Commentary for "Becoming a Learner"

| April 7, 2015

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Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary Overview: This project is an opportunity for you to analyze and evaluate how effectively Sanders employs the argument strategies you are learning about as you read your text. For Part 1: Rhetorical Analysis, you will compose standalone paragraphs derived from the notes you made in Heuristics 2, 4, and 6. For Part 2: Commentary, you will compose a 500-600 word essay in which you share your reactions to Sander’s argument on one or more points he makes, citing from Sanders and two other texts for support, and utilizing MLA documentation. In your Commentary, you are required to cite from a minimum of 2 credible sources in addition to Sanders. Goals of this Project: Through this project, students will  Analyze how an author responds to the needs of his audience  Analyze how an author utilizes argument conventions to persuade others  Analyze the rhetorical situation of an argument  Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating  Integrate their own ideas with those of others  Practice appropriate means of documenting their work Part 1: Rhetorical Analysis Using your heuristics to guide you, analyze the following elements in Sanders’ argument in Becoming a Learner. This part is not an essay, but is to be written in paragraph format with section headings. Be sure to cite specific examples from Sanders’ text to support the points you make, especially in numbers 2 and 3. You may also cite from Argument Today, if you desire, to define and explain argument techniques. Imagine that you are writing for an audience of your peers with the goal of teaching them about argument strategies, using Sanders’ argument for examples of each strategy. This part is not an essay; there is no need for an introduction and conclusion. Just write the three sections as stand-alone units without worrying about connecting the parts or transitioning between them. Just put a heading above each one:  Rhetorical Situation  Generative Argument Techniques  Persuasive Argument Techniques. You will notice that I have not required you to discuss all the elements that you did in your heuristics, just the key ones. 1. Rhetorical Situation: In 1-2 paragraphs, analyze the rhetorical situation of Becoming a Learner, including the author, topic, angle, purpose, audience, context, and thesis/main claim. Discuss how these elements interact with one another and express your opinion about how effective you think Sanders’ approach is for his audience. Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary 2 2. Generative Argument Techniques: In 1-2 paragraphs, analyze how Sanders employs generative argument techniques in Becoming a Learner, including how he builds a sense of identification with his readers and how he negotiates disagreements. 3. Persuasive Argument Techniques: In 1-3 paragraphs, analyze how Sanders supports his claim with the classical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos), providing at least one example of each. Part 2: Commentary Compose a 500-600 word essay response to one or two ideas in Becoming a Learner. Cite from at least two other sources as you develop your response. To generate ideas for the topic of your commentary, review Heuristics 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8. Then follow these steps: 1. Find an idea you strongly agree with, strongly disagree with, or are confused about. 2. Do some online research to learn what other people are saying about this topic. 3. Evaluate whether they agree or disagree with Sanders. Consider how effectively they support their ideas and mentally compare that to how Sanders supports his ideas. Decide on a position and angle you want to defend in your commentary. 4. Compose a thesis/claim for your commentary. If you are still undecided but can see pros and cons to multiple sides, your thesis can reflect that confusion—you do not have to argue for a particular side. 5. Compose your working draft of your essay by following guidelines in your text under “Organizing and Drafting Your Commentary” on pp. 246-50. However, I recommend that you compose your body paragraphs before you worry about your introduction as follows: A. Compose body paragraphs that support and develop your claim, citing from Sanders and the other texts you have found, to support the point you are making or to argue against something they say. B. Consider revising your thesis/main claim if you changed directions while drafting. C. Compose introduction and conclusion paragraphs. 6. Use MLA parenthetical reference method of documentation, including a Works Cited page. 7. Participate in Peer Evaluations in class by bringing your complete working draft to class. If you do not attend class that day or you fail to bring a draft for review, you will lose 10% on your final project grade. 8. Revise your project. WA-1 HEURISTICS Heuristic 1: Reading Response 1 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this journal: Becoming a Learner, Introduction and Chapter 1 2. Summary: Compose a one-paragraph summary of Becoming a Learner Introduction and Chapter 1 3. Reading Response: Respond to any ONE of the critical thinking prompts below. You may respond to additional prompts for extra credit. Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary 3 A. Sanders says that “the hardest thing for you to know is the thing you think you already know” (p. xiii). Why does he ask his readers to keep this thought in mind as we read his book? B. What is Sanders’ purpose in writing this little book? C. What does Sanders say should be our primary purpose in acquiring a college education? D. Sanders invites us to participate in a “new kind of conversation,” (a new way of thinking and talking) about education. What kind of conversation does he have in mind? How is it different from other conversations about education? ____________________________________________________________________________ Heuristic 2: WA-1 Rhetorical Analysis, Part 1 (Rhetorical Situation) 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this journal:  Becoming a Learner, Introduction and Chapter 1  Argument Today, Chapter 1 2. WP-1 Rhetorical Analysis, Part 1: Apply the concepts that you read about in Chapter 1 of Argument Today to Becoming a Learner by responding to the prompts, basing your responses on what you have read so far in Becoming a Learner. Respond to ALL the prompts in 3-8 sentences each. A. Argument Type: Do you see Sanders’ argument as more generative or persuasive in nature? Why? (See AT pages 2-6 for more information.) B. Author: Read the “About the Author” and perhaps research Sanders online to learn more about him. Then explain a little about who Sanders is and why he personally is interested in this topic. (This aspect of the rhetorical situation is not discussed in Chapter 1 but is still very important in understanding the rhetorical situation.) C. Topic: Identify and discuss the topic of Becoming a Learner. (What exactly is Sanders arguing about?) D. Angle: Identify and discuss the angle(s) of Becoming a Learner. (What new perspectives does Sanders bring to this issue? What makes his ideas about this topic different from the ideas of others?) (See AT pages 8-10 for more information.) E. Purpose: Identify and discuss the purpose of Becoming a Learner. (What is Sanders trying to achieve? What does he want his readers to believe or do after they are finished reading?). (See AT pages 10-11 for more information.) F. Audience: Identify and discuss the intended audiences of Becoming a Learner (Who is reading Sanders’ argument? What are their expectations? What do they need and value? What is their attitude towards the topic? How do these characteristics shape the content, organization, style, and design of Sanders’ argument?) (See AT pages 11-12 for more information.) G. Context: (In what places does his audience encounter his text? How does the medium of his text shape how his audience reads it? What economic and social-political trends influence how his audience reacts to what his is saying?) (See AT pages 12-13 for more information.) H. Thesis/Main Claim: What
would you say is Sanders’ main claim or thesis? You can state it in your own words if you can’t find it in one specific sentence. (See AT pages 13-15 for more information.) I. Genre: What genre or genres is Becoming a Learner? Why does it seem to fit that genre(s)? (See AT pages 15-18 for more information.) ____________________________________________________________________________ Heuristic 3: Reading Response 2 Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary 4 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this journal: Becoming a Learner, Chapters 2-3 2. Summary: Compose a one-paragraph summary of Becoming a Learner Chapters 2-3. 2. Reading Response: Respond to any ONE of the critical thinking prompts below. You may respond to additional prompts for extra credit. A. Sanders says that students can graduate from college actually “worse in terms of [their] character, intelligence, and personal capacity.” Explain how that can happen. Then relate it to your own experiences or the experiences of others you know. Does that seem like a reasonable claim to you? Why or why not? B. Sanders identifies three realities that will affect your world after college graduation. What are those three realities? Explain a little about how Sanders supports each of these claims. Then compare them to the realities you and others you know have experienced in their lives. Do his claims seem legitimate to you? Why or why not? C. Sanders identifies four essential “personal character traits” or “ways of thinking” that are “transferable from job to job” and “never become . . . outdated.” He claims they can be learned in any major course of study. What are these four characteristics and how would each be beneficial to you now, in your future career, and in life in general? Do you think they are the most important qualities you will need for a successful future? Why or why not? Are there any other qualities you think are equally, if not more, important? If so, what are they, and why do you think they are important? D. Examine the box on p. 20 that contrasts a “student” to a “learner.” Had you ever previously considered the differences between these terms? Do you agree with Sanders’ definitions? What questions or concerns do these differences raise for you? What other comments would you like to make about them? E. In Chapter 3, Sanders identifies five “faulty perspectives” and argues that each of these leads to conversations that distract students from the real purpose of college, which to him is to become lifelong learners. Explain what each of these perspectives is and briefly summarize Sanders’ arguments for each of them (in one or two sentences each). F. As you read about the “faulty perspectives,” did you find yourself thinking of conversations you had heard or engaged in yourself? Were these perspectives were offered as reality? To what extent have you yourself believed them before? How has Sanders’ argument made you think differently about them? Do you disagree with anything Sanders says in this chapter? ____________________________________________________________________________ Heuristic 4: WA-1 Rhetorical Analysis, Part 2 (Generative Elements) 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this journal:  Becoming a Learner, Chapters 2-3  Argument Today, Chapter 2 2. WP-1 Rhetorical Analysis, Part 2: Apply the concepts that you read about in Chapter 2 of Argument Today to Becoming a Learner by responding to the prompts below, basing your responses on what you have read so far in Becoming a Learner. Respond to ALL the questions in 3-8 sentences each. A. Building a Sense of Identification: How does Sanders build a sense of identification with his readers? How successful is he in these attempts? Identify specific places where you see him doing this, including at least ONE of the following. (See AT pages 23-25 for more information.) Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary 5  identifying with the audience through shared values, upbringing, experiences, or status OR  identifying with the audience against a shared problem B. Framing the Issue: How does Sanders frame the issue to his advantage? Identify specific places where he frames or reframes the conversation. (See AT pages 26-30 for more information.) C. Telling Stories: How does Sanders use stories, anecdotes, hypothetical examples, fables, or parables to illustrate and reinforce his beliefs and values? Discuss one or two specific examples and explain what effect you think those examples would have on his intended audience. What effect did they have on you and your thinking about his topic? (See AT pages 30-32 for more information.) D. Negotiating Disagreements: How does Sanders negotiate differences with Rogerian methods such as striving for consensus or valuing dissensus? Identify at least one specific example and explain how his argument uses Rogerian argumentation methods. (See AT pages 32-35 for more information.) ____________________________________________________________________________ Heuristic 5: Reading Response 3 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this Heuristic: Becoming a Learner, Chapters 4-5 3. Summary: Compose a one-paragraph summary of Becoming a Learner Chapters 4-5. 2. Reading Response: Respond to any ONE of the critical thinking prompts below. You may respond to additional prompts for extra credit. A. To what extent does Sanders think grades in college are important? B. What does Sanders mean when he suggests that students need to “look for interconnections”? C. What are some ways that Sanders suggests students should take responsibility for their education? D. Sanders says that “learning requires a relationship.” What does he mean by this? What kind of relationship? Give some examples. E. Sanders says that “learners are courageous.” What does this mean? F. What does Sanders mean when says that all learners need to have humility? G. According to Sanders, how does cheating affect students’ college experience and who they ultimately become? H. Sanders says that students need to “thoughtfully examine” their “assumptions about college and learning” and then to “identify the ways” their assumptions have interfered with their becoming learners. (Assumptions are thoughts we regard as truth, and as a result, we often do not evaluate them for weaknesses.) What false assumptions have you previously made that may have negatively impacted your learning so far? How might you do things differently in the future? I. Sanders also suggests that students note the ways in which they have succeeded. Noting these can be instructive in developing a plan for getting the most out of your college experience. What student behaviors have you done well with so far? J. Sanders challenges students to “create [their] own philosophy of learning, outlining the specific ways [they] will strive to become . . . learner[s].” He offers seven questions to help students get started on defining their philosophy of learning (see p. 51). Thoughtfully, in several sentences Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary 6 each, respond to any four of the prompts he suggests (on p. 51). You may respond to all seven to earn a plus (extra credit) on this assignment. ____________________________________________________________________________ Heuristic 6: WA-1 Rhetorical Analysis, Part 3 (Persuasive Elements) 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this Heuristic:  Becoming a Learner, Chapters 4-5  Argument Today, Chapter 3 2. WP-1 Rhetorical Analysis, Part 3: Apply the concepts that you read about in Chapter 3 of Argument Today to Becoming a Learner by responding to the prompts below, basing your responses on all that you have read in Becoming a Learner. Respond to A-C and then choose from D or E and F or G; respond to the questions in 1-5 sentences each. A. Stating a Reasonable and Specific Claim: Now that you have finished reading Becoming a Learner, identify what you now consider to be Sanders’ main claim, putting it in your own words if you cannot find a specific
sentence or two from Sanders’ writing. Then evaluate it with the following questions. (See AT pages 39-43 for more information.)  Do you think this claim is reasonable and sufficiently specific? Explain.  Is it appropriately placed in his argument?  Does it fit one of Cicero’s four kinds of issues: definition, causation, evaluation, or recommendation? If so, which one? Explain. AND B. Supporting the Claim with Appeals: How does Sanders support his claim with each of the following? Give a specific example of each and explain how it fits the strategy you identify. (See AT pages 44-50 for more information.)  Reasoning (logos)  Authority (ethos)  Emotion (pathos) AND C. Supporting the Claim with Existing Evidence: How well does the evidence with which Sanders supports his claim satisfy the STAR criteria? Explain with at least one example of evidence he offers. (See AT pages 50-52 for more information.) AND D. Using Commonplaces: How does Sanders use commonplaces to structure his argument? Give at least one specific example. (See AT pages 52-56 for more information.) OR E. Avoiding Fallacies: To what extent does Sanders avoid fallacious arguments? Do you see any potentially fallacious arguments? Explain. (See AT pages 57-58 for more information.) AND F. Identifying a Warrants: The Toulmin system of argument asserts that behind every claim is at least one underlying warrant (or assumption) upon which it rests. If the audience accepts the warrant, no problem. But if they don’t, then no matter how well the argument is developed, the audience is unlikely to accept it. Identify one claim that Sanders makes and one of the warrants that holds it together. To what extent do you agree with the warrant? (See AT pages 59-64 for more information.) OR Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary 7 G. Identifying Toulmin Rebuttals: Identify one place where Sanders performs a Toulmin rebuttal, where he observes that there are possible exceptions or limitations to a claim he makes. Explain. (See AT pages 59-64 for more information.) ____________________________________________________________________________ Heuristic 7: Reading Response 4 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this Heuristic: Argument Today, Chapter 4 “Critical Reading and Rhetorical Analysis” 2. Reading Response: Respond to Sanders’ argument in ONE of the following ways: A. Play the Believing and Doubting Game with Sanders’ argument. In a well-developed paragraph for each, do both of the following. (See AT pages 71-72 for more information.)  