Monday, September 26, 2011

The Allegory of the Cave, or eveything you always wanted to know about philosophy*

Wordle for Class Brainstorm of
Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave."
(*but were afraid to ask)

The goals for last week included having students work with summarizing arguments in groups following a model prepared by X and I.

Understanding, Applying, Evaluating
X and I have established a pattern for the students for the rhetoric piece of the class that can roughly be summarized as Understanding, Applying, and Evaluating. These will hopefully add up to Creating full essays next week. I stole this idea from the military where it is (or was) called Demonstration, Explanation, and Practical Application.

Our groups/pairs summarized a reading they had jointly annotated (understanding/applying) the class period before and then posted their summaries in a public Google Doc. X and I had our classes cross-comment on the summaries making suggestions for improvement (evaluating). You can see one sample HERE. One interesting comment I had from a student was that one of her group members kept "messing with" the group summary after they were "done" and I had to assure her that the group grade was not based on the product itself but the process, and that the group should have a talk with the student about group decisions such as when they are "done" or "not done". Looking back, I probably should have asked the student who was continuing to "correct" the group work to simply write a comment after as to what he thinks still needs work. However, I will note this incident as the first sign I have seen of discomfort with working on "live" documents. Mostly students seem to think they are kinda cool.

Students then attempted to summarize a piece on their own which they had previously annotated and posted this to their blog for later commentary/use. The goal is that we are building students slowly up to their first real essay (creating) and then we'll pretty much have them write an argument essay per week. This method is a little different for me as I have been a "essay a week" person for Basic Writing for several years and been very successful with it, but establishing the baseline skills first does make sense.

After summarizing we moved on to identifying Main or Significant Ideas, establishing a Claim, and identifying Reasons for the claim. Finally students were asked to combine the Claim and the Reasons into a Thesis Statement. We followed the same pattern--teacher model, group activity, individual activity--and are now planning to again have classes cross evaluate and make suggestions of improvement. The real issue here is helping students understand the effective difference between a "Reason" and an "Example" or "Supporting Detail".

In any case next week we are back to full length essays. We'll see if they retain the pieces for the whole. **Fingers crossed.**


The other major activity for the week was to begin work on "The Allegory of the Cave" and we had students free-write on "A cave is . . ." prior to discussion. The above Wordle was created from the following discussion using the "Create" program at Cut-and-paste any text into the window and Wordle will generate art for you. Saving it as a .jpeg file for later use is a bit of a trick (ctrl+alt+PrtSC then paste in Paint), but it is really easy to link to the wordle and embed it.

Here is a Wordle of this blog post. You can click it to see the big picture (so to speak).
Wordle: Wodle

1 comment:

  1. Very well explained assignment. I like the teacher model-group activity-individual activity line of progression. I often do that, except that lately I'm experimenting with leaving out the group activity. I like I'll incorporate that step more next week. Thanks for the reminder!