Week 6: Monday, September 29th - Friday, October 3rd

Week 7: Activity Ideas

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The suggested activities for this week include:

Sharing Topics

Revisiting the Conversation Metaphor

Evaluating Sources

The Research Process


Working Bibliography Tool

As always, remember to introduce and conclude your lessons with previews and reviews. Use transitions to maintain a connection between daily classroom activities, assignments, and portfolio and course goals.


Sharing Topics to Create Discourse in Your Classroom

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Since we are working with the ideas of conversation and public discourse, having students share their topics is an effective way to bring those conversations into your classroom. Also, sharing topic/issue ideas in class fosters a sense of writing community. Students learn that writers exchange ideas in public spaces and they gain insight from what others are exploring. They also learn that writers can share sources in a collaborative environment as a means to create new texts. This process draws students' attention to other students and away from the instructor allowing for a more comfortable atmosphere - and one that is more conducive to peer review and workshop.

Share topics and issues in class and/or outside of class via a discussion forum
(5-10 minutes depending on activity)

First, decide on a way to conduct this activity so that it will be useful to your students without dominating all your class time. For instance, you might discuss a few issues each class day while having everyone post to one or more discussion forums. You could form group discussion forums for the discussion of similar or related topics/issues. If your students are uncertain about their issue, a discussion activity (either in the classroom or on the forum) can help them learn more about their issues (it's okay if several students are working with the same issue) and can encourage students to collaborate more and to share their sources. Another idea: Allow each student 1-2 minutes to answer the following questions in a group discussion. The "Round Robin" approach works well:

  • What is your topic?
  • What is your issue within that topic or your research question?
  • Why did you choose this issue (personal and social relevance)?
Collect Topic Proposals (2 minutes)

You'll need to evaluate these quickly--probably by the next class meeting--so students know if they're on the right track before proceeding with the other parts of the portfolio. Let them know that you'll be looking to see that their issue is narrow, debatable, current and relevant to their audience. You and classmates have already provided some feedback on these ideas in the previous week’s classes and perhaps a forum, so hopefully you won’t have too many problematic issue ideas to deal with.


Revisiting the Conversation Metaphor (5 minutes)

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Through experience, we have found that giving students a solid base for research and evaluation of sources at the university before adding the level of analysis this portfolio requires is an effective strategy for making this unit successful.  But just so students don't lost sight of the goal in this portfolio, revisit the idea of the conversation they will be researching. 

It is essential to remind them that they should research a variety of voices in the conversation (not just one side and not just pro/con).  They are becoming accountable members of the conversation; they need to be knowledgeable of all sides.

Assure them that we will spend time on the analysis aspect of the portfolio next week.


Evaluating Sources (create activities and allot time as you see fit)

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Establish what makes a "good" source

Discuss source evaluation, using the criteria of scholarship, relevance, and representativeness to help students critically examine and judge their sources—both library sources and Internet sources. Engage students in a discussion of possible criteria for judging sources and why the three selected here make sense for the News and Issue Analysis for an educated Audience of CO150 peers and teachers (You might also review PHG on source evaluation here—see pages 584-589.)

  1. Ways to establish the scholarship of a source:
    • Scholarly sources versus popular ones
    • Author credentials
    • Articles peer reviewed
    • Evidence of research or serious inquiry
    • Evidence of use of footnotes or bibliographies
    • Tone and level of formality/seriousness
  2. Ways to establish the relevance of a source:
    • Degree of relationship to the question posed by the Topic Proposal
    • Degree of currency (most sources publishes in the past 10 years are OK)
    • Evidence of knowledge of other positions, sources, awareness of ongoing debate or conversation—that is, reference to other sources perhaps through an extensive bibliography
    • References to current events
  3. Ways to establish the representativeness of a source:
    • To what degree does this source represent a particular, and important, perspective in the debate? How would you describe or characterize this perspective?
    • To what degree does this source overlap with others in your set? Which ones? Where are they similar? Where different?
    • To what degree does this source offer something new, however small, to the discussion as it represents and perhaps overlaps with other sources representing this perspective?

It is also effective to model this evaluation using a sample (you might refer back to the library instruction) or an article from the NYT.

Apply the evaluation of sources to Portfolio 2

The goal for this activity is to reinforce student selection of effective sources for their issue analysis, which was initially addressed last week. Remind students that they'll save time researching and writing if they know how to determine which sources will be most useful to them later on. Refer to pg. 588 - 589 in the PHG to guide this discussion and include the following points/criteria:

  1. Relevancy: What kinds of sources are appropriate for Portfolio 2?
    • Informative sources (facts, dates, news reports, etc.) will help you in the beginning stages to gain background knowledge on your issue.
    • Opinionated sources, written by reputable individuals and groups will be most useful in helping you meet your purpose for writing the issue analysis. These will provide a range of different positions and approaches to help you show that your issue is complicated.
      *You might note to students that "objective" reports from news sources will not "take a position" on an issue, but they can lead to more argumentative sources if followed up with research on names mentioned in the report.
  2. Currency: How current should sources be for Portfolio 2?
    • This will depend on the issue you're researching but it’s probably safe to say that some issues are newly emergent while others have been with us for some time.

