Friday, August 24

Day 3 (Friday, August 24)

Lesson Objectives
Students will

Connection to Course Goals
Today's class focuses on close reading and begins to introduce rhetorical concepts.

Connection to Students’ Own Writing
Writing collaborative summaries gives students practice with summary writing, the focus of our first graded assignment.

Before today's class, be sure you have reread "One Thing to Do About Food," added to the "inquiry list" owithquestions and terms from Wednesday's WTL's,  reviewed the PHG reading and "The Meatrix" PowerPoint, and written your own lesson plan.

Inquiry List
"One Thing to Do About Food" (annotated for each author's thesis and reasons)
Overhead Transparencies:
     Group Summary Activity instructions
     Homework (or make handouts for homework--do the same thing that you did on Wednesday)
6 blank overhead transparencies (you can get these from the mailroom in Eddy)
6 overhead markers, such as Vis a Vis (you'll need to supply these yourself)

For today's class, students have reread "One Thing to Do About Food," looking for reasons to support each thesis statements, and are expecting to discuss the reading.  They have also viewed the PowerPoint about summarizing and have read about summaries in the PHG. 


Write the agenda on the board if that’s what you’ll prefer to do throughout the semester.  From here on out, the lesson plans in this syllabus won’t include this item, so remember to add it to your own lesson plans if you will be using it.

Take care of any remaining registration issues, and be sure to note which students are absent.
Ask students to sit with their groups from Wednesday.

Begin today's class by previewing the activities you have planned: today we will practice demonstrating close reading by writing summaries.

We ask students to write summaries that demonstrate their accurate comprehension of the texts.  Writing a summary requires one to set aside one’s own biases and preconceived ideas and really listen.  The summaries that students write will enable us to assess their ability to distinguish between subjective reactions and objective understanding of what a text says.

Introduce academic summary by explaining the above in your own words.  On the board, write:

Academic Summary

Purpose: to offer a condensed and objective account of the main ideas and features of a text; to demonstrate your accurate comprehension of a text

Audience: your instructor

Make sure students understand what "objective" means, and then ask students to talk about how they might go about writing a summary that accomplishes the above purposes for the audience.  That is, how can students write a summary that will show you, the instructor, that they have understood what they have read? 

This is a key moment of learning for students.  They're probably used to being told how to write a particular kind of document.  Give them time to think through your question, and be encouraging about even minor suggestions (provided they apply--if a student says "write about why I disagree," for example, you don't want to validate that because it will confuse everyone in the class).  Below "Purpose" and "Audience" on the board, make a list of "Strategies."  Once students have offered everything they seem to have, take time to assess the list of strategies.  If there's anything that seems off, clarify it.  If anything essential is missing, add it and explain why you are adding it.  It's ok if this list isn't 100% complete because students will read more about writing summaries for homework, and you will cover it more in class next week.  You may want to refer to "The Meatrix" PowerPoint lesson on summarizing as you prompt students here. In a perfect world, the following would be on the list in some form (explanations you might give are in parentheses):

Choose one of the essays in "One Thing to Do About Food" and model the process of summary writing for students.  Start with the thesis, and then help students identify key points.  Here's an example from Peter Singer's essay:

Start by writing "Peter Singer, ‘One Thing to Do About Food,’ The Nation, and September 11, 2006" on the board.

You've already identified the thesis: "don't buy factory-farm products."  Write this on the board, and then introduce the concept of "key points."

Often, key points are reasons, or "because" statements that support the thesis.  Sometimes they are not phrased with the "because" conjunction, though they could be.  Ask students to find particular language in Singer's essay that explains why he thinks we should not buy factory-farm products.  Possibilities include: "Factory farming is not sustainable," it is “the biggest system of cruelty to animals ever devised," factory farmed animals have lost "most of their nutritional value," and factory farming "is not an ethically defensible system of food production." 

How do these statements differ from ones like "pig farms use six pounds of grain for every pound of boneless meat we get from them" and "pregnant sows are kept in crates too narrow for them to turn around"?  The difference, mainly, is in scope--the statements quoted in the paragraph above are broader and use general language; they are reasons.  The statements quoted in this paragraph are narrower and give specifics; they are evidence for the reasons.  A way to determine whether or not a statement is a reason or if it is evidence is to see if it can be grouped with other similar statements in the essay.  Singer includes a few more statements about feed for animals--see paragraph 3.  He includes other statements about animals' quality of life--see paragraph 4.  Writers often offer several pieces of similar evidence to prove a reason; Singer has done so in this essay.

With a thesis and some reasons listed, you’ve got a good start.  But does this cover all of Singer's main points?  Not really; arguments often contain more main points than just a thesis and reasons (sometimes they offer concessions, refute counter arguments, or suggest solutions.  These things do not offer direct reasoning for the thesis, but still they are integral parts of the argument).  In Singer's case, he has included an alternative to his thesis: he says that the best thing we could do would be to "go vegan," or at least vegetarian.  This is another key point, though it is not a reason for the thesis (saying "We should not buy factory farm products because we should go vegan" doesn't make logical sense).  Leaving this point out of the summary altogether, though, would be misrepresenting the text. 

On the board, now, you should have the basic things that would need to go into a summary of Peter Singer's essay.  Ask students how they would turn this list into paragraphs.  How long might the summary be?  Might you incorporate quotes? 

Transition Since I'm asking you to write a summary for homework, I'd like to give you a chance to practice writing one here in class.  

In this activity, students will work in their small groups to complete the same tasks you just worked through on the board, and to write the summary in paragraph form.  They should continue on with the same essay they used in Wednesday’s activity.  Explain the group work instructions (on an overhead transparency) and then give groups time to work. 

Group Summaries

Work with your group to write a summary of one of the essays in "One Thing to Do About Food":

First, read the essay closely and make an outline like the one we just did together

Then, come up to the front of the room to get a blank transparency and an overhead pen. 

Write an academic summary in paragraph form.  Please write your summary on the overhead transparency so that we can look at it next week during class.

Circulate around the room to answer questions and to keep track of how much time the groups will need.  You need a few minutes after this activity to assign homework.  Once all (or most) groups are finished, collect the transparencies and markers.  Talk about the writing process, and ask if students have questions about writing summaries. 

For homework you have a new article to read and summarize--this one is by Michael Pollan (the author who wrote about the farm bill).  

Assign the following as homework:

Homework for Monday

Conclude class by saying something like, next week we will continue with our work of academic inquiry by working more on summary and by generating inquiry questions as we talk about Michael Pollan's work.

Connection to Next Class

On Monday, you will continue on with concepts you introduced today.  Identifying a writer's argument will get more complex as we ask students to read more complex articles, so you'll need to spend more time with that.  Students will be self-evaluating their summaries on Monday as well; to model that, you can use one of the groups’ summaries from today's class.