First, believe him. Identify places where his argument seems well reasoned and supported, where someone who is inclined to accept his argument would be most enthusiastic about it. AND  Second, doubt him. Imagine you are deeply skeptical and even negative about his argument. Ask “so what” as you review his argument and identify places where people might challenge or disagree with Sanders or where you find shortcomings or logical flaws in his argument. OR B. To help you analyze your reactions to Sanders’ argument, respond to at least two of the bullet points below in one well-developed paragraph each. (See AT page 75 for more information.)  What was your first reaction when you started reading Sanders’ argument? How did that reaction influence how you interpreted the remainder of his argument?  Where does Sanders’ argument seem to agree with your views? When did you most agree with it?  Where does Sanders seem to disagree with your views? When did you most want to argue against it?  Now that you have spent time analyzing Sanders’ argument, have your views on the issue he discusses changed at all? If so, how? OR C. Respond to all of the following questions, showing how your views align with and diverge from Sanders” ideas, framing your thoughts in one of the sentence templates on pp.75-6, or designing your own sentence structure. (See AT pages 75-77 for more information.)  Why does Sanders’ argument matter?  Where and why do you disagree with Sanders’ argument?  Where and why do you personally agree with Sander’s argument? ____________________________________________________________________________ Heuristic 8: WA-1 Reactions to Sanders’ Arguments and Sources 1. Readings: Read the following resources before attempting to compose this Heuristic: Argument Today, Chapter 12 “Commentaries—Arguing about Current Issues and Events” Writing Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis and Commentary 8 2. WA-1 Developing a Commentary: Review your notes on Sanders’ argument from Heuristics 1, 3, 5, and 7. Identify one idea Sanders discusses that you would like to respond to in a 500-word essay such as might be published in a print periodical or an online opinion blog as a reaction to Sanders’ book. The goal ultimately will be to compose a brief Commentary on that idea, sharing your thoughts and research on the issue/idea you identify. In your writing project, you will cite from Sanders and two other writers as you develop your angle. To help you generate ideas for this commentary section of your Writing Project 1, do the following. A. Composing a Credo Statement: Look over your reactions to Sanders and choose one idea he develops that you either agree with, disagree with, or are uncertain about. Explore your rationale for believing as you do or for being confused about it by writing a credo statement for the idea you want to write about in your commentary. Model your statement after the example on p. 244 and as noted below. Try to find a new or slightly different angle or perspective from Sanders’ idea, or think of ways that you might respond to his idea through illustrating, authorizing, borrowing, or extending as explained on pp. 76-7. Use the templates on pp. 75-6 to help you as needed. Once you have chosen an idea to work with, prepare your credo statement as outlined below. a. Write ONE of the following: o an “I believe” statement for the idea (example: I believe that learners are simply students who know how to study), OR o an “I don’t believe” statement (example: I don’t agree that the main purpose of a college education is to learn how to be a learner), OR o an “I’m confused because” statement (example: I’m confused about whether college is worth it today, despite its potential to help me become a learner, because of its increasing high price and the decreasing job outlook in this economy). b. Examine your assumptions (or warrants) in your position statement and compose a “My assumptions are” statement. (Remember, assumptions are the values behind your belief. You are trying to identify why you believe as you do or why you are conflicted. If you are conflicted, ask yourself what values are in conflict that leave you confused.) (See AT p. 60 in the discussion of warrants and pp. 343-4 for more information about assumptions.) Assumptions for the “I’m confused” statement above might include that  College is a consumer product and should be evaluated on the value it offers before investing in it  The main value of obtaining a college education is to prepare for employment. c. Compose “some people believe because” AND “some people don’t believe because” statements for your chosen idea. (See AT p. 244 for more information.) B. Compiling Outside Research: Find two additional outside sources that discuss your chosen idea(s), read them, and reflect in a paragraph about how you feel about the idea(s) now that you have read about it in other people’s writing as well. Mention the authors by name, including Sanders and the new authors, and their ideas in your paragraph. Create a works cited list with the publishing information (all of it, not just the Internet URL) for the two new sources and Sanders at the end of your paragraph.

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