Discuss this question using some of your students' issues as examples. Extremely current issues will have less written about them, while old issues may be so overdone as to require great effort to avoid complete predictability. Many issues that have been around for a while will have "seminal" publications or judgments (perhaps from the Supreme Court) associated with them. Point out to class that good students of any issue try to make sure that they’ve identified and included essential documents among their sources.

  1. Reliability/Credibility: Which sources are reliable for Portfolio 2?
    • Many of the sources you'll need for Portfolio 2 will contain biases. One of the goals for this portfolio is to examine the ways that beliefs and biases shape a writer's approach to writing about an issue. Therefore, you'll want to collect opinion-based texts so that you can analyze where these viewpoints come from and how they affect the conversation surrounding your issue. However, you'll also want to use credible sources. This is where some evaluation of the scholarship of the sources can come into play. Don't be misled to think that "Robby Republican's" personal web site can accurately represent the views of all Republicans. On the other hand, as long as you understand the limitations of Robby’s web site you can use it to represent a certain way of thinking or shared perspective (approach) to an issue.

*One technique for making text evaluation concrete and engaging is to bring in a range of sample texts (on a debatable issue that you choose). Students would then practice evaluating texts for the purposes outlined in the assignment. You might use editorials, political cartoons, chat room scripts, personal web sites, government documents, scientific texts, and research. Add 20 minutes to this activity if you decide to practice evaluating sources in class. Try putting these sample texts on an overhead in an effort to save paper.

The Research Process (create activities and allot time as you see fit)

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Before we get into the analysis of sources, it is necessary to provide students with a strong foundation for the research process and creating an annotated bibliography This is probably the first time students have attempted this type of assignment, and they are most likely unused to the expectations of university level research.

By teaching students to research beyond "about.com" etc. and to evaluate sources they find in more scholarly contexts, we are helping to lead students finding accurate and appropriate sources. Now we need to generate an activity or series of activities that helps students keep track of the research they have done in an organized and detailed manner.

You might demonstrate or outline how the research process ideally goes or how it works in "reality" for you or other people you know. Drawing on Chapter 12 in the PHG is also effective (students should parts of this chapter for homework this week anyway). Be sure to let students know that research rarely goes perfectly and that the nature of the beast is to yield changes and surprises along the way. Help students deal with this as they research.

Since students need to have time to research before we can move on to analysis, you can allow a class this week to be a Research Day. We encourage accompanying your students to the library so that you are available for questions as they work.

Annotations (create activities and allot time as you see fit)

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The purpose of the Annotated Bibliography is tri-fold:

1.) to keep a detailed and accurate track of their sources

2.) to reinforce and augment analytical/evaluative skills

3.) to prepare students for research elsewhere in the university

Since we are encouraging close research and analysis, the annotations we are looking for in the Annotated Bibliography aspect of this Portfolio are more detailed than students might experience elsewhere in the academy. Thus, it is important to spend an ample amount of time on teaching the aspects of annotating so that students have the tools they need to complete the assignment.

Furthermore, the annotation should develop three aspects about the source:

1.) summarize the main points

2.) provide a shorthand of how effective/reliable/credible the source is and those points that will be most helpful to the researcher

3.) connect the source to the researcher's issue/research question

There is a rich opportunity to connect Portfolios 1 and 2 via the annotations students need to do for the Annotated Bibliography. Students should draw on their summary skills first and foremost but also on their analytical/evaluative response skills. Following the summary of the text's main idea(s)/key points, students should evaluate the effectiveness, credibility, strength of evidence, uniqueness of perspective, etc. the source brings to the conversation surrounding the issue. Lastly, since students often hesitate to eliminate sources that are only tangential to their research question, the third part of the annotation should illustrate how the source answers or furthers the student's research question (how well could this source play an effective role in the argument for Portfolio 3?).

You should design an activity or series of activities that teach, demonstrate, and apply annotation skills.

You might have students practice summarizing an article from the NYT or another source that deals with their issue as we did in Portfolio 1. Then you might discuss what changes they need to make to that summary since it is part of an annotation (possibly reduce the length; it's okay not to use full parenthetical documentation, etc.) and what can stay the same (it is still effective to use paraphrases and direct quotations).

You could then model using your own research or a topic you have been following in the NYT how to "respond" to the text in a shorthand manner. Some questions you might answer include:

How reliable is this source? Do the biases damage the source's accuracy?

How recent is the source? Will it still bear on my issue in Portfolio 3?

What stands out to me about this source to make is useful?

What does this source make me want to know more about?

Finally, have students practice explaining how a source relates to, answers or furthers their research question. You might demonstrate this as well and then have students do a WTL that sets them up for success in this aspect of the annotation.

Working Bibliography Tool (5-10 minutes to introduce)

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Either this week or early in the next, introduce students to the Working Bibliography Tool in the Writing Studio. You should create and provide instructions for how to use the tool. Also point out that not only is this tool helpful for citations (for this and other classes), but it is where students will do the work of organizing their sources into approaches and explain that students will "turn in" their culminating Annotated Bibliographies via this tool. Be sure to let students know that this is a working tool and it will not "fix" all of their citations perfectly; they will need to proofread and do this themselves before turning in their Annotated Bibliography.

Review the day’s activities (3 minutes)

Remember to conclude each class session. When you or a student does this, take 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.