Posts Tagged ‘quotations’

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Thinking Gray

posted: 12.9.09 by Barclay Barrios

I recently chatted with a group of teachers at a nearby institution who were going to test the readings in Emerging, Appiah’s “Making Conversation” and “The Primacy of Practice.”  One of the things we talked about is that students always want to flatten what they read, a particular problem when it comes to essays with subtle and complex ideas like Appiah’s.  After reading these selections, students will want to say, “We should all just get along,” or “We just need to talk more and that will solve things.”  And, yes, those reflect Appiah’s ideas.  But things are not so simple, so black and white.  Sometimes the challenge of teaching writing is getting students to think gray—to deal with the messiness of complexity, and to think their own way through it.

I shared with those teachers some of the techniques I use to get students thinking gray.  For example, the class will gravitate to certain sections of an essay or certain quotations; these will probably be the key sections of the reading, but they will also probably be the ones students “get.”  I try to direct students to the ignored parts of an essay.  If a section feels unimportant, then why is it there?  What does it do for the argument?  Along these lines, I ask peer editors to find quotations from the essay that challenge a student author’s argument.

But sometimes the best way to think gray is to pay very close attention to the text.  That was my suggestion for Appiah.  Students will want to dismiss him as all “kumbaya” and “Let’s all get along.”  But then I direct them to a small but crucial quotation from Appiah’s text: “Cosmopolitanism is the name not of the solution but of the challenge.”  Asking students to explain what Appiah means, to account for this quotation within his larger argument, to see cosmopolitanism as both a challenge and a solution… that is the stuff of thinking gray.

What are your methods for engaging students in a “messy” reading?

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Categories: Argument, Critical Reading, Critical Thinking, Emerging, Rhetorical Situation, Working with Sources
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The Super Secret Formula: Still Super If Not So Secret

posted: 11.6.09 by Barclay Barrios

When I think back on all of the little class activities I’ve developed in my time as a teacher I don’t think any have spread or persisted as much as the Super Secret Formula.  It’s on my mind because one of our former teachers (now in Georgia pursuing her PhD) mentioned using it with success in a recent e-mail.  That same week the waiter at my favorite breakfast place (who also happens to be a freshman at school) also mentioned loving it.

So what is the Super Secret Formula?  Well, simply, it’s

Cl > I > Q1 > E > T > Q2 > Ce

Students start their paragraphs with “Cl,” a sentence that states the claim of the paragraph.  Then with “I,” they introduce a quotation from the first author, adding a sentenced that explains it (“E”).  The next sentence makes a transition (“T”) to a quotation from a different author, “Q2.”  Finally, students take a sentence or two to explain the connection between the two quotations (“Ce”) and how it supports the argument they’re making in the paper.

The concrete structure of a “formula” provides a good scaffolding for students to build a solid paragraph that works with quotation use but the risk is, of course, that all their paragraphs will becomes (literally) formulaic.  When using this exercise, I start by having groups use the formula to make a sample paragraph.  Then I challenge groups to come up with other formulas for working with quotations.

This is my Golden Tool of my Lore Bag—it always seems to work and students love it.  I think of course they love having a concrete pattern and set of instructions to learn how to think connectively and thus to synthesize while working with quotations.  But I always find that taking the writing class out of the writing classroom has some near magic effect.  There’s something about a scientific-looking formula that taps into some other region of students’ brains and bypasses any anxiety they may have about writing.

So, still super if not so secret.

(If you’d like to see more ideas for working with quotations, read my older post “5 ways I help students to work with quotations.“)

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Integrating sources, Student Success, Working with Sources
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Draw the Argument

posted: 1.7.08 by Barclay Barrios

Switching to a visual register is a great way to get students thinking about a text in new ways. When discussing an essay, put students into groups and ask them to draw the argument, finding quotations from the text to support their representation. Groups can then re-draw these on the board to prompt class discussion.

