Day 6 (Thursday, September 6)
Connection to Course Goals
Today’s class hits on many course goals; students are immersed in an inquiry and they are practicing sophisticated rhetorical analysis.
Connection to Students’ Own Writing
Critical reading is part of the writing process. The letter-writing assignment focuses on analyzing and evaluating a text.
Your prep for Tuesday’s class carries over into today; you need only to reread “Power Steer” to be prepared for today’s class. Hopefully you have had time to read over the summaries you collected on Tuesday. Maybe you’ve begun grading them. If not, think about ways you can budget your time between now and Tuesday to get them graded without losing sleep.
Rhetorical Situation graphic
Group work instructions
Writing a Letter assignment sheet handouts
“An Animal’s Place” and “Power Steer”
For today’s class, students have, in effect, completed a rhetorical analysis of “Power Steer” (that is, they have done a double-entry log or a critical reading guide).
Take attendance and introduce class (3 minutes)
Begin class as usual, being sure to preview activities and connect this class to Tuesday’s.
Discuss textbook reading (8-10 minutes)
Check that students understand the reading by asking for definitions of the terminology from chapter 2, by asking small groups to paraphrase definitions of particular terms, and/or by going around the room and asking each student to contribute one piece of information (or a question) from the reading. If you ask, “did you understand the reading?” you may not be able to address all of the gaps in understanding, so be sure you cover the terms. You might show the rhetorical situation graphic once more, and recap how all of the parts are interrelated.
Ask students to discuss the double-entry logs and the critical reading guides—which did they choose? How did they choose? What did they learn? It’s likely that some students found this work to be tedious, boring, etc. so try to steer discussion away from that. Do your best to refrain from being apologetic if students do begin to complain.
Tell students that they may need these notes for the next paper and that you will collect them wih the paper. Or you may choose to collect them today in order to assess how well students are grasping the concepts (and to hold them accountable). Keep in mind that if you collect this homework, you do not have to respond individually to it. You can record that it's done, and respond to the whole class about shared strengths and weaknesses, and you can explain to students that you are simply using the assignment to assess what they know as you plan your teaching.
Transition develop a transition that will show how the textbook reading connects to critically reading “Power Steer.”
Critically read “Power Steer” (15-20 minutes)
Since students have already critically read “Power Steer,” today’s discussion can go deeper into evaluation. You can divide students into groups and assign each group a particular aspect of the rhetorical situation to discuss. Be sure to provide written instructions. This shouldn’t take terribly long since students will already have their own notes to compare. Pose at least one evaluative question to each group as well, and encourage students to show evidence from the text (“how well did Pollan accomplish his goals? Why do you say this?; “are Pollan’s assumptions about his audience fair? Why/why not?” etc.). Allow groups time to present. Today, it’s fine to push students further in their explanations and to add to and/or correct as needed (since this isn’t brand new to them).
Before you move on to the next activity, be sure you tie the pieces together in some way. It’s all well and good to analyze something by breaking it down into parts, but if you don’t answer the “so what?” question you haven’t understood how the text functions. What does your analysis tell you about the text? Often, analysis leads to evaluation. Not “good” or “bad” necessarily—other adjectives. Like entertaining, vivid, sensationalistic, credible (or not), logical (or not), confusing, amusing, etc. etc. etc. Pose the “so what?” question to encourage students to put the pieces back together.
Transition develop a transition that will connect critically reading one essay to critically comparing two.
Compare & evaluate “Power Steer” and “An Animal’s Place” (15-20min)
Another aspect of inquiry is connecting the different parts of the conversation that one encounters. Demonstrate this by informally comparing “Power Steer” and “An Animal’s Place.” You might make a chart on the board with two columns (one for each essay) and three rows (one for purpose, one for audience, and one for context). Prompt your students to help you fill in the grid with descriptions. You’ll find that while some aspects of audience are similar, Pollan makes different assumptions about his readers in each piece. While both essays were published in the New York Times Magazine, the cultural context for each is somewhat different. This activity allows students to see the connections between parts of the rhetorical situation.
Next, you can informally evaluate the pieces by posing questions like “which essay is more successful?” and “which essay engages its readers the most?” and (to preview the assignment) “which essay offers more to debate?” Avoid asking questions about which is “better” or which the students “like more.” Students may interpret a question like “which essay best accomplishes its goals?” as “which do you like more?” so be sure to bring the discussion back to the text whenever students get into their own likes and dislikes.
Transition develop a transition that will connect this activity to the assignment.
Distribute and discuss Writing a Letter assignment sheet (8-10 minutes)
Hand out the assignment sheet and go over it together. You can allow students time to read it silently, then highlight important aspects and answer questions or you can have students read sections of it aloud to the class. If you put the assignment sheet on an overhead instead of handing out copies, be sure the font is large enough that students can see it, and be sure you reiterate the importance of accessing the assignment sheet through the Writing Studio. This assignment is considerably more complicated than the summary, and students will need to be familiar enough with the assignment sheet that they can accomplish the basic assignment goals.
Transition develop a transition that will connect this activity to the next.
WTL or discuss possible paper strategies (8-10 minutes)
Assign a WTL or conduct a discussion that will prompt students to articulate their initial ideas about the paper. Ask questions such as: what people come to mind as potential audiences? If you had to choose between “Power Steer” and “An Animal’s Place,” which would you choose? etc. If you do a WTL be sure to put the questions on an overhead. Make sure students understand that these are just beginning ideas; they don’t need to start the paper yet, nor are they bound to do what they say right now.
Transition write a transition that will connect this activity to the next.
Think through and write down your “if time” and “if I run out of time” ideas here.
Assign homework and conclude class (2 minutes)
Assign the following as homework, and then wrap up today’s class:
Homework for Tuesday
- Research Michael Pollan by going to his website (www.michaelpollan.com). Read some of the interviews with Pollan (under “about”), take a look at his biography and vitae as well as the rest of the site. Try to home in on things that are relevant to what we have been reading, but collect whatever information sparks your interest. Bring what you find to class on Tuesday, when we’ll gather at least one piece of information from each student as we aim to describe Pollan’s “frame of reference,” or “lens.”
- Access, print and read “The Modern Hunter-Gatherer” (remind how to access) and do either a double-entry log or a critical reading guide (whichever one you didn’t do for “Power Steer.”
- To class next time, bring your Pollan research, your critical reading work for “Power Steer” and for “The Modern Hunter-Gatherer” as well as all six Pollan articles.
Connection to Next Class
Today, students began thinking about the next essay, which you’ll continue to work towards during class next week. You’ve raised the intellectual bar quite a bit with asking students to compare and evaluate complicated texts, and you’ll practice these skills more in the next few classes.