I decided to have students do this as pre-test not only regarding AP exam performance, but more importantly to identify what I should address when teaching argument writing coming up in a few weeks. I found that having students write a couple narratives during this unit has helped me construct the memoir-writing unit by identifying some key areas for improvement. Additionally, in my first two writing units on rhetorical analysis essays and synthesis arguments, I found that I had to back-track after reading their drafts far into the process because they were drawing too heavily on the standard literary analysis structure they've learned up to this point. I wanted to see if that is still the go-to structure for this different type of argument where they are expected to draw largely on their own experiences and knowledge for evidence.
In my initial read, it seems that in fact some students did draw heavily on their previous knowledge. A number of them seemed to analyze the quote and its meaning rather than use it as a platform to jump off of into their own views--or at least this back and forth was imbalanced toward analyzing the quote (attached here Student Samples for print.docx are two partial essays; both tend toward analysis of Woolf rather then their own unique perspective addressing the prompt). So I will make sure I spend more time on differentiating this essay from the literary analysis.
Clearly there is a general hole in how students are being taught to write arguments, with too much emphasis on literary analysis; we clearly need to broaden instruction not only to align with the CCSS, but also to help students grow as writers. In defense of teachers, the high-stakes assessment all sophomores take in Massachusetts (MCAS) includes a writing portion that is a literary analysis. . . thus the emphasis on that genre of writing. I don't think that teaching other forms of arguments will keep students from scoring well on that one (it will likely help them, since they will have a deeper sense of language function), but it is sometimes difficult to take that risk in the high-stakes environment. Nevertheless, it is an issue I'll bring to my department as we try to align our courses with the CCSS in a way that benefits students.