with others. For instance, the conservative views of Williams and the Thernstroms are similar yet also distinguishable; the reframed position of Bollinger (whom one gathers is a liberal commentator) is related to and yet easily distinguishable from the positioning of Sacks. Similarly, Atkinson’s rejection of some tests (the SAT I) and embrace of others (the SAT II) for admissions decisions demonstrates that he is not opposed to testing as a sorting mechanism, as other more doggedly anti-test participants appear to be. Finally, in regard to positions, remember that students wrote responses in Portfolio 1, which began their apprenticeship in the staking of their own positions.

Shared Perspectives or Approaches: When a group of authors have positions that are fairly similar, you can say that they take the same approach to the issue. An approach is an interpretive device that helps you figure out how to make sense of a complex issue. Rather than trying to remember 30 or 40 unique positions on an issue - and make fine distinctions among them - you can define three or four shared perspectives or approaches to the issue. Examples of approaches include the pro-life and pro-choice approaches to the abortion issue. Literally thousands of people write about this issue in a given month, and close analysis will indicate that there are subtle differences among each position. It’s easier for us to think about the issue in terms of pro-life and pro-choice approaches, however, even though doing so tends to obscure those subtle differences between approaches.

In this portfolio, your students will be making the shift from focusing on individual positions to understanding the similarities among positions that allow them to generalize about shared perspectives or approaches to an issue. This portfolio begins with identification of an issue that interests them (the Topic Proposal), takes students through an in-class activity focused on determining what potential readers might know about that issue(Informal Audience Analysis), then moves to what students themselves (each individually) bring to the issue in terms of their own contexts, values, beliefs, affiliations, etc. This Personal Position Analysis leads directly to two additional process elements—Position Analyses of Single Sources and the Composite Grid, in which students work to bring sources together. While the Position Analyses of Single Sources and the Composite Grid are not homework that is turned in, students are expected to engage in the processes and to bring their analyses to conference. The collection of News Clips on issues in the “contact zones” will also help students gain a sense of the values and beliefs that underlie different positions and shared perspectives. By conference time, students should have a working Annotated Bibliography that constitutes a representative sample of sources from different perspectives. (In Portfolio 3, they then enlarge upon this annotated bibliography to find additional sources that align with their emerging point of view.)

The key in this first week of the portfolio is helping students understand what a debatable issue is and how they can explore it. By encouraging your students to select a debatable issue that interests them, you’ll increase the likelihood that they will produce better writing, since students are more likely to write well about issues they care about. We want students to be invested in their issues so that they will think critically about them and so that they revise their writing more willingly. We also want students to apply concepts involving the writing situation (context, audience and purpose) to their own thinking about writing. This goal is achieved by having them write for an academic audience—you, the instructor, and the students in your class. Even in the initial stages of their research, students will need to consider and choose topics that are most relevant to their audience and their audience’s understanding of the goals of the assignment—that is, to represent the complexity of the issue by sampling and characterizing the positions and generalizable approaches to the issue. The library instruction will help students hone their research skills and teach them to seek out current, credible, and valid sources.

Required Readings and Assignments

·       Read, "Narrowing and Focusing Your Subject" on pg. 570 - 571 in the PHG.

·       Read Deborah Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture," on pgs. 401 - 405 in the PHG. Annotate her points in the margins and carry on a dialogue there, indicating which points you agree/disagree with and which points raise questions or concerns.

·       Return to the News Clip Journal. Bring it with 10 sources and at least three interesting issues identified. Bring the newspaper to class as well, of course. Identifying at least three issues that interest you, briefly and informally summarize them on the class forum for others to read.

·       Visit Talking Back online journal at https://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/talkingback/ and read at least three of the student issue analyses published there last year (school year 2002-03). As you read the essays in Talking Back, think about the way that the issues are discussed in terms of grouping the perspectives of those involved in the discussion and then fleshing out the discussion with specific text references. Also look at the articles in Talking Back as addressing an audience similar to the audience required in Portfolio 2. This audience is similar because the publication is an online journal intended for college students and their instructors. The level of formality, the clarity of focus and degree of development, as well as the application of style guidelines is similar to what will be expected of you in Portfolio 2. Also, familiarity with Talking Back may also help you decide whether to submit your Portfolio 3 argument to this publication.

