While I was away on maternity leave, my long-term sub taught Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Johnathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to my on-level junior classes. She did a great job and the students had working knowledge of both pieces when I returned and questioned them.
However, since the theme of the quarter is “The Manipulation of Man,” I wanted to round out the quarter and confirm what they learned while I was away.
Could they apply their knowledge of past “crucibles” and the use of fear tactics in that society to modern “crucibles” and use of fear tactics today?
We began the class period with this article and discussed how social media has become a place where fear tactics are used from politicians to friends at your school. The students read and annotated the piece and then looked at several tweets from Donald Trump as well as tweets from Hillary Clinton (as this election is such a hot topic and great example of both sides using fear tactics). I then had the class brainstorm some modern day “crucibles” as a table and post them to a class Padlet, the most prominent being Islamophobia, but overall this served to be a huge challenge for them.
I provided the students with their partner presentation assignment and sent them off to research fear tactics in modern day speeches, advertisements, campaigns, etc. They also went hunting online for other “witch hunts” in modern day crucibles and what they found was amazing, but it took some research which I liked. I was happy they didn’t just type in “modern day crucible” into Google and immediately get examples, this assignment made them think first and find second instead of the other way around.
Overall, I liked how the assignment synthesized for them the pieces they read in class and also forced them to use their researching skills and connect to the real world. It was a nice way to lead into their explanatory synthesis writing final on tools of manipulation in society.
I hope you all have a fantastic Winter Break and a very Merry Christmas!
One of the main pushes with Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards is for students to be able to synthesize sources as evidence to back up their own argumentative claim. This concept is difficult for students to understand as they haven’t really had to use sources in this way before. In the past, my students would research their own source evidence about a topic they chose or I chose for them and would write an explanatory paper about it. Synthesis takes sources from a variety of perspectives on a certain topic and provides those to the students. The student must then “join the conversation” of the sources, come up with their own original stance on the topic (cannot be the same claim that the sources have already said), and the use the sources to back up or support their original claim. Synthesis is more argumentative than the research paper a sophomore in high school typically engages in (not to say research papers cannot be argumentative).
To make the