To preface this post with some explanation, this term I have tried out an Annotated Bibliography assignment that I got from a colleague at Baruch who adapted this from an assignment at John Jay. When I get back to my computer, I’ll try to upload/paste in the example “RefAnnBib.”sample-ref-ann-bib
It’s merely an example, with no explanation, but my students have largely been massively successful with actually using it to look at how they might use a particular source in building their arguments. It’s a funny academic process genre (and very similar Jackie I think to your source rhetorical analysis!) but I’m proposing that the audience is their fellow group members and today, students’ Annotated Bibliographies (of just two entries each) became the basis for some really good group discussions about ideas.
I was having a kind of “dark night of my soul” week or two of teaching, so I’m celebrating by putting my thoughts into the form of a “RefAnnBib.” Thanks for humoring me!
1. Source: Liao, Kim. “Adventures in this Crazy Thing We Call Writing, Inquiry, and Research” (i.e., discussions spanning several classes), ENG 1121 D447: Writing Across Situations. NYCCT. Accessed in my mind on 4/11/19.
2. Tip Sheet:
Writer(s): 25 energetic and sometimes skeptical, occasionally lazy, but primarily good-natured student investigators; joined by one fearless but kooky expert novice trying to light the way through our journey through inquiry, research, and argumentation.
Source: Pearl 504B, a classroom replete with two functional computer screens, two entirely defunct blackboards, and clanging heaters that have mostly dwindled down to silence.
Purpose: In this assignment, we are attempting to use inquiry-based research to propose the answer to a pressing problem that affects a specific audience. Part 2 of this assignment involves the translation of said argument to a digital multimodal genre of their choice.
3. Précis (or as I explained to my students, summary + quotes):
I have constantly been afraid that I’m asking too much of them. I’m asking them to gather 5+ relevant sources and do fieldwork to produce an eventual group-written 6-8 page proposal — a largely academic-toned document but which proposes a specific solution to a specific problem to benefit a specific audience. Is this too much? It feels like too much. We could literally spend an entire semester on any of my assignments. And there were a few moments when I wasn’t sure if a) the groups were going to gel or b) if they were going to find topics that actually fired them up. Then, I had a grading crisis this week and in addition, introduced this Annotated Bibliography assignment on Tues, and was just like, it’s over. This pilot has been fun, but they’re going to mutiny and I have obviously failed as a teacher and what is wrong with me and I shouldn’t think they can jump through these myriad of first year writing hoops. Then, this morning on my way to class at 7:30, I thought, isn’t it unfair that FYW is tasked with preparing students for EVERY OTHER WRITING SITUATION IN THEOR LIVES while the goal of Bio 1 is simply to prepare you for Bio 2, Organic Chemistry, or the acquisition of further scientific knowledge?
But then. Then my students came to class and took out their Annotated Bibs and started having real conversations about real sources. One kid brought in a source by the ACLU about how solitary confinement in prisons creates a world of mental health problems, and he said, “This is going to help us define the problem of mistreating inmates with mental illness,” while his group member said, “The guards take away their pills and won’t let them have their treatments. It’s a form of prisoner abuse” (Su, personal communication, and Ramales, personal communication, respectively).
And from then on, I knew that I will always bow down in gratitude to the RefAnnBib, because it got my students working with their sources in new ways — totally unprompted. It combines the MLA source citation (1. Source) with a brief analysis of the writer and publication (2. Tip sheet) with a summary including meaty quotes (3. Précis/Summary/Abstract), and finally, reflection on why the source is useful and how it could be incorporated into the writing itself (4. Reflection).
My super brief summary: it sounds like a ton, but it works.
Teaching is hard, but worth it. Developing new materials and adopting others’ materials is scary — but worth it. I can’t wait to do this again, with more time.
My students are going to write drafts that include sources, since now they have summaries and reflection — the first steps towards analysis and argumentation. With the rest of today, we looked at some micro-level quoting vs. paraphrasing, and how to build an effective paragraph AROUND a quote of example from a source. I know not everything sticks the first time, but I was feeling the magic again, and I’ll tell you, I really needed it.
I have a question for others: how on earth are you tackling teaching inquiry, research, and argument? How do you encourage students to go beyond the surface level — (Carrie and I were talking about the “Google/Wikipedia level”)? How can we encourage students to pick up books, or dig deeper, or look beyond their first impulses when conducting involved research? So many of my students are tempted to only ask questions that they think they can answer in 5 min, and I’m trying to figure out how to get past that impulse.