Sunday, February 24, 2008

I must admit that I have not read anybody's blog over the weekend. I didn't have any access to the internet this weekend to see who else might be writing about this, but I'm certain there are more than a couple of people blogging about this very topic.

Most of us are finishing up the textual analysis unit. This is actually one of my favorite units. I like telling students how media, politicians and friends manipulate them. They appeal to emotion, use logical fallacies and use invalid arguments as solid fact. It's an eye-opener. It is a little bit of a shock to the students, though. They are so used to looking up at three computer monitors and seeing "blonde... brunette... redhead." And, now they have to pay attention to the code (That metaphor brought to you by the Wachowski brothers. If you want a good first act, grab a Wachowski!). Of course, the students are so overwhelmed at having to look at the argumentation techniques rather than the argument that I fear they are missing out on the significance of the assignment. I mean, we are letting them have a relatively easy assignment followed by the hardest assignment in the class. In fact, as soon as the students turn in their memoir, I tell them, "This was the easiest paper you will write in the class; the next one is the hardest." It's a technique I learned from Dr. Ellis. It always gets their attention.

Anyway, the problem I'm running into is that I had a chance to look at the rough drafts of the textual analyses and it broke down to about 1/3 of the class having fantastic textual analyses, 5/9 of the class arguing with or against the author on their chosen topic, and the rest summarizing the article. Now, out of 18 students who turned in their textual analysis drafts, how many turned in a summary?

Seriously, there has to be a way to teach the textual analysis paper so that everybody is at least on the right track for the rough draft. I had a day planned out for a fun activity, MLA citation and a mock election with the remaining candidates. But, after reading the rough drafts, I discovered I had to discuss the problems in the class. I decided to go over the problems and review MLA format in the same day. It was a long 50 minutes.

I've modeled the analysis technique, explained that the issue being argued is a footnote to the topic of the analysis, mentioned in passing and brought up in order to give the reader a context for the rest of the paper. I begged them to not put the paper off until the day before. "Please, I'm begging you, do not procrastinate and read the article on the night before the paper is due!" But, many students openly admitted to this when I told them they have a long way to go with their drafts. They said it almost with a sense of pride, in the same tone they would say, "I can do a lot better when I actually try at something." Then they smile brightly and I try to hide the fact that they just figuratively spit in my face and are now smiling brightly about it.

So, I want to hear from EVERYBODY. What had been the turnout for your analyses? I'd like to know the breakdown of perfect papers, arguing the topic and summary, because I know those are the three categories; they always are. There has to be somebody out there who has 100% analysis, and I want to know your secret!


jenmurvinedwards said...

If there's someone out there with 100%, I'd love to hear about that, too! This assignment is one of my favs to teach, and I did mine first in the course. I found that I had a very large percentage of analsyes (vs. summaries and issue arguments). I wonder, though, if that's because I teach the textual analysis using the texts I'm making them analyze in their papers. In other words, I actually teach ethos, pathos, and logos by addressing each text with one of these models. For example, when I teach ethos, I use the articles by Molly Ivins and Bush for my class discussion. We come up with ways of analyzing the authors' techniques to establish their ethos together as a class. By the end of the unit, I've given each text attention in class, and the student has notes on how to analyze at least one element of that text. I found that a few of my students who took very good notes used much of the analysis we've discussed in class, and some of the A papers took it to the next level by really examining an element of these three components (how the author established authority, whether he/she appealed to emotion more than logic, how the author's style hid logical fallacies, etc.) with the one, chosen text for their analyses. This is a long-winded comment that's pretty much saying, I help the students by analyzing the texts they'll be using along with them in class, so everyone has at least SOMETHING to use in their paper. Hope this helps! I've found this works really well for me. I had only three grades under a B and, not surprisingly, those students were the ones who weren't in class.

techsophist said...

Here is the secret.

Don't count your successes with the initial draft. Count them on the final draft. For many ENG 110 students and even with 210 AND 310, the initial draft is where they get the basics down, and summary can be a big part of the basics. In the next round (a mid-draft? Sometimes I check partway between the initial draft and the final draft using in-class mini-conferences), they can graft in an argumentative structure and use chunks of that extensive summary as evidence for the newly articulated points.

Steve Rucker said...

I'll let you know when I'm done grading my papers, he-he.

The Typist said...

If I did my math correctly, according to the numbers you gave in your article, then 2 of your students summarized the article (6 did a bang-up job, 10 argued with the author). That's certainly a better turnout than what I got on my rough drafts. I felt like 1/3 of the students that turned in rough drafts merely summarized the article.

It seems like the biggest problem with teaching the textual analysis, all across the board, is that students cannot divorce an argument about an issue from the issue itself. I can understand the impulse to want to address the issue rather than the author's technique; at this point, their most natural reaction is to try and mimic the author, so they address the issue themselves. I also think that a lot of students are used to egocentric patterns of writing, where they use articles as prompts for "I believe..." papers. Obviously, that isn't the case here. Basically, they're having problems removing the "I" from their writing.