Day 3 . Friday, August 29th

Friday, August 27:  Activity Ideas

Discussing Cohen's Article

Applying the WSM to Cohen's Article

Introducing Summary

Applying Summary Principles to Cohen's Article

Concluding and Assigning Homework

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Introduce the Class Session and take roll (2-3 minutes)

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By referring to your agenda on the board or by previewing the day's goals/objectives, introduce the class session for your students.  Today is also probably a good day to remind students of the limited add/drop period for the class, to be sure you have all New York Times subscriptions filled out and faxed, and to finalize entries into your grade book.


Discussing Cohen's Article (15 minutes)

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As you discuss Cohen's article, demonstrate critical reading skills and strategies.  To get the discussion going, you might put the following questions (or some of them or questions of your own) on an overhead or have students do a Write to Learn that answers questions about the article.

What is the essence of Cohen's position on the issue of consumption in America?

Where in the text do you see her position most clearly stated?

How does she support her position?

What type of conversation in our society do you feel Cohen's article is most likely a part of?  That is, who might discuss this issue and/or where would it be discussed?

Do you think Cohen makes a valid point about consumption in our society?  Why or why not?

Does this article strike a chord with you as a consumer?  Explain.

Sample Transition to Next Activity

Consider using a transition such as the following: Now let’s take what we know of the article and apply the Writing Situation Model to the discussion of Cohen’s article.


Apply the WSM to Cohen's Article (10 minutes)

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Our goal here is to help students see the connection between the WSM and Cohen's choices in writing her article and publishing it in the New York Times.  (You may want to do some background research on Cohen to have up your sleeve.  Be sure students note the date of the article--before the holidays and after 9/11--as this level of social and cultural context plays a role in Cohen's influences and argument.)

As an historian in the U.S., what might motivate Cohen to write about this issue to begin with?

What larger writing situation (beyond the New York Times) is Cohen part of?

Apparent through the byline, Cohen has written a book about this issue.  Why do you think she chose to publish an article version as an editorial in the New York Times?

Who do you think Cohen imagined as her audience for her book?  For this article?

What choices did Cohen make to meet the change in expectations for those differing audiences?  What limitations did she accommodate for both audiences?

How does our culture influence her position on the issue?  How does our culture influence how we, or her intended audience members, read her work?

Sample Transition to Next Activity

Consider using a transition like the following:  For Portfolio 1, your purpose is to provide a summary and response to an article we will have read.  So even though your audience will mostly be concerned with your response, summary is still an important concept. If your summary is inaccurate or incomplete, your response will no doubt be misguided as well. Today (and for our homework next time) we are going to practice some restraint and only summarize ideas from the document in question.


Introduce Summary (15 minutes total)

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Use these questions as a guide for this discussion. You may pick and choose from this selection or add some of your own questions to meet the goal of introducing academic summary. (See page 160 - 161 in the PHG for summary guidelines, and view the Teaching Guide on Types of Summary and Response ( when planning this activity). It helps to use the board to focus this activity. You can create two columns: General Summary and Academic Summary. Then, list generated responses beneath the appropriate titles. Note: possible responses and prompts are listed in parenthesis following the questions.


  • What is summary (in general)? Where do you see summary used in our society?

  • When was the last time you summarized something that you did or saw (perhaps in an e-mail to a friend or on the phone)?
  • What is usually your goal or purpose for summarizing? (to inform or entertain; to give an overall impression without all the boring details)
  • Are your summaries objective (fairly representing everyone/everything involved) or are they subjective, colored by your own opinions or point of view?
  • How do you think general summaries compare to academic summaries? What are the similarities and differences? (academic summaries are more objective and focus on main ideas rather than events)
  • What are the purposes for an academic summary (consider the context for Essay 1)? How is this different from a general summary?

On the board or on an overhead, have students compile the components of summary they learned about in their homework reading.  This is a good opportunity to use a student scribe particularly if you are writing on the board.  Once the components are on the board, discuss each one briefly and answer questions students have about them.


Apply Summary Principles to Cohen's article (10 minutes)

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Our goal here is to give students a good foundation for writing their summaries for homework.

  • How will you introduce the article and its writing situation to your audience? 
  • What is the main idea of Cohen's article?  What are the key points she uses to support that idea?  Where do you find these in her article?   [Engage students in writing these down in preparation for their homework.]
  • What details do you feel are okay to leave out in this summary?
  • How will you credit Cohen's ideas or words within your own words?


Concluding and Assigning Homework (2 minutes)

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Today you might have a student recapitulate the main objectives you discussed today or you might write your own conclusion.  You might say something like, "Today we discussed Cohen's article and her position on one issue of public discourse. We also began preparing for the summary aspect of Portfolio 1.  Your homework will be to put the summary skills we discussed today into action in your own writing."

Assign the homework due for the next class session.  You may want to remind students that after this week, you will expect them to access their homework assignments online via your Writing Studio class page if you are using it as a syllabus.