Tag Archive for Argumentation

Summer Songs: Defend, Challenge or Qualify

This week we’ve looked at the social/cultural implications of summer songs and the viral video “knock offs” they produce, and we’ve had fun.  I’ve watched College Humor’s “Some Study That I Used to Know” so many times that I’m starting to get dirty looks from the man that lives with me.  Once is funny.  Twice is humorous.  23 times is nothing short of some kind of personal psychosis.  Even I understand my infinite loop is a problem.  So how do we turn all of this pop culturally exploration into solid argumentation? And how do I stop listening to these songs?

Answering the second question is impossible so I’ll try question the first instead.  An excellent way to end a study of the songs of summer is to write a speech that defends challenges or qualifies.  You know we love UPENN’s 60-second lectures.  What could be better for a brief end of the year or start to next year.  I often like to ask students to write the side of the argument they find most difficult to discuss.

Ask students to use their essential questions (not about specific songs) or have them choose from a list that you create.

Examples

  • What does summer music suggest about values in American culture?
  • How does America’s love of pop music define us as a society?
  • Why do Americans feel compelled to define summer as carefree and wild?

Then have students construct their own speech.  Have them video these speeches and post them to Youtube or Tumblr or even Voice Thread.  It’s a nice way to keep them all in one place.  While you of course have to view them all, consider assigning several and evaluating them in class according to your own rubric.

You can also have students choose one of the songs in contention for Summer Song 2012 and write in defense of it. So, what about the contenders?  Vulture makes the case that there are five by the following artists: Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen, Usher, Rhianna and Katy Perry.  Ask students to choose one of the songs and argue in writing or speech why it should reign this summer.  If you’re feeling tricky, instead ask them to pick a song, currently in rotation.

Elements to Consider Including for an In Defense of Speech or Essay

  1. Ask that they include certain rhetorical elements-anaphora, metaphor, allusion, etc.
  2. Ask that they draft a proposal for their speech (title, topic, description, etc.)
  3. Ask that they draft a speech.  Provide feedback on the speech.
  4. Discuss public speaking tips.
  5. Consider allowing students to evaluate and critique speeches when they are presented, with parameters, of course. You can do this by creating a simple checklist/rubric for students or asking them to SOAPSTone each speaker.  Offer several categories for winning:
    1. Most Convincing
    2. Cleverest Title & Topic
    3. Best Line

Brain Pickings: Posts with Video

What draws me to online resources for the classroom like Brain Pickings is the multimedia experience a single post can offer students.  While it’s true that video cannot be the only way we teach students to interact with the world, short, meaningful videos can help enrich the social commentary that student construct within their writing and discussion.

Part of asking students to become digital citizens means requiring them to consider how video, text and images overlap within writing online.  Brain Pickings offers a thoughtful way to incorporate this skill into a humanities style classroom.  The examples below are just a starting point and are meant to offer you some choices in teaching rhetoric, texts or moral/ethical debates.  You can easily find posts that better serve your needs depending on your curriculum simply by subscribing to the weekly newsletter or searching the archives.

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules Animated in Stop Motion

This post is an appropriate supplement to Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  There are several other Brain Pickings posts referenced, as well.  Consider having student explore/research the topic via these hyperlinks.  The video is a wonderful argument about food via food.  Consider the questions below for written response or discussion.

“Food Rules” by Michael Pollan – RSA/Nominet Trust competition from Marija Jacimovic on Vimeo.

  1. What elements of the video are the most engaging or clever?  Explain your reasoning.
  2. What necessity is there for a visual representation of this nature?  Why not simply use both audio and video from Michael Pollan?
  3. Identify Pollan’s argument via the narration.  Identify the video’s argument via its content.

You may even consider including the Brain Pickings post entitled “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption.”

Six Vintage Inspired Animations on Critical Thinking

Teaching logical fallacies can be difficult.  Students struggle to understand where/when they exist because they are inexperience and often believe most information is true.  This particular post includes a series of animated videos that teach logic and logical fallacies.  The non-sequitur and straw man videos are especially clear in teaching and could easily be posted for students to watch.

Non-Sequitur 

Straw Man 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

This post is a convergence of teaching the importance of empathy, action/volunteerism, entrepreneurship, global citizenship and literacy.  Use this multimedia post to teach students about the importance of literacy and personal action.  Questions below consider all aspects of the post.

  1. Why adapt this type of story from a memoir and turn it into an illustrated children’s book?
  2. What argument is to be found in the actual images assembled in the Brain Pickings post
  3. What argument is made within the post about this type of entrepreneurship and literacy?  Discuss the type or responsibility being advocated.
  4. View the video.  Discuss the mixed media is relies upon.  What is the effect of using the books illustrations, interviews and real video?
  5. Discuss the purpose of the video.  Does it accomplish that goal?

Encourage students to explore the We Give Books website.  Much like Free Rice, students, teacher, parents, etc. can read books online and then have books donated for no personal cost to several charities.

“Best of” Lists: Photos

iStockphoto.com

It’s no secret how much we love using images to teach students about arguments.  Over the last several months we posted about image analysis, advertisements, and our favorite image resources from the National Archives and Library of Congress. While images can’t replace text, they can engage even the most reluctant students.

