Today we will start learning the process of entering an academic conversation by completing a close reading of a text, analyzing the situation and appeals not only to understand what the speaker is saying, but also to identify clarifying questions that lead to what is not being said in the text (this addresses a shift in the CCSS standards for grades 11-12 students for reading informational texts). By recognizing what is and isn’t there, students will learn how to enter into the discourse around the topic with new insight. Additionally, students will use this analysis to determine central ideas (plural) and how they interact with each other in a text rather than focusing only on a single meaning or idea in an argument, another CCSS shift for this grade level.
One thing I learned in the writing a rhetorical analysis essay unit was that students are hyper-focused on the idea of one main idea in a text from previous learning experiences, so I want to emphasize that in rhetorical pieces, there are often more than one, and these are useful for entry into the conversation (an important aspect of the AP curriculum).
Last night students read Fareed Zakaria’s “When Will We Learn” and had to complete a reading sheet (Reading sheet.docx) to analyze the rhetorical situation and appeals, citing specific language from the text as support. With that in hand, students will work in pairs and first share their analysis, and then move to the additional task of asking questions and identifying issues he brings up as a process for gaining entry into the conversation (I have them working in pairs today because I want each individual to contribute more to the conversation, and it’s kind of hard to keep quiet in pairs; this is particularly important when they get to the questions and entering the conversation—it would be easy to stay out of it in, say, a group of four). Working in pairs gives me time to listen in to the groups for an initial formative assessment of how they are doing on the analysis, and their ability to ask questions and identify issues.
For the reading sheets, students have fifteen minutes to share their thoughts, and I will ask them to pay particular attention to the questions of purpose, author asserting presence and knowledge (ethos), and organization, because these are the areas they were challenged by yesterday. I’m putting a clock on this part to add some urgency, and because I want the students to focus on the next section, which is the new knowledge part of the lesson.
I will indicate to students to move to the next section, and they will have about twenty minutes to first establish a series of questions of Fareed Zakaria based on the text—terms they’d like to see defined, ask about more information on certain items, clarify statements, etc. Zakaria group instructions After establishing questions and issues, they will then write a statement, based on this data, that they would use to enter the conversation with Fareed Zakaria.
They will share this with the group as part of our class conversation which comes next.
In this part of the lesson students will first share their conversations about purpose, ethos, and organization before moving to entering the conversation. Although students will have discussed the rhetorical situation and appeals from the reading sheet with their partner, I think it is always a good thing to set the context before moving into deeper full-class discussion. Students can reference this, and it gives me a chance to clarify or add any detail that may have been missed by the students. In this case, it also gives me a chance to emphasize the broader definition of ethos discussed yesterday, as well as provide another model of identifying organizational points.
Once we’ve discussed the situation and general purpose of Zakaria’s argument, I will have each pair share a question they wrote and their statement for entering the conversation. When they state their question, I will recast it as a specific type of question (defining terms, for example) to encourage a common language for the classroom discourse as we go forward. Additionally, I will add explanation of how this fills gaps in the text where the writer may have left ideas ambiguous. With their statements, I will listen for evidence that shows it originates from the text (rather than a tangential opinion) and ask clarifying questions to help establish that if necessary, again modeling this skill. After they’ve shared, other students will have the opportunity to comment before moving on to the next group.
Next Steps: Tonight students will analyze two visual texts concerning education that are in our textbook and answer the questions provided there. I considered having them continue with the reading sheets, but decided to go with the questions from the text instead because the writing is a little less intensive (it is Booster Week, and many of my students are involved in constructing class floats for the parade and other activities, so it is time to reduce the work load for a couple days). Additionally, textbook questions tend to be written more formally, and more like standardized test questions, so doing these on occasion gives students some practice answering these.