The Jens

The Jens
jen b & Jen P

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rhetorical précis

The rhetorical précis is a great assignment for both content-area teachers and English-Language Arts teachers and can be used with any informational text. The template is explained in Reading Rhetorically, by John Bean, Virginia Chappell, and Alice Gillam, and is credited to Margaret K.Woodworth.

The rhetorical précis is a succinct way to summarize and analyze any informational text. Students can use it as a way to sum up their reading, and as preparation for the next step using the reading (preparations for an essay or a study guide for a test, for example). If students create a rhetorical précis after reading a text, not only will they have a summary of the text, but also a reminder of the author’s purpose, method, and intended audience. Also, each sentence from the template could be developed into an essay, making this a good outlining tool.

Here are the basics (from page 63 of Reading Rhetorically, Brief Edition by Bean, Chappell, Gillam):
Sentence One: Name of the author, genre, and title of work, date in parentheses; a rhetorically active verb (such as claims, argues, asserts, suggests); and a THAT clause containing the major assertion or thesis in the text.
Sentence Two: An explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis.
Sentence Three: A statement of the author’s apparent purpose, followed by an “in order to” phrase.
Sentence Four: A description of the intended audience and/or the relationship the author establishes with the audience.

Preparing students to write the rhetorical précis first requires the students to read actively -- intellectually engaging with the text and reading with a pen or pencil in hand in order to annotate the text.  Students should underline/circle important passages, mark words to look up, ask questions in the margins, note the structure of the text, the writer’s use of certain conventions, etc. Students should pay attention to the title (and the subtitle) – it can tell the readerwhat the text is about, or even state the central claim explicitly; it can make reference to other writings, subjects, or events; and, it can express the writer’s attitude about the subject. Topic sentences are a helpful marker of structure and development throughout a text. They should look for major textual or visual structures (headings, whitespace, etc.), and look for signal words, especially transitional words (“next,” “finally,” “however,” “at first glance,” “for example,” etc.) that signal structure within the text.


Rhetorical précis


Sunday, March 3, 2013


I’ve been reading a lot on flipped class instruction and trying to figure out how this might look in my class. There’s got to be more to it than watch the video and home and do the homework in class, so I am following smart people on twitter and looking at how they are doing this in their English and social studies classes.

With only ten (!!) weeks left of instruction, I don’t think I’ll make any major changes this late in the game, but I am trying to make some screencasts to support students outside of class and trying little changes before going all in next year.

If I do what I am thinking of doing, I will have a full summer of prep ahead…daunting!

What I am thinking about is creating LOTS of screencasts – to teach specific skills and concepts and to review important passages in full class texts. It helps that I know most of the kids I’ll have next year; otherwise, I think it would be a little weird to create videos to help them without knowing what kinds of students they are and what kinds of issues they normally have.

 So ideally, I will create videos on how to write a rhetorical précis and why you’d want to use it, how to and why they should use the templates in They Say, I Say, what a narrative/informative/argumentative essay looks like, how to integrate quotes, etc. Then they will watch the videos on their own, freeing up class time for reading, writing, and conferring. Still trying to wrap my head around what that self-paced learning looks like, day to day, in the classroom, but I’m hoping to get ideas from others who are already doing this.

The other part of this is how to keep track of it all in the gradebook. At this point, I’m leaning towards two gradebooks: one that shows completed tasks (watching the videos, rough drafts, participation in online and in-class discussions, comprehension checks, etc.) and a second that shows progress towards mastery on the standards. The first gradebook would be simply pass/no pass – either the task was completed or not (still thinking about deadlines and late work – and would provide parents with the answer to “is my kid doing the work,” help me manage where kids are, and enable students to self-monitor. The second gradebook would be for the semester and final grade and would somehow reflect their progress towards mastery on the standards. Not sure how one letter grade would represent progress on all the standards, but hoping to have some more concrete ideas by next August.

Still not sure how this would work in reality, but in theory, I like where I am headed.