·       Post answers to the mini audience analysis survey done in groups in class.

·       Complete the Topic Proposal.

Potential Activities for this Week

·       WTL - Postscript for essay one (10 minutes): You can use this activity to encourage students to reflect on their writing for Portfolio 1—or develop your own postscript that reflects your emphasis over the course of the first month of classes. Have them address questions such as: What part of this writing process was most valuable to you and why? Which parts of this essay were most challenging? How did you overcome these challenges? What did you learn about writing or about yourself as a writer while completing Portfolio 1? What is one piece of advice from the peer review that you used and one that you discarded or chose to ignore? The postscript can be done on turn-in days or can be included among the required pieces in the portfolio and done before class. You may wish to establish a precedent for how you will handle postscripts and then apply it consistently.

Note to instructors: Postscripts are useful when evaluating student writing because they provide students with the opportunity to recognize and identify their own struggles. This recognition frees you from labeling such struggles as "problems" within your comments. Rather than directly stating that a student needs to develop a claim, state that you agree with the student's own observation that development is something that needs more consideration. This approach creates a tone of, "I'm here to help you" as opposed to, "I'm the expert." It also helps students to develop their abilities at critically examining their own writing. Such liberation from the necessity of obtaining the expertise and supervision of teachers is a desirable, but too often unstated, goal of the college composition course, which may well be one of the last formal writing courses students ever engage in. We want to encourage the enhanced ability of students to “write without teachers” to use a phrase coined by Peter Elbow.

Transition between Portfolio I and Portfolio 2 (10 minutes): Revisit the writing situation model from Portfolio I to explain the transition between Portfolio I and Portfolio 2. This will help students see where the course is heading.

You can draw the model on the board or on an overhead and use it to explain that:

·      We begin as readers who encounter texts (starting, perhaps with the newspaper, and working outward from that) as a way to learn and explore what is happening culturally and socially.

·      Then, we become informed readers - drawn to certain specific issues that we want to learn more about.

·      We read and research various texts to locate the "conversation" that surrounds one issue we're interested in (find out what groups or individuals, who are active in writing about the issue, are saying).

·      Then, we analyze these texts to figure out how they are shaped by cultural and social influences. In turn, we consider how the texts that get produced are shaping society and culture.

·      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—as we will do in Portfolio 3.

·      We write our own arguments for public discourse (that is, for a specific group of readers in society who are arguing about an issue publicly) in the hope that our opinions and views will influence that argument.

·      Through this process, we become active participants in society and culture.

Please also now review the reason for having students collect clippings from the New York Times. Those collected clippings should reveal a variety of categories of public discussion, as well as specific issues for further research. You might divide the newspaper and class into sections/groups to discuss some of the areas of public discourse that emerge from coverage of current events—aka the News. Examples of categories (with innumerable subcategories), could also be drawn from the news summary on page 2. Topical areas illustrated by news coverage in the Times include, but are not limited to, education, science, technology, geography, finance, the arts, international relations, foreign policy, the environment, religion, government, the Armed Forces. The class’s brainstormed list could be placed on the board.

Write a transition that moves the classroom discussion from topics/issues to the contexts that form and explain participant views on those topics and issues. Point out that students will be reading the Times with this new focus in mind during Portfolio 2. Specifically, students should continue to clip articles but now with the idea in mind of capturing both dominant and conflicting values, beliefs, and attitudes in U.S. culture. For instance, articles on educational issues suggest that there is a dominant belief in the essential right and obligation of all U.S. citizens to obtain at least a high school diploma—a “right” long protected by law and taxation. At the same time, “reform” movements are currently challenging the efficacy of public education and the current trend seems to be toward the privatization of education.