Listen to this Post! An Audio Bits Podcast (0:31 min)

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Categories: Argument, Integrating sources, Visual Rhetoric
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Colorful Quotation Marks

posted: 12.3.07 by Barclay Barrios

Students often forget to use single quotation marks for quotations within quotations. Have students search for quotation marks using their word processor. Ask them to find the first one and change the font color for that quotation mark to green; then have them find the next one and change it to red. As students repeat this process, alternating green and red, they build a visual record of where quotations start and end. They can then review their drafts to make sure they didn’t unintentionally end a quotation by failing to use a single quotation mark.

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Categories: Integrating sources, Proofreading/Editing, Punctuation & Mechanics
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5 ways I help students to work with quotation

posted: 6.15.07 by Barclay Barrios

When I teach expository writing I tend to spend a lot of time helping students use quotations effectively to support their arguments. Too often, students just sprinkle quotations throughout their text without providing any sense of how those pieces of text relate to their larger argument. I have a few strategies I use to get them to engage the text closely in ways that support what they want to say:

1. The Super Secret Formula
This activity is designed to help students build a paragraph that works with two authors in support of the paper’s argument. This exercise has to be one of the most successful activities I’ve ever created. Not only is it the one that seems to help students the most but it’s also the one that other teachers seem to bring into their classrooms the most often. The Super Secret Formula is:

Cl > I > Q1 > E > T > Q2 > Ce

Students start their paragraphs with “Cl,” a sentence that states the claim of the paragraph. Then, with “I,” they introduced a quotation from the first author, adding a sentenced that explains it (“E”). The next sentence makes a transition (“T”) to a quotation from a different author, “Q2.” Finally, students take a sentence or two to explain the connection between the two quotations (“Ce”) and how it supports the argument they’re making in the paper.

The concrete structure of a “formula” provides a good scaffolding for students to build a solid paragraph that works with quotation but the risk is, of course, that all their paragraphs will becomes (literally) formulaic. When I use this exercise in the classroom, I start by having groups use the formula to make a sample paragraph. Then I challenge groups to come up with other formulas for working with quotation.

2. Close Reading
Sometimes students have difficulty analyzing a quotation; pieces of text will be sprinkled through a paper seemingly with the assumption that their relationship to the argument is self-evident. Here’s an exercise that can help students with this problem. Ask students to write or type a quotation they want to work with. Then ask them to underline the key sentences or phrases of the quotation, the parts that they feel are most important for the point they’re trying to make. Then have them construct sentences that use these pieces of the quotation and that explain how they relate to their arguments.

3. Facts and Ideas
Quotations that only contain statements of fact provide little opportunity for analysis; quotations with ideas do. Bring in examples of each kind to class for discussion and then during peer review ask students to identify each quotation in the papers they’re reading as either fact or idea. This exercise will give them practice distinguishing between the two and will provide useful feedback for paper authors on what type of quotation they’re favoring.

4. Short and Long
Another problem students seem to have in working with quotation is choosing quotations of appropriate length: they might choose quotations that are too short and thus don’t provide enough support or they might choose very long quotations and then say little about them. Have students look through their drafts and determine the length of each quotation by noting how many typed lines it takes. They can use the resulting report to reflect on their tendencies with quotation: do they always use very short ones? Always use very long ones? After the exercise challenge students to use a variety of lengths in their papers.

5. Peer Review Boost
During peer review, ask students to suggest at least three quotations that could be added to support the paper. This exercise will encourage paper authors to use more quotation while helping peer editors to dig deeper into the text to locate quotations that can help the paper authors.

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Categories: Citing Sources, Integrating sources, Peer Review
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Conjunctions and Quotations

posted: 12.18.06 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the section of the handbook on conjunctions. Put the students into groups and ask each group to find quotations from the current essay and from a previous essay that seem to have some relation to each other. Ask the groups to express this relationship using only one conjunction.

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Categories: Collaboration, Finding Sources, Grammar & Style
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