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7.3: Suggested Assignments and Activities

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    Possible assignments and activities by chapter

    Note to instructors: these ideas are not intended to be comprehensive, but as possible starting places that may be useful to teachers new to the field, to integrated reading, writing, research, and reasoning, or to this level; we know you have your own themes, routines, and tasks for your students.

    1: Critical Reading

    Provide a reading from a current newspaper, a TED talk with a transcript, an excerpt of a textbook, or whatever reading the class is already assigned. Ask students to do any of the following with the text:

    • Before reading, students skim the text and do the 4 Ps, first on their own and then with a partner/small group
    • Before reading, students work with a partner/group to add ideas to a KWL+ table. Some possible ways to do this:
      • make and print a handout with a table as in the chapter
      • project the handout on a whiteboard and have students write on the board
      • have them use Google docs to collaborate
      • simply have them make their own table on paper
    • For classwork/homework, they read the text and complete the second two columns, then discuss on return or in an online discussion.
    • Questioning for active reading: Before reading, students skim the text and discuss their answers to the "Before Reading" questions with a partner/small group. For classwork/homework, ask them to choose a few questions from the "During Reading" and "After Reading" columns to write answers to, in an online discussion or as notes to bring to a class discussion. Also ask them to add their own questions. These answers can serve as the start of response journals, essays, debates, etc.
    • Students annotate the text, alone, in pairs, or in groups, using one of these methods:
      • traditional pen on paper
      • Perusall
      • GoogleDocs comments feature
    • Students find the topic, main idea, supporting reasons, and details, and discuss in groups.
    • Jigsaw: Provide small groups of students with 2-4 different short readings on the same topic. They read, find the topic, main idea, supporting reasons, and details in their "home groups," then rearrange into groups with students who started with different texts. Then the new groups compare the main ideas/positions of the different texts.
    • Students identify examples of ethos, pathos, and logos in the text in pairs/groups. They take turns reading an example they have found of one rhetorical appeal and having other teams guess which type it represents.
    • Gallery walk: pairs or small groups of students write a summary of the text on poster paper or on a whiteboard. Then they circulate and discuss the accuracy of the other groups' summaries.
    • Students choose a few powerful quotes from the reading and explain why they chose each. Collect the quotes, through an online discussion, a Google Doc, or on poster paper. Use Socrative, Poll Everywhere, the Zoom poll feature, or simply post-its/tallies to have students vote on which are the most powerful quotes, or which quote best supports an assertion.
    • Students complete an analysis paragraph or reading response journal, then share and discuss.
    • Students post reading responses with quotes and analysis and respond to each other in an online discussion. Here is an example of instructions for Reading Response canvas discussions.

    2: Organization and Cohesion

    • Students vote on the best thesis statement out of a few choices, all on the same topic, and justify their choices.
    • Students read an essay with the thesis statement redacted and try to write one that fits.
    • Students read the introduction and/or conclusion paragraphs from each other's papers, from a corpus such as the Michigan Corpus of Upper-Level Papers, or from the beginnings of chapters in a book or articles in a magazine. They categorize the type of hook or "food for thought" the author used, and evaluate the effectiveness/suggest alternatives.
    • Students do a gallery walk of sample introduction paragraphs and mark which ones do and do not have strong hooks, clear background knowledge, and argumentative thesis statements.
    • Students write their thesis statement on papers or a Google document. Together, the class analyzes the statements to decide if each is arguable, specific, and not just personal opinion, and comes up with ideas for improving those that need work.
    • Students analyze body paragraphs written by classmates.
    • Students read an essay with the topic sentences redacted and try to write ones that fit.
    • Students do a reverse-outline with their own or another essay: make a copy of the draft (in a word program). Delete everything except the thesis statement and topic sentences. Does the remaining skeleton read like one logical paragraph (except the concession/counterargument ones - they might be a little illogical as stand-alone sentences)?
    • Students create a reverse outline of their work, then use it to give a mini presentation to their peers. Finally, they take notes on areas that were difficult to prepare or confusing for peers. Alternatively, students can draw a picture of their essay showing the connections between different parts, and perhaps even creating some bridges.
    • Students read any text and identify/categorize the words that create cohesion.
    • Students read each other's drafts and identify places where transitions, demonstrative pronouns + summarizing nouns could add cohesion.
    • Students read each other's drafts or list of topic sentences and help generate possible bridges.
    • Students visit stations with key questions for revising each section of their essay.

    3: Research

    • Example short research paper assignment.docx
    • Loyola Marymount University has an excellent webpage with activities to walk students through the steps of developing a research topic.
    • Students bring or post their preliminary topic choices, then work in pairs/small groups to explore and refine their research questions
    • Students work in pairs or small groups to develop a list of keywords, synonyms, and subject search terms for their research questions.
    • Students evaluate a few sources on the same topic using this Source Evaluation Checklist from Excelsior OWL.
    • As a preliminary step toward a research paper, assign an annotated bibliography
    • Students write their research topics and key words on a forum or poster paper for a gallery walk. Peers respond by brainstorming their own key words to add.
    • Students write their preliminary thesis on a discussion form or poster paper for a gallery walk. Peers write what they already know about this topic. Students use that information to plan how much background information to present and how best to persuade readers.

