Writing Analysis: Day Two

A few weeks ago we posted on creating group annotations on an image.  However, this method could also be used for developing and enriching analysis with a few simple tweaks. 

After the students have begun the writing process and have a rough idea of what they will be discussing in their essay, prep them to bring one quotation for their essay.  This could be modified into just a reference, but I think it works better with a quotation because it is something concrete for a silent yet interactive activity like this.

Place their desks into pods of four.  Once they have assumed their seats, provide them a document broken up into four quadrants.  They will write both the topic of that particular body paragraph and their example in the top left square.  The topic is the main idea they are trying to prove in their paragraph.  This will help provide their peers guidance when providing analysis. 

They will then pass their piece of paper clockwise and receive one from their peer.  Without speaking to their peer, they will need to read the topic and the example.  Then, announce they have four minutes for paraphrasing and summarizing the example in the top right box.  Their paraphrasing should be 1-2 sentences.  Then they will pass clockwise.  Now they will have an image with the top two boxes completed.  They will need to take a few moments to read through the provided comments but cannot change anything that has been written.  They will just need to work with what has been provided and add onto it.  Announce that in the bottom left box they will record how the example connects to the topic of the paragraph.  This should be a 2-3 sentence explanation.  Finally, the students will pass clockwise again.  Again, announce that the student is charged with reading what the first three students have written and follow their stream of thought.  Their task is to consider the significance or the “so what? Who cares?” about the example in 2-3 sentences. This will vary greatly depending on the topic and the example.  You might tell the students to examine the critical context of the example and what it reveals about life, society, human nature, etc. or, if the essay is more of a literary analysis ask the students to analyze how this example connects to the work as a whole (like the characters, a major theme, etc.).  The students will pass one more time so they have their original example.  Give them a few minutes to read through the comments and see if they make sense and reached the student’s objective for the paragraph.  If not, then maybe the student needs to think through the topic more fully to ensure he/she can communicate it clearly.  If a student cannot accurately summarize a topic then this might signal a larger problem that needs to be resolved before fully committing to the topic. 

                What I like about this is that it teaches students a systematic way to go about approaching an example.  It isn’t as simple as just giving the example and talking about it.  The analysis needs to be streamlined and cohesive and progressive.  The ideas should build upon one another, which is what this format suggests. I also like how this image then creates a type of graphic organizer for the student.  They might not use the exact same language/words that their peers provided, but they can follow the path created by their peers.  Finally, I also like how this indicates how thorough analysis of an example should be.  From beginning to end they should be devoting 5-8 sentences; this is a shock for many of my students who think 2-3 sentences suffice for thorough development. 

                Like suggested during our week of annotations, this could easily be converted into a group activity where the pods of students consult with one another about the topic/example and then pass the example to another group, not just clockwise within their group.  This would be ideal for a smaller class (because students can work in pairs or groups of three) or one in which students are struggling and might need a small group discussion to fully understand the analytical process.  The only problem with this is then they are analyzing multiple examples for different topics and it might become a bit confusing. 

Photo from Susan NYC and jjpacres.

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