Monday, September 8

Day 6 (Monday, September 8)

Lesson Objectives
Students will

Connection to Course Goals. Today’s class offers a formal introduction to the concept of rhetorical situation, which applies directly to every assignment students complete in this class.


Today’s class may require a lot of prep.  You’re introducing complicated concepts and discussing a more complex text.  To be confident in teaching the material for today, you might need to spend considerable time reviewing the rhetorical situation model and the related terminology, as well as thinking of examples you can use from the previous readings to illustrate elements of the rhetorical situation as you explain it to students. 

Tip. Developing ways to explain “context” to students will help you meet their needs, as this tends to be the most difficult concept for them to grasp.


Inquiry list
Overhead transparencies:

Your textbook
Lecture notes/examples from previous texts


For today, students have revised a summary and are preparing to turn in the first graded assignment of the semester.  Also they have read some conceptual information in the PHG about rhetorical situation and critical reading.  As these represent two of the course’s primary goals, you will be introducing key concepts today.  While some students will have experience with critical reading of various types, few will have heard of the rhetorical situation.  Be prepared for some students arriving without having read the PHG reading because they focused on revising their summary to turn in today.  You may want to add in a quiz or WTL or simply to hold students accountable through class discussion today.


Take attendance and introduce class (3-4 minutes)

By now you probably have a routine established for beginning class.  Write out your own introduction for today—remember to preview the day’s activities and to keep the inquiry list going. 

Discuss revision, assign a postscript and collect summaries (15-20 minutes)

Tip. Asking a question like, “What was the most useful idea from your workshop?” can start a discussion that reinforces the value of workshop.

Chat with your students for a few minutes, asking them to talk about how they revised their summary, what they did with the workshop feedback, etc.  If your students don’t want to get specific, ask them to talk generally about the experience of writing and revising summaries. Alternative: Have students write their postscripts first, then discuss their responses.

Next, put “postscript” questions on the overhead and give students a few minutes to answer them.  You might ask them to write answers on the backs of the summaries they’re about to turn in.  We do a postscript at the end of each graded assignment, and this allows students to reflect on the writing process as well as to communicate with you about their writing.  Think about what kinds of things you want to hear as you grade your students’ writing.  Questions like “what did you get out of workshop?” or “what should we do differently as we work on our next assignment?” leave students very open to give all kinds of feedback that’s not directly relevant to their writing process and/or the final product they are about to turn in, and can be saved for a mid-semester evaluation. 

General postscript questions follow that tend to work well for most any assignment.  Feel free to modify them to suit your students’ needs and to suit each assignment. 

Tip. The postscript shouldn’t be an opportunity for students to vent or complain, so construct your prompts carefully. You may want to review the postscript questions in each chapter of the Prentice Hall Guide for more ideas.

Tip. On the overhead, tell students where to write their answers, where to insert the postscript (if they’re turning in a portfolio), etc.

Postscript Questions

1.  Are you satisfied with your final draft?  Why/why not?
2.  What was most successful about this project? 
3.  Where did you struggle most?  How did you overcome that struggle?
4.  What did you do to revise?  How did you use your workshop feedback?
5.  What else should I know about your writing process as I read your final draft?

Collect summaries from students and explain your grading practices—you use the same criteria for every summary, you write comments that are intended to help them recognize their strengths and ways to improve for the next assignment, it’ll probably take about a week for you to grade the summaries, etc.

Transition. Our next project will build on the close reading techniques we’ve been learning.

Review close reading and writing as a conversation (5-7 minutes)

To transition students into critical reading, spend a few minutes reviewing what it means to read closely.  Students have this knowledge now, so you can rely on them to explain it to each other.  Get them started with a question like, “What does it mean to read closely?” and record their answers on the board.  Leave some room to one side so that, in a few moments, you can compare critical reading with close reading.
Remind students of the writing as conversation metaphor.  If they seemed to pick up on this well last week, you can ask “in what ways is writing similar to conversation?” or you can explain it again.  Have the conversation model overhead handy so you can remind them that the class is designed with this metaphor in mind.  Right now we’re still in stage 1 (reading what others have written), but we’re no longer reading only to understand the writer’s argument.

Transition. We’re going to continue reading about our question-at-issue (What should we do about climate change?), but now we’re going to be evaluating what we read as well.

Introduce critical reading and the rhetorical situation (12-15 minutes)

Ask for student ideas regarding the concept of critical reading.  If students get caught up in “criticism” and “criticizing,” present them with the alternative phrase “active” reading.  What does it mean to read actively?  What can you do to/with a text beyond reading closely?

List student ideas on the board next to your “close reading” list.  There will be some overlap, since it’s impossible to read critically if you’re not also reading closely.  Let students come to this realization on their own; if they don’t, be sure to point it out.  Here is the language that the PHG uses to describe critical reading: “Critical reading simply means questioning what you read.  You may end up liking or praising certain features of a text, but you begin by asking questions, by resisting the text, and by demanding that the text be clear, logical, reliable, thoughtful, and honest.”  Students will read more about critical reading for homework, so it is not essential that you cover all of the ground now. 

Observe the lists you’ve made on the board, and ask students to point out similarities and differences.  The major difference is that close reading involves finding out what a writer is saying, and critical reading involves evaluating how (and how well) a writer has composed his/her text.

During this discussion, you may also want to talk about the role of critical reading in academic inquiry to help students understand why we do it.  For example, understanding how an author addresses purpose, audience and context can help us evaluate the quality of information and arguments.
To begin looking at how the text is composed, readers need to ask questions about the rhetorical situation.  Your students likely have never heard of “rhetorical situation” (though they may have heard the same concept referred to as the “writing situation”), so this will be new to students.  Introduce the key terms and relationships with the Rhetorical Situation graphic on the overhead.

Rhetorical Situation Model

Next, show students questions they can ask to find out about the rhetorical situation (see pages 153-156 of the PHG). 

Tip. These questions demonstrate that close reading is embedded within critical reading—one must first know what a writer says before going on to evaluate its effectiveness.

Questions for Understanding the Rhetorical Situation

Writer and Purpose



Thesis and Main Ideas

Organization and Evidence

Language and Style

Once a reader has answered these questions, he/she can go on to respond and evaluate, asking questions like: “Is the overall purpose clear?” and “Does the writer misjudge the readers?” and “Did the tone support or distract from the writer’s purpose or meaning?”

Assign homework, collect the inquiry list, and conclude (3 minutes)

Assign the following for homework, collect the inquiry list, and wrap up class by reviewing key concepts from today and explaining what students can expect next time.

Homework for Wednesday

Connection to Next Class

Next time you’ll come back to the rhetorical terminology you introduced today, and you’ll apply it, discussing longer article.