This is a continuation of yesterday's activity, where groups were sharing their observations of specific paragraphs in the model essay we're working with. The emphasis today, as I listen, will be to note how each paragraph idea builds on the previous one to develop central ideas (reading standard 2 and 3), and also how the writer maintains a consistent objectivity and voice throughout the piece. We will also pay some particular attention to the conclusion, noting how it supports the explanation presented in the body, and also uses language that hearkens back to the boxing metaphor in the introduction, creating a more unified whole for the text.
As I did yesterday, I will have the essay projected on the Smartboard so I can note things visually for students (even though they have it in front of them, it is always more likely they will look at in on the big screen than in their textbook, and me underlining on occasion adds that extra bit of emphasis), and emphasize some points, particularly regarding the conclusion. However, I won't spend a tremendous amount of time here--as with any analysis, too much gets overwhelming; teaching analysis and writing is always about assessing student emotion (often by their body language; I think most kids will engage if they get it; I often think it is analogous to a baby--they will smile at laugh at something new, then suddenly turn their head away because the get overwhelmed. We don't lose that when we get older--too much stimulation, or too much information that gets confusing, and our first instinct is to "check out." So I try to pay attention to that so I know when enough is enough), so I will try to be attentive to this, since this writing unit is also setting a tone for writing the rest of the year.
Students were asked last night to re-read the Ariel Levy piece “The Rise of Raunch Culture” and write ten thoughtful questions that address a variety of strategies she uses to make meaning. Because this is specifically a unit on writing, I want students to be able to focus on that element and not be set back from learning those skills because they don’t understand the text well. This is the reason I am using the same text they addressed on their understanding rhetoric assessment, and also why we will jointly construct meaning and rhetorical strategies as a class before they start writing. Students will all have a basic answer to the prompt (which I will give them today before beginning the activity; I didn’t give it to them for last night because I wanted them to be more free to ask questions of the text; now that they have questions, they can tie them into the prompt), as well as a variety of evidence, from this activity, so they can go into the writing with information at hand and can work on developing the topic in writing, selecting relevant evidence, and using precise language in the process to thoroughly and clearly develop their topics.
For today’s activity, students will work in groups of three or four (I will put them in groups). The groups will choose a timekeeper. The protocol will be a variation of the ping-pong activity I did earlier in the year, the purpose being to assure everyone participates, and also to have some practice listening to ideas and identifying generalities in explanations (and therefore what specifics are missing)—a skill they will need when editing to create more precise writing. This activity builds on listening skills in that they are required to listen critically and respond thoughtfully with probing questions (speaking and listening standards 1c and 1d). This activity also utilizes reading skills they have been working on, since they will be looking at figurative meanings of words and their impact on tone and meaning, and analyzing the author’s structural choices (reading standards 4 and 5).
The instructions are that one person will begin as the questioner. They will choose one other person from the group to be on the “hot seat.” The questioner will ask the person on the “hot seat” one of the analysis questions they wrote for homework, which the person will have to answer without help from other group members. The remaining group member (or members) must listen carefully, and then ask at least two questions (this can be adjusted depending on numbers in the group) of the person answering that challenge the person to add more explanation and detail to their answer (if students want to continue to clarify a topic, they can do so for about two minutes before moving on). Each round should last a maximum of five minutes. Once these follow-up questions have been answered, the person who was on the “hot seat” becomes the questioner. The students will continue this process until ALL members have been on the “hot seat” twice, and been a questioner twice. One other instruction I will give them is to vary the types of questions—if a question is asked about the effect of an allusion, the next one should be one that isn’t about allusion, but maybe about sentence structure. The activity is dependent on all the students coming in with their homework completed--the students have been very good so far in accomplishing this, so I'm confident it will work. If someone doesn't have the homework, I'll tell them to come up with something on the spot since they have read the piece. In a different class, I would probably do all of the prep work in class to assure everyone is prepared.
I’m having them do this in a structured format to really focus them on the text and building understanding; the text makes a rather strong statement about the state of feminism and about girls ‘buying in’ to the notion that wearing revealing outfits and having “Playboy” written on their butts is somehow “freeing” and “empowering.” Given the content of the piece, the students may have the tendency to stray from the goal of the activity, which is recognizing the word choices, syntax structures, and other strategies the author uses to get to establish this topic.
After the groups are done, I will ask each group to share one or two interesting conversation they had to gather some thoughts as a whole.
As students participate in the activity, I will listen in on the proceedings as formative assessment, listening specifically for the quality of the questions, how thoroughly students are answering questions, and how pointed their follow-up questions are. Also, each student having to ask questions from their homework acts as an accountability measure, allowing me to check if anyone did not do the assignment.
NEXT STEPS: Now that they have explored the main claims and appeals of the text, the students’ homework will be to craft the INTRODUCTORY paragraph of their response to the writing prompt about this piece. Tomorrow they will edit these, then start gathering evidence as support.