Week 14: Monday, December 1 - Friday, December 5

Your goals this week are to workshop Reports, collect them, and then introduce the Public Argument and visual rhetoric.  If you teach on MWF, it will be best to hold the workshop on Wednesday.  If you teach on TR, you might send a reminder email on Monday morning, so students remember that they need to bring a draft to Tuesday’s class.  The week’s chronology, then, heavily depends on your students’ needs.  As you choose from the following activities, be aware that your students may need alternatives.

Connection to Course Goals. This week’s work reinforces the writing process via the workshop and postscript, and introduces students to techniques that will help them approach visual rhetoric and the Public Argument.

Conduct a Report workshop

Design a workshop activity that reflects assignment goals, grading criteria and classroom instruction.  It has been a while since students did a workshop, so it may be useful to do a practice workshop before you ask students to provide feedback for each other.

Assign a postscript and collect Reports

As usual, before you collect the reports (and any accompanying work), assign a postscript that allows students to reflect on their writing process and their rhetorical choices.  If you plan to collect the whole portfolio to grade at the end, consider collecting the report now and making "intervention" comments on it, then returning it for revision before it's submitted in the portfolio.  If you collect the report as an intervention draft, ask students to pose 1-3 specific questions for you to respond to so that you don't feel you have to respond to everything or "pre-grade" the draft.  Have them review the grading criteria as they pose these questions.

Tip. You can get students thinking about the next stage of the project by including a question such as, “What needs to change about the aspect of CSU you’ve investigated?” or “Who, other than incoming freshmen, might be particularly interested in your Report?”

Introduce the Public Argument assignment

Distribute and review the assignment sheet, if you are treating these as two separate assignments.  If you are collecting the report and argument in one portfolio at the end, then ask students to pull out the assignment sheet you distributed previously.  You might want to have a few extra copies for those who forgot theirs, or to ask students to share with a classmate who has theirs. Allow time for students to ask questions.

Tip. Point out that students have a lot of choices to make for this assignment—they choose their argument’s purpose, audience, and genre.

Discuss possible approaches to the Public Argument

Start by asking students to share any problems they uncovered as they researched.  Perhaps something needs to be made more visible, perhaps students need to use an organization or service more, or perhaps something needs to change in another way.  Ask students to offer their ideas about who needs to hear their opinions about their topic, encouraging them to be as specific as possible.  You might assign a WTL to prompt students to gather their opinions on their topic.  

Take time to brainstorm genres.  Here’s a sample list of different kind of texts that aim to convince or persuade people:

Would any of these not work for this assignment?  The only one that wouldn’t is the "academic argument" because students need to target a specific audience, and an academic audience is too general.

The choices of purpose, audience and genre are interrelated, and they have to make sense together.  If you have time, you might allow students to work in small groups to brainstorm their own ideas, or, if you have a lot of time, you might go around the room and talk with each student, asking the class to offer their ideas.

Begin discussing visual rhetoric

Since many of the students’ genre choices will require some visual elements, take time to discuss how visual choices can constitute appeals to logos, ethos and pathos.  Give students the following as a handout or on an overhead.  This is adapted from a full-length handout that can be found in the appendix.

Tip. Because the Rhetorical Analysis will demand that students identify and discuss the rhetorical situation and appeals made in their Report and Public Arguments, practicing with them how to break a visual text into its component parts is crucial.

“Visual Rhetoric” has been used to mean anything from the use of images as argument, to the arrangement of elements on a page for rhetorical effect, to the use of typography (fonts) and more.

Text Elements.  Questions to consider when choosing fonts:

1. What kinds of expectations does my audience have regarding fonts?  Are they scholars or soccer fans?  Church-goers or movie-goers?
2. What am I representing in my font choices?  Am I a job applicant?  A student writing a seminar paper?  A club officer making a poster to advertise a formal dinner?
3. At what distance is my text being viewed?  On a greeting card or a bumper sticker?  A poster or a flyer?
4. What fonts are commonly available on people’s computers that I can use for the Web? 

Color.  Questions to consider when choosing colors:

1. Does the combination of colors I'm using lend itself to easy reading, either on-screen or on paper?
2. Are the cultural associations, if any, accompanying the colors appropriate?

Images.  Questions to consider when choosing images:

1. How will the image relate to my ethos (credibility)? 
2. Do illustrations and diagrams offer clear, selective representations of reality?
3. Have I chosen the right kind of graph to represent my information?  (Pie charts help show parts of a whole (percentages); Bar graphs show comparisons between a number of different variables; line graphs plot changes in one variable over time).
4. Are digital images of high quality?  Is there anything irrelevant in the shot?

Design.  Consider these things as you bring all of the above factors together:

1. How will a reader/viewer experience my design: what will they see first, and what will they notice later?
2. Organize according to importance: important information gets large text, special fonts, color.
3. Organize according to consistency: certain kinds of information appear in similar places, in similar style.
4. Organize to surprise—rotate text, use images as background, leave space around different elements, etc.
5. Step back to see how the design affects you.  Ask yourself: would I read this?  Does the design clarify my information, or make it more confusing? Is the design unique enough to make it stand out?  Is the design readable from its intended distance?  What is the tone of the overall design?  Does this tone work for my purpose and audience?

Discuss each of the elements—text, color and images—and how they relate to overall design.  Practice answering the questions with sample visual arguments such as advertisements.  Ask small groups to discuss the ways in which the visual elements are working.  Then groups can explain their findings to the class.  As groups explain how the ad works, you can prompt the class to answer questions about rhetoric, such as: How does the design draw readers in?  How do design elements contribute to credibility?  How does the ad attempt to get you emotionally involved?  What claim is the ad making? etc.

Tip. To find visual arguments that will be familiar to your students, just do a Google Images search with a phrase like “Nike ad," “cologne ad," “ipod ad," etc.

You can then move on to discuss student work (you can find sample public arguments in the appendix) to look at the ways in which students have applied design principles to the assignment at hand.  Also you can have your students brainstorm ways in which they may use the design principles in their own arguments.

  Homework for Week 14: