about /contributor / title / genre / course / search / program in writing & rhetoric / sunysb home page


The Logic Behind Problem Areas

Assignment Summary


1. Introduction (5-10 minutes):

Start by talking briefly about the first paper, which was returned to students during the last class period. Acknowledge that students may have felt discouraged by the volume of problem areas pointed out in the paper. Explain that while they've probably talked many times about the types of problems, they have not had many opportunities to examine why problem areas occur. To lead into the "why" of writing problems, ask the students to answer the question, "Why do writing problems occur?" Discuss the answers as they are given, but do not evaluate them; you want students to get out whatever misconceptions they may have about the topic.

Once the list has been generated, say something to the effect of: "Problem areas do not come out of nowhere. Nor are they indicators of lack of intelligence or talent. In fact, they often have nothing to do with writing ability. One of the things I hope to teach you throughout this semester is that problem areas have a logic behind them. Problem areas occur because we have developed a faulty logic about something or we have misapplied a logic from something we've done in the past to something we're doing now." Give a personal example.

2. Group activity (20-30 minutes):

Hand out the "Finding the Logic Behind Problem Areas" question sheet along with a packet containing selected problem areas from your students' last paper. (The selections, which would obviously have to be approvd for use by the student writers, should reflect some of the most frequent student errors. Because the task is identifying the logic behind errors and not locating errors themselves, the errors on the samples should be clearly marked and explained.) Give groups twenty to thirty minutes to read and answer the questions for all of the examples.

3. Class discussion (10 minutes):

Put up the attached "Correcting the Logic Behind Problem Areas" chart. Fill in the second column with student answers. Then, take some time exploring answers for the final column.

4. Conclusion (2-3 minutes):

Use the final column to re-emphasize the earlier point that to correct a problem area permanently, one must identify and fix the logic behind it. Compare correcting a problem once to giving a hungry person a fish and correcting the logic behind the area to teaching a hungry person how to fish. To connect this theme to future classes, mention that the ability to identify and correct the logic behind problem areas, as students have done today, will come into play throughout the semester in their progress as writers and as evaluators of writing.

5. Homework assignment:

To reinforce the lesson and encourage students to begin the revising process, ask them to choose one problem area from their last paper, identify the possible logic behind it, and create a new logic that will allow them to avoid that problem in the future. Have them bring a process note describing what they did to the next class (or assign process writing on it during next class).




Instructor's Comments

genre narrative, textual analysis, argument, profile, survey, summary and response
course WRT 101 and up
activity type group revision exercise, small group discussion, class discussion
skills logical reasoning, holistic revision, paragraph-level revision, analysis
duration 1-2 classes
corrected essays
handouts: Group Activity Worksheet (html, Word document), Student Writing Examples (html, Word document)
contributor: Ryan Calvey