Establishing Evaluative Criteria and Using an Outline (for The Review)

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SWBAT establish their own, specific evaluative standards for a book review -- that is they will label or identify those things by which they will judge the quality of their "choice" books.

Big Idea

... clear criteria is the key to "evaluative" writing ...

Introduction and Context

12 minutes

As we discussed during the course of the previous lessons, reviews of any stripe have in common the development of evaluative criteria -- that is the writer establishes the terms by which she will evaluate the work at hand, and she, well, sets about doing it ...

In a way the lesson regarding the specific content of film reviews is also about "evaluative" criteria, namely what "features" do film reviews have?  And if film reviews should have certain features doesn't follow, then, that absent these features a review is just not what it should be?  I think this is much the same case with a book review ...

So, this lesson has two essential components: (1) establishing criteria for evaluation; (2) using that criteria at the outline level to begin the Book Review.  In order to bring these two elements together, I ask students to carefully read my annotated copy of a review of The Thin Blue Line from The Washington Post.  It generally takes eight - ten minutes to read this piece in class, and, when students are finished, I gloss my annotations, emphasizing Hinson's structure, which I point out is instructive of their current assignment.  Hal Hinson is a model of what their review of their "choice book" might read like.

Finally, I point out that, like Hinson, the highest level of achievement for this type of writing is for it to "transcend" the text is criticizes, namely that it stands in and of itself as a piece of good writing!  A good Book Review is more than only "about" a book.

I have uploaded a .pdf copy of three excellent, final reviews to this lesson's resources, as it could be instructive to see where this is headed ...

Establishing Criteria: a Paired Activity

18 minutes

After the lesson introduction, I pair students for a short, collaborative activity.  It is time to discuss the criteria they may use for their reviews, so I ask them to "put two heads together" before we "report out" to the whole class, gathering the data in a public Google Doc for our reference.

I post the following questions on the classroom screen, and ask, simply, that each pair appoint a group-recorder who will make notes for the question answers.  (They make their notes on a Doc or on paper -- it makes little difference for this activity.)

Here are the questions to ask:

  • What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your choice book?
  • What positives and negatives does your choice book have?
  • Was this book entertaining?  Enriching?  Worth reading?  Why or why not?
  • What qualities, for you, are absolutely necessary for a book to be considered "good"?
  • Which two or three of the reviews you discovered yesterday prove most useful for understanding your choice book?  (Write/type the domain names.)
  • What further research might you need to conduct in order to more fully understand or appreciate your choice book?  (Consider background for setting, on the author, or on the genre/sub-genre for the book itself.)

(I'll mention here that these questions are suggested from a fabulous text for college-level writing, The McGraw-Hill Guide to Writing for College, Writing for Life 3rd ed.)

I circulate around the lab, encouraging students to participate.  (As a good rule of thumb for pacing, I ask for about two minutes on each question for a total of 12 min.)

Once the pairs have generated sufficient evidence/data, I fire up a Google Doc that I will share publicly later.  Then, I simply rotate through each pair, asking the group-recorder to share from the individual lists as I build one for the class to review collectively. 

Using an Outline to "Jumpstart" Your Review

15 minutes

After we have exhausted all of the comments from the pairs', individual discussions and I have posted the mass, note Doc on the classroom screen, I ask students to revisit the lesson we completed regarding the "features of a Review."  To review, recently we established the features or aspects of film reviews that are also common to book reviews -- in short the essential "components" of a Review.

I remind students of this lesson by posting link(s) to the public Docs where I recorded their comments from the earlier lesson.  (For reference, you may want to review the links yourself -- here's for spring of 2013 and here's for fall of 2013.)

Now with this rich soup of info. -- the mass criteria Doc on the screen and the "features" loaded in tabs on each student 'puter -- I distribute an outline suggested from The McGraw-Hill Guide, Writing for College, and I ask students to begin conceptualizing the structure of their own review.  (The outline in .png format is included in this lesson's resources.)  I point out the relationship between all of the supporting info. we have recently developed: (1) the "features" docs are the broad strokes of the review -- that is each review should include such features; (2) the "evaluative criteria" fit inside these "features."

Finally, I suggest that students simply "crib" from the McGraw-Hill outline suggestion -- that is set-up a "template" in their first draft Doc according to the sections as suggested from this outline.  As students begin to tackle the first draft, I circulate to encourage focused work until the bell rings.