Rhetorical Analysis of Virginia Woolf/Formative Writing Assessment

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SWBAT closely analyze the rhetorical strategies of a complex text by analyzing a piece by Virginia Woolf.

Big Idea

Tone and persona play important roles in personal experience writing.


Close Reading: Virginia Woolf

25 minutes

Today I will not be in class, so my student teacher will facilitate these lessons.  The students all read Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women,” earlier in the week and answered a series of rhetorical analysis questions; today they will finally address those before practicing their first forty-minute AP-style essay.

Because these students have worked well in groups all semester, I will have them work in pairs to discuss the questions (even though they stay focused well, pairs is still safer for my student teacher!) and the overall central idea of the text, and then hand in their questions so I can assess understanding.   I had asked them to choose six of the dozen questions from the their textbook to answer, encouraging them to choose ones that are more of a challenge to them to practice the things they don’t understand as well.  I will have the student collect these, and we’ll see what they chose!!   While it is impossible to know how they chose questions, if they aren’t 1-6, then they will have at least had to read them all (I think there is value in that, since they had to consider how they would answer), and I’ll know if all of them skipped one or two, that those are where the challenges lie (or those seemed like they would take longer to answer!).

Argument Essay Practice

45 minutes

With forty-five minutes left in class, students will write an argument that addresses the following prompt:

In the final paragraph of her speech, Woolf says, “Even when the path is nominally open—when there is nothing to prevent a woman from being a doctor, a lawyer, a civil servant—there are many phantoms and obstacles, as I believe, looming in her way.”  Write an essay in which you defend, challenge, or modify that statement with regard to women today in the United States or to women in another country where gender equality might be more problematic.  Pay particular attention to what you see as the “phantoms and obstacles. (pg. 531, The Language of Composition 2e)

I have not taught this type of argument essay yet; the purpose of doing this (which I told the students yesterday), is to do a pre-unit assessment to better understand how students write in this argument genre—this will give me the chance to identify places that make the most sense for instruction when we write arguments after the Christmas holiday, and also where to focus our attention as we read arguments.  I also told them that it won’t count toward their grade, so they can feel free to experiment without the pressure of a grade (these students are motivated by the looming AP exam to do this; in a non-AP course, I may score them holistically or have a smaller point value if there are students in the class who won’t engage because it doesn’t “count,”—I really don’t like motivating with points, but sometimes it is necessary to achieve larger goals).

Next Steps:  Students will read “The Stranger in the Photo is Me” by Donald Murray as we transition to writing memoir as argument.