Topic and Issue Fair

Class Activity                                     Topics and Issues Fair                                 Ed Lessor

Preparation: Students should report to class with a hard copy of a homework assignment that includes a summary of a currently debated issue. Students are prepared to discuss the following:

Give a very brief summary of the essay. What are the potential topics here? What are the potential issues? Where did you find the essay? Why are you interested in writing about this topic/issue?  Why should other members of the class be interested in writing about this topic/ issue? Why would Coloradoans be interested in this issue? Why would U.S. citizens be interested in this issue? What would be some of the challenges involved in writing about this issue?

Objectives: Students are exposed to multiple potential topics and issues that they might wish to explore for the Inquiry Argument paper. Students discuss potential issues with their peers. Students explore their own values and beliefs regarding a variety of potential topics and issues.

Activity: Students are split into two groups: shoppers and presenters. The presenters sit in the center of the room and are available to “pitch” their potential topics and issues to the “shoppers.” The shoppers have their writing notebooks and actively ask questions and explore the potential topic/issue. After five minutes, each shopper moves on to a new presenter. Each presenter presents four times. The roles are then reversed and the shoppers become presenters while the presenters become the shoppers. By the end of the activity each student should have been exposed to five potential topics (including the one that they wrote about). They should have also discussed ten or more potential issues. Students have had an opportunity to explore their own initial take on each of these issues, and have dialog about this with at least one other peer. We sometimes do this using a casebook chapter from Aims—this gives the students a single centralized theme with each presentation reflecting a specific sub-issue. Lately I have had the students do this after a brief period of online research into potential topics and issue of their own instigation. Many of my students report that they change their Inquiry issue based on this activity. During my circulation through the room during the activity, I am always impressed by the depth of the conversations on the issue.

Unit Goals:
To reflect the teaching of Inquiry Argument as a mode that focuses primarily on exploration and dialog.

To encourage students to look for issues that they feel a personal responsibility for “earning” a position on, rather than an issue that will be “easy” to learn about.

To further encourage interpretation of issues that are under debate rather than the “gathering” of research facts in support of a thesis.

Course Goals

Extend knowledge of rhetorical concepts, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Compose effective arguments in different genres (such as academic and public media) and different modes (such as alphabetic, auditory, and visual modes, as well as multimodal texts that combine these strategies) designed to achieve multiple and specific purposes for multiple and specific audiences
  • Reflect on the synthesis and communication of knowledge in alternate modes of composition

Extend experience in composing processes, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Hone strategies for generating ideas, revising, editing, and proofreading mono- and multi-modal texts in disciplinary/professional/specialized discourse
  • Critique one’s own compositions and the compositions of others
  • Use a variety of composition technologies (research and composing tools)
  • Evaluate sources for accuracy, relevance, credibility, reliability, and bias

Extend mastery of argumentative conventions, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Adapt genre, mode, and other compositional choices to meet audience and purpose
  • Focus and sustain arguments in different modes using effective arrangement
  • Select, evaluate, and integrate appropriate evidence for multiple genres, modes, and rhetorical situations
  • Use audience appeals, including pathos, ethos, and logos
  • Anticipate and address audience questions and objections

Extend the application of advanced rhetorical concepts, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Compose arguments in different modes for specific audiences and purposes
  • Adapt content and style to respond to the needs of specific audiences and rhetorical situations