Week 8: Monday, October 13th - Friday, October 17th


Week 9: Activity Ideas

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The suggested activities for this week include:


Issue Analysis

Remember this week can also include conferences, a final research day or time to catch up in class if needed.

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.


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

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Review positions and approaches

Most likely, despite the fact that you have now demonstrated the shared perspectives/approaches analysis at least three times in class, some students will still be confused about how to move from their analysis of individual sources (the Position Analyses) into an analysis of shared perspectives or approaches as aided through the Composite Grid. The goal for the activity today is to guide their thinking by providing an illustration of the process of arranging individual positions into shared perspectives or approaches. This activity will prepare students for the analytical thinking that we ask them to do in the issue analysis portion of this portfolio.

Use the board and follow these steps:

a.)   Choose a large topic such as gun control and ask students to write down what they think about this topic. Which arguments do they support and oppose around this topic?

b.)  Write students responses on board. Try to generate a large list of maybe 8-10 possible responses or reactions to this topic, e.g.,

c.)   If students don't include reasons for their positions, ask them why they take these positions. Explain that positions and perspectives are located inside the "why" or "because" statements associated with reasons. Include a reason to support each view.

d.)  Then, ask students to look for common threads or themes that cut across each response. Have them group the many responses into common approaches (maybe 3 or 4). Encourage them to create narrow categories (beyond pro and con). As you group positions into approaches, ask them to be attentive to what factors determine how positions get grouped (writers with common purposes, audiences, beliefs, values, background experiences, etc…)

e.)   Once you've arranged positions into 3 - 4 approaches, label each group with a phrase that accurately represents each the group. Explain to students that this is what they'll need to do with their own issue to complete the News and Issue portion of Portfolio 2.

f.)   Then, tell students that you're going to use this arrangement to illustrate what they'll need to think about for the issue analysis. The issue analysis will ask them to critically analyze the social and cultural factors that have shaped these positions and approaches. Students will need to consider why people take the positions they do. What has influenced their viewpoints? This is an essential step in the writing process, because in order for a writer to make an effective argument advocating his or her own views, he or she needs to understand where others' views come from. Also, in understanding others' views a writer is encouraged to look beyond personal (sometimes limited) views, and seek a fuller understanding of an issue. Often, a writer will change his or her original position based on new understanding of the origins of other writers’ positions.

Discussion of explanations for shared perspectives/approaches

Ask students to discuss the social and cultural factors that have informed the approaches they’re seeing in the gun control debate. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:

  • What historical events might have influenced these approaches? (terrorist attacks, Columbine shooting)
  • What personal events/experiences? (a robbery at home or a break in)
  • What laws may have influenced these approaches? (background checks, safety locks)
  • What values are associated with each approach? (safety, freedom, choice,)
  • What are the goals or purposes for each approach? (to allow guns but make them safer, to eliminate gun sales, to allow gun sales for all…)
  • If each approach became an argument, who would be the target audience for that argument? Why?
  • How might purpose and audience shape the way those who take this approach present or "spin" the issue?
  • In turn, how might the various presentations of the issue affect the way readers react to it and thus affect the course of the debate? (Emotional appeals involving Columbine may create overly sympathetic readers who ignore rational arguments for gun use or scare tactics used by the NRA may frighten readers into supporting gun use.)

Finish by asking students why it might be important to think critically about the social and cultural forces that shape a conversation about an issue. Why might this be worthwhile for a writer to consider as he/she constructs an argument?


Issue Analysis (create activities and allot time as you see fit)

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Try to transition closely between the first activity that reviews grouping and your discussion of the Issue Analysis.

Review guidelines for the Issue Analysis

Have students revisit the guidelines for the Issue Analysis.  This is the last level of analysis we are asking them to do in this unit although they will have done all the process work as they create their groupings in the Annotated Bibliography.  The Issue Analysis, then, asks to students to explain in writing why they have grouped the sources in the way they did and to foreground the thread or theme that holds the approach together.  These points should also tie to the issue (why does NRA view gun control the way it does?) and how each approach shapes the way the issue is seen by the public eye (the NRA's appeals to our "right to bear arms" highlights the "constitutional" aspect of the issue).

Show students a sample (see the Appendix) and/or have them practice in class with a class example before writing their own explanations 

Design an activity that incorporates the sample Issue Analysis from the Appendix and/or an activity that has students create an explanation in small groups or as a class.  For the latter, you might find a series of brief articles from the NYT (or use ones we have used before) that you believe create an approach to an issue.  Have students read through the articles and then identify the thread/theme that holds them together in a approach.  On an overhead, have students write out their explanation of the approach to present to the rest of the class.

You can also allot class time to students creating their own approaches.  Have students bring in their sources and their Annotated Bibliographies.  If you haven't had them group their sources yet, allow them time to create approaches and label them with short title (e.g. The Children's Safety Approach).  Then have them freewrite (with or without looping) an explanation of why the sources belong in each approach. 

The main elements of each explanation should include (but need not be limited to) the following:

What is the approach called?

What common values or beliefs (individual or cultural/social) do the sources hold?

What common concerns do the sources represent?

What is the purpose(s) shared by the sources?

Is there a vested interest that holds the sources together?

Is there a common need represented by the sources?

Beyond Pro/Con

It is important to remind students, too, that we are not looking for pro/con approaches and ideally we'd like them to avoid pro/con and "something in between" as well.  This means an approach could look like the following:

Issue:  Is the Death Penalty the most effective way to deal with murder in our society?

Approach #1:  Crime Deterrence

Approach #2:  Religious

Approach #3:  Law and Justice

Approach #1 is comprised of sources that all center on crime deterrence.  But some of the sources feel that the death penalty deters crime while others feel it does not.  The same goes for Approach #2; some people that associate themselves with religion feel that it is not humans' right to kill because, for example, the Christian Bible advises not to kill, while others align themselves with the "eye for an eye" mentality.  Finally, many people involved in the Approach #3 feel that the death penalty is not the only way to deliver justice to victims and others feel that the death penalty alleviates full prisons and reduces taxpayers' burdens.

While this example is not perfect, it does illustrate how students can go beyond pro/con in their Issue Analysis.


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.