Design a discussion of contexts, the goal of which is to explore factors which contribute to shared values, beliefs, and attitudes—what one might be inclined to call, in a derogatory way, “bias,” but what might be thought of more constructively (and less judgmentally) as an “explicable point-of-view.” For instance, you might lead a discussion on a recent student effort to allow pets in the dorms. What context factors would lead students to hold various positions on this proposal?

Cultural Contexts

·       Language / Media

·       Government

·       Shared cultural values and beliefs

·       Common traditions and documents that support that tradition (the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, for instance)

·       Large historical events (e.g. "Roe V. Wade")

Social Contexts

·       Organizations, universities, schools, churches, businesses, environmental groups and other affiliations…

·       Family, friends and neighbors

·       Shared values and beliefs among smaller groups

·       Local events and traditions

·       Community concerns (e.g. planning for growth along the front range)

Write a Transition that explains the shift students must make from readers to writers as they move through the portfolios:

In Portfolio I - you began as critical readers exploring an issue and examining different positions

In Portfolio 2 - you choose your own issue; then you research this issue, reading and analyzing the various approaches to writing about it

In Portfolio 3 - you become participants, writing arguments based on the research and critical thinking you've done in Portfolios 1 and 2

Introduce Portfolio 2: Distribute all assignment sheets--Topic Proposal, Personal Position Analysis, Annotated Bibliography (with Position Analyses of a Single Source and Composite Grid as process pieces), News and Issue Analysis--and let students read through them. Fill in due dates, highlight key points, and address student concerns along the way. Try to help them understand the sequencing of these assignments; and emphasize that all parts lead up to the News and Issue Analysis, which is intended for an educated audience of college readers—the class and their instructor. You may need to make a special case for the helpfulness of completing the Position Analyses for Single Sources and the Composite Grid, since these are process elements of the Annotated Bibliography. (For more assistance with planning this activity, read the section on "Planning to Introduce an Assignment" in the teaching guide, Planning a Class, on Writing@CSU (https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/planning/).

Discuss Topics and Issues: The first step in writing for Portfolio 2 is to have students choose issues to work with. Emphasize that students will be sticking with the issue they choose for the remainder of the course (9 weeks) so they'll want to pick something they're interested in and can sink their teeth into. The goal for this activity is to help students think about choosing topics and narrowing their topics into specific issues. Inform students that topics are too broad for the issue analysis and that they'll need to narrow their topics to issues in order to focus their writing for Portfolio 2. Use the grid below (or one that you develop) to illustrate the differences between topics and issues. Also, point out that issues are often defined in the form of a debatable question.






Nuclear Waste

Where should we store it?



How should we transport it across the country?

Should we continue to use nuclear energy when we don't have a reliable solution for storing its waste?

School Violence

What is the cause of the recent school violence?



What should teachers' role be in managing school violence?

Should the government fund more counseling programs in schools to reduce violence?


Brainstorm possible topics and issues: Have students generate a list of potential topics on the board, drawing upon the New York Times clippings they have collected. Then, practice narrowing these topics down to specific issues. Again, students should be able to find narrowed issues by looking more closely at the news clippings they have collected. The goal of this activity should be for students to formulate focused debate questions, such as those shown in the table above. If you want to assign this as a homework activity, consider using the brainstorming, freewriting, or looping activities covered in the PHG (pages 131-32) and in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio on Writing@CSU. Also consider having students post their ideas to a discussion forum, perhaps labeling it “Debatable Issues Forum” or “Questions for a Debate Focus.”

Develop criteria for what makes a "good issue": Since writing situations (purpose, audience, and context) determine what makes an issue "good" - begin this activity by asking students to consider their audience and purpose for writing their issue analysis. You may review the various audiences and purposes (as listed below). But emphasize that while students may have various audiences and purposes in mind, their primary audience for their news and issue analysis should be their CO150 class and you. Their primary purpose should be to show this audience that their issue is complex.




CO150 Peers

and instructor

To show that an issue is complex

You (the writer)


To analyze your issue as preparation for writing an argument in Portfolio 3.

CO150 Instructor

To prove that you can think critically about the writing situation (drawing connections between readers, writers culture) and show awareness of a specific audience


Here are some criteria to include for what makes an issue "good":

·      Your issue should appeal to college students like yourself.

·      It should be complex enough to move beyond a simple pro/con debate.

·      It should be popular enough to find a range of opinions on (informative sources such as news reports from the Times are useful for learning about the issue, but convincing or persuasive sources, those that take a position, are needed for the analysis portion of the writing).

·      It should be fairly current or it should represent an ongoing concern. This should follow from the fact that the issue is present in a recent news article.

·      It should build off of existing arguments. For example, you wouldn't want to research an issue that has already been explored over and over (e.g. "Does the media negatively affect a woman's self image?") This question lends itself to no surprise since it has already been asked many times. Rather than "reinventing the wheel" find out how an ongoing conversation has evolved. See what direction it has most recently taken. Then, build on that recent thread of conversation (e.g. "Much research has already shown that fashion magazines have a negative effect on a woman's self image, but little work has been done to see how magazines affect men. With the production of men's magazines on the rise, perhaps we should begin to consider these effects.")

WTL - Practice narrowing topics down to issues: Have students list two or three topics that they might be interested in researching. Then, have them narrow these topics into 3 - 4 specific related issues. Ask them to form these issues as research questions. Since you've already modeled this activity as a class, you probably won't need to thoroughly explain it. Verbal instructions or instructions on an overhead should be sufficient.

Conduct a Peer Review Session: Have students exchange their WTL's in groups of three. Ask them to read each others’ topics, issues, and research questions and then decide which ones would best meet the criteria for what makes a "good" issue. This peer review session could be conducted in groups over email or on a discussion forum. If the peer review is done over email, have the students cc to you, the instructor.

Conduct a mini-Audience Analysis for the News and Issue Analysis: Staying in their groups, students now can generate a description of the audience for the News and Issue Analysis by polling one another on their issues, getting some initial feedback from their peers. At the conclusion of this activity, students should be assigned to post their responses to a discussion forum so that you, the instructor, can also add your responses, too. [Set a date and time by which these postings should occur so that you can add your information to their poll which will help them in writing the topic proposal.] Here’s a potential list of questions that might be used to obtain information about this classroom audience, including the instructor:

1.    What do you know about the issue?

2.    What would they like to know about the issue?

3.    What is their degree of interest in the issue?

4.    What are their opinions as of right now, or without the benefit of full reading?

5.    What questions or concerns they have about the issue?

6.    Who do they think is most involved or impacted by this issue?

7.    What implications or possible outcomes do they see to the way this issue gets resolved?

Transition: Advise students to hold onto this informal audience analysis for inclusion among their Portfolio 2 process materials.

Introduce the Topic Proposal: Review the assignment sheet with students and answer any questions they may have. Remind them to include their understanding of their audience’s needs as revealed by the Audience Analysis Postings. Also remind them to do some preliminary searching (talk with people about their issue and read two or three sources) before completing this assignment. Tell them that they do not need a bibliography page, but they should use author tags to credit ideas in their proposal.

Review Tannen's essay, "The Argument Culture" from the PHG: Facilitate a discussion for Tannen's essay. The goals for this discussion should be: to help students understand what is meant by the "dialogue" or "conversation" surrounding an issues, as opposed to a debate; to discuss the importance of looking at all sides when seeking "truth" on an issue in culture; and to explain the connection between Tannen's essay and the Issue Analysis Essay for Portfolio 3. For more assistance with planning this activity review the teaching guides on Planning a Class and Leading Class Discussions on Writing@CSU.

Assign the NYT News Clippings emphasis for this portfolio, as explained earlier in the introductory materials for this portfolio.

Review the day’s activities, taking special care to make clear their connection to both Portfolio 2 and larger course goals. Take care to provide some sort of conclusion to each class.


See the information at the beginning of this description of week-long activities. Make sure that students read Talking Back to start getting a sense of audience and of the focus and depth expected of their issue analyses.