We would be remiss in our discussion of annual Best of 2011 lists if we didn’t show you some of the best images of the past year.   Today’s resources will give you a starting point as you look towards implementing image resources in your class

The Big Picture

As a basic classroom resource for teaching students how to annotate images, this photo blog is invaluable.  However, as 2011 comes to a close, they have assembled three different image collections all under the title The Year in Pictures.  You will have to sift through the images in each collection to find useful resources but the time you invest is well worth it.

Annual “Best of” Lists: Overview

In my experience, no matter how long winter break, the month of January is difficult.  The first day back is crowd control and everything afterwards is silent teenage resignation.  And it’s not just them.  January is just a “taste” of the most difficult months that are yet to come.  It can be tough for anyone, teacher or student, to be enthused.

iStockphoto.com

In order to beat the winter blahs, January blues, and lack of snow days, the posts this week will offer quick “mini” lessons to ring in 2012.  How?  By examining the “best” of 2011. What consumed us?  Who were we nationally and internationally?  What did we say, eat, tweet, produce, read, watch, experience and foul up?

Annual best of lists teach us more than what was hip (or not).  They are cultural snapshots, time capsules.  This week we give you our picks with the hopes that some of these lists will offer good classroom discussions and student based writing about those big picture arguments.  Trust me, you won’t have to do all the talking.

Need a bit of extra enticing?  Checkout Time Magazine’s Top 10 Everything 2011 in advance of tomorrow’s post.  There are 54 lists total.  Fair word of warning: you will lose track of time.

Weekend Culture: Room for Debate


The New York Times
Room for Debate is a wonderful resource that advances critical thinking and writing.  Each week they cover several topics and invite “experts” to discuss their opinions in regards to a specific area of focus.  You can follow their RSS feed or their tweets.  Topics range from technology to education to government.

Instead of simply pitting experts against each other these pieces help show complexity of argument.  These topics are current and also of high interest to students and teachers.

Some favorites from the recent past include:

For each organizing question multiple voices in the form of doctors, lawyers, journalists, authors, students, parents, etc. weigh in forming a textual dialogue.  These “debaters” do not shout or wildly point fingers.  The thoughtfully engage in the topic based on their own experience and observations.

As a result they offer a strong foundation for helping students form their own perspectives.  It would be unreasonable and too time consuming to weigh an entire class of students down with only one topic.  Instead consider the following:

  • Create a list of past topics from which they can choose and then organize students into small groups based on topic/question.
  • Have them read, annotate, and create a list of observations.
  • Discuss in small groups and/or discuss as a class.
  • Have students take the role of an expert and construct their own short response to the topic.
    • Ask them to defend, challenge or qualify the topic.
    • Ask them to concede other points of view before beginning with their own.
    • Ask that they use their own reading, observation, experience etc. to inform their writing.

This type of exercise requires them to practice argumentation, concession, critical thinking, marshalling of evidence and organization.  It also requires them to read experts before “jumping” to conclusions that they cannot prove.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how to use Room for Debate as a means by which students can respond to their peers.  Here’s a preview of the debate topic: How the Future Looks from High School

Writing and Voice: Day Three

Quite often a student asks me why I can’t specifically give them a formula for how to improve their voice as a writer.  Now of course I can talk about style and formatting.  I can even discuss punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice.  But ultimately, the right answer is that there is no right answer.  This is the type of response that drives a teenager insane.  INSANE.  I know this because I’ve watched it happened directly in front of me.

The fact that everyone can have their own style/voice stymies them.  It can’t possibly be true.  It just can’t.  I must be withholding, joking or tricking them.  It’s easy to have them identify the difference in writer’s voice between Hemingway and Fitzgerald but it’s not so simple when they are being asked to come up with their own voice.   I mean, their must be some kind of surefire checklist that gets them an A.  No?

That’s why there’s nothing like This American Life.  Nothing.  It’s one of those radio shows that you don’t just listen to.  It’s an emotional investment every week.  For our purpose today it is also a lesson in teaching students about voice and point of view.  Each week the host, Ira Glass, highlights a topic and then includes anywhere from 2-8 acts from other commentators about that topic.

Some of my favorites include What I learned from Television, Return to Childhood and Notes on Camp.   Transcripts are available for all of the shows along with the audio.  All you have to is select episodes and acts.  (A whole show runs 59 minutes, and not all of it is appropriate for some students.)

What this offers you is the opportunity to provide examples of “stories” all on the same topic but wide ranging in terms of their approach.  It’s great for creating voice in personal essay, college application essays, even for working on how to create meaningful introductions and conclusions in academic writing.

 

Using only the Prologue

Annotating and Discussing

  • Each episode starts with a prologue that includes a reflection by Glass.  Prologues are short so give students the transcript and have them annotate for voice, style, and point of view.
  • Have them discuss his argument, voice, and point of view as a class.

Writing

  • Have them construct an opposing point of view to Glass’s using his voice and style. 
  • Have them add another paragraph to the argument he’s already constructed in the prologue.   

 

Using the Prologue and “Acts”

  • Each episode starts with a prologue that includes a reflection by Glass.  Prologues are short so give students the transcript and have them annotate for voice, style and point of view.
  • After students have annotated and you’ve all discussed as a class, have students write a short piece about This American Life’s theme of the week.
  • Then, have students listen to one of the individual “acts” following along with the transcript while they mark for voice again.
  • As a class discuss/evaluate the speakers voice and the format of the “act.”
  • Now, have students rewrite their piece based on some of the characteristics found in the first “act” you’ve played them.

Repeat with as many acts as you enjoy/have time to use in class.