    4: Integrating Evidence

    • Students find and identify different types of evidence in an article
    • Students identify and evaluate the in-text citations in classmates' drafts
    • Students choose the best text evidence from an article to support a point.
    • Students practice introducing and explaining text evidence in a reading-response journal
    • Students compare an original text to a student paraphrase or summary and evaluate for possible plagiarism
    • Kinesthetic introduction to MLA/Works Cited pages: Give students an essay and the citations for that essay cut into strips. Have students organize the citations in the way that makes the most sense to them and then check to see if it is correct. The goal is for students to inductively realize that connection between an in-text citation and Works Cited page citation so they can see how organizing the Works Cited page alphabetically by last name is logical for the reader.
    • Format Fixing Gallery Walk: Print out the first pages and the Works Cited pages of several student paper drafts in progress (with names redacted). Tape them around the walls. Briefly review the rules for general manuscript formatting and formatting the Works Cited page. Students circulate in small groups and put post-its with errors on classmates' papers. Then the authors collect their own papers with the post-its still attached.
    • Students are given a paper draft that is missing evidence, as well as a few sample texts that they have already read that can be used to provide evidence. In groups, students make posters by physically cutting out quotations from the texts and pasting them onto the sample paper, adding introductions, square brackets, ellipses, and citations as appropriate. Then, students review the posters from other groups and discuss the different choices that were made.

    5: Analyzing Arguments

    • Slideshow: Review of Rhetorical Appeals: Logos, Pathos, or Ethos
    • Students read a current opinion piece, TED talk with transcript, excerpt from a book, or classmates' essays.
      • They identify examples of ethos, pathos, and logos in pairs/groups or as an online discussion.
      • Teams take turns reading out an example they have found of one rhetorical appeal and having other teams guess which type it represents.
      • Students identify/explain how a writer uses similes, metaphors, imagery, and narrative examples to build pathos in expository texts. They add these elements to their own writing.
      • Students identify and categorize ways the writer uses ethos
      • Students uncover the logical syllogisms implicit in the argument
      • Students find and explain any logical fallacies. [Note: this may work better if you provide a text that clearly uses one or more fallacies.]
      • Students identify the places in a text where the author is explaining other perspectives. They point out the language patterns that indicate a change in perspective. They discuss whether the writer is making a concession, refuting a counterargument, or a combination.
      • Students debate a topic and then use the most persuasive arguments to develop their counterargument.
      • Instructor presents a statement such as "we will have more homework in this class, unless you can convince me not to." Students work in groups to prepare their most convincing arguments. After they present, students and instructor analyze what made the arguments convincing (ie, ethos, pathos, and logos; concession and counterargument; and/or hedging language). Then, students review their essay drafts to see if they use these same factors in their writing.
      • Students write the main argument of their paper on paper (for a gallery walk) or in an online forum or record a voice forum. Peers respond to classmates pointing out possible areas where someone might disagree. Students then use that feedback to develop their concession and counterargument.
      • Students identify hedging language and add it to their own writing.

    6: Clarity and Style

    • Students read a current opinion piece, TED talk with transcript, excerpt from a book, or classmates' essays.
      • They identify features of academic voice or compare two texts to determine which one uses more academic voice.
      • They identify places where stronger and more specific word choices could improve a sentence.
      • They identify places where the active voice could improve a sentence.
      • They identify examples of wordiness and revise. Challenge: reduce the word count of a paragraph by x number, maintaining or even improving the communication of the full meaning.
      • They identify the tone of a text and point out specific clues that indicate that tone.
      • They analyze the text for sentence variety. Challenge: Take a paragraph made of all simple sentences, and combine the sentences in the most effective ways.
    • Students read a series of short articles on the same topic such as the Suggested Supplementary Readings. Students compare the tone of each and make a list explaining what factors influence the tone.
    • In groups, students take a short academic text and "translate" it into another genre like a social media post. Then, they take a non-academic text on the same topic such as a social media post and "translate" it into academic voice. Afterwards, they reflect on the changes they made to each and review some of their own writing for areas to tighten the academic voice.
    • Students trade paragraphs from their drafts and revise the peer's paragraph to improve the word choice, academic voice, wordiness, tone, and sentence variety. Then, the original writer examines the revision to see if their meaning is intact and decides which of the changes to include in the final draft.

    General class activities that can be adapted to different content

    Example assignments and rubrics

    This page titled 7.3: Suggested Assignments and Activities is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gabriel Winer & Elizabeth Wadell (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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