Friday, August 29

Day 3 (Friday, August 29)

Lesson Objectives
Students will

Connection to Course Goals. Identifying thesis statements and writing collaborative summaries give students practice with summary writing; developing questions for further inquiry will engage students in ongoing inquiry that will be useful in Phase 1 and Phase 2 assignments.


Before today’s class, re-read “Why Bother” and the PHG reading, read the WTLs from Wed. and add to the inquiry list any key terms, ideas, or questions found in them, and write your own lesson plan.


Inquiry List
Printout of “Why Bother,” annotated for thesis and reasons      
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 read Michael Pollan’s “Why Bother?” and have either attended the climate change lecture or watched a similar one via podcast, and are expecting to discuss the readings and the lecture.  To hold students accountable for the assignments, plan a quiz or WTL that will not only do so but will also allow check students’ understanding of both.

Tip. Daily quizzes or WTLs that you collect are easy ways to make sure your students take reading assignments seriously, and can act as useful catalysts for discussion.


Introduction. Begin today's class by previewing the planned activities: Today we are going to continue talking about climate change and we'll discuss how to write an academic summary.


Write the agenda for today’s class on the board, if you have decided to make this part of the routines for your class.

Attendance (2-3 minutes)

Take care of any remaining registration issues (such as new students or students that were absent on the first and second  day), and be sure to note which students are absent.

Tip. Taking attendance by asking students a question is a good way to get them involved in the day’s activities, though it can easily eat time if you’re not careful.

Reading comprehension quiz or WTL (5 minutes)

Its important to consistently hold students accountable for class reading assignments, and a fairly easy five-question quiz is a good method of doing so.  Another option is to have students complete a WRL which you collect and evaluate.  Whatever you choose, introducing your preferred method during the first week of class is a good way to signal that students need to keep up with their reading. 

Transition. Let’s go over the quiz answers, and then we’ll see what else you thought about as you read Michael Pollan’s article.

Discuss “Why Bother?” (5 minutes)

Collect the quizzes and go over the answers with students.  This will give you an opportunity to review the main ideas of the article and for students to check their understanding of it.  Refer students to the text as questions arise and reinforce the idea of reading closely.  Move the discussion from simply comprehending the article to students’ responses to it.  Make connections to the IPCC responses and the climate change lecture.

Transition. Being able to find the writer's thesis statement is essential to writing an academic summary, which is the first writing assignment we'll do in this class.

Introduce summary writing (10-15 minutes)

Tip. Summaries demonstrate that students comprehend what they’ve read. The summaries that students write will enable us to assess their ability to distinguish between subjective reactions and objective understanding of a text’s argument.

Tip. This is a key moment of learning for students. They're probably used to being told how to write a particular kind of document.

Introduce academic summary by explaining that summaries require one to set aside one’s own biases and preconceived ideas and really listen. 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? 

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, don't 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. In a perfect world, the following would be on the list in some form (explanations you might give are in parentheses):

Use Pollan’s “Why Bother” and model the process of summary writing for students. Start with the thesis, and then help students identify key points.  Here's an example:

Start by writing "Michael Pollan, ‘Why Bother,’ The New York Times, and April 20, 2008" on the board.

Ask students what they took to be Pollan’s thesis. (Something like "Since climate change is caused by our daily choices, we must change our lifestyles, and a powerful way of changing is to plant a garden.") 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 specific language in Pollan’s essay that explains why he thinks we should, indeed, “bother” to change our lifestyles. Possibilities include: "A sense of personal virtue," “laws and money cannot do enough…it will also take profound changes in the way we live," "The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us," "you will set an example for other people," “Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed,” “You quickly learn that you need not be dependent on specialists to provide for yourself,” etc. 

Tip. 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 similar statements in the essay. Locate yourself or ask your students to find other examples of statements dealing with the ethics of climate change mitigation or the urgency of the problem.

How do these statements differ from ones like "For Berry, the ‘why bother’ question came down to a moral imperative" and “we have only 10 years left to start cutting—not just slowing—the amount of carbon we’re emitting”? 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 that support the reasons. Writers often offer several pieces of similar evidence to prove a reason; Pollan 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 Pollan’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 Pollan’s case, he has included an alternative to his thesis: he says that “There are so many stories we can tell ourselves to justify doing nothing, but perhaps the most insidious is that, whatever we do manage to do, it will be too little too late.” This is another key point, though it is not a reason for the thesis (saying "We should change our lifestyles because we think it won’t make any difference" 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 Michael Pollan’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.

Group summaries (20-25 minutes)

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 the previous activity. Explain the group work instructions (on an overhead transparency) and then give groups time to work. 

Tip. 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.

Group Summaries

Work with your group to write a summary of one of the essays in "Responses to the IPCC":

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.

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.

If you run out of time. Begin Monday’s class by finishing the activity—if groups are still working hard with five minutes left, explain that we'll finish the activity next time and collect pens and transparencies (in case any students are absent).

If you have extra time. Choose one summary to put up on the overhead and discuss with the class. You don't need to evaluate it on the spot; you can ask students "How accurate is this summary?" or "Is it objective?"

Transition. For homework you have something new to “read” and summarize—this one a podcast of an interview with three prominent British thinkers on climate change policy.

Homework for Monday