Why this workshop?

Students often struggle to read slowly or carefully enough to make the connections we hope they will make between texts. This workshops is designed to help them read more deeply and begin to make the connections necessary for effective reading, writing, and class discussion in the DSEM — and in other classes.

Outcomes

Students will have a better sense of how to get more information out of their readings, make connections between readings, and remember more of that information so they can contribute to class discussions and write more effective  papers. The instructor will also get a better sense of how well students read and where more time needs to be spent to help them trace connections.

This assignment can lead directly into a draft of paper #1 or paper #2. If students enjoy it, a larger 4-person panel presentation in “character” can help them prepare for revision of paper #3.

The Workshop

  1. As homework, ask students to write one paragraph in which they place the reading for today in conversation with a prior reading in the class — you can specify the reading or offer 2 or 3 alternatives. [See assignment below].
  2. Begin the session with a brief discussion of the ways ideas circulate in conversation with others, and the importance of seeing assigned readings as part of the overall conversation of the class rather than isolated nuggets of fact or opinion. Then explain the workshop. [10 minutes]
  3. In groups of four [see logistics below], ask students to write a brief dialogue between two of the authors you have read this semester with two students working on each author (character). They should imagine the characters in a cafe (or bar) arguing about the topic at hand and focus on the main argument each would make and how the other would respond. Each author/character should speak in the voice of the text you read and express the opinions expressed in the text; however, the students can decide what aspect of the topic they discuss. [35-40 minutes]
  4. When they finish drafting, one student from each pair should be elected “actor” and the two should rehearse the conversation/argument with the other team members providing stage directions and making revisions to the text as appropriate. Encourage them to be as dramatic as they like as long as they remain in the voice of the author. [10 minutes]
  5. Allow time at the end [about 15-20 minutes] for each group to act out their dialogue in front of the class. If there is time, invite classmates to identify who is speaking in each case and to assess the accuracy of the argument.
  6. Take five minutes at the end of class for students to write a brief reflection on what they learned about reading and making connections and what strategies they might use in the future. You can collect this and the dialogue, for not.

Variations

Select one image, example, case study, or quotation from the reading and ask students to explain how the author uses it to support the larger argument of the piece. The class conversation could then be the “author” explaining it to a curious student (using his or her own words and creative questions from the “student”).

Alternatively, select an image, example, case study, or quotation and ask students to consider how two of the authors they have studied would interpret it (this can also work if two authors use the same image, example, etc). The conversation then takes the form of the authors (“characters”) discussing the image/example/etc and offering interpretations.

This assignment can lead directly into a draft of paper #1 or paper #2. If students enjoy it, a larger 4-person panel presentation in “character” can help them prepare for revision of paper #3.

 

 

Logistics

  1. Homework assignment: Write a paragraph in preparation for class in which you place the reading for today in conversation with a prior reading in the class [specify one or several possibilities]. That means, first that you should identify the argument being made in the assigned reading, and then think about another reading making a related argument on this topic. Your task is to consider the interaction between this argument and the other one you have identified.  Do they agree or disagree?  Are they making similar arguments but in different ways? How do they support the argument?
  2. In workshop get into groups of four [if you assigned one second reading this will be easy; if you assigned several, student have to pair up with someone who wrote on the same additional author. Ideally you can create 4 groups of students who all worked on the same additional text, but if not, make sure that each group has at least two people who worked on a common text beyond the homework reading.]
  3. In each group, 2 students will take on the role of the author of the homework reading, and 2 others will take on the role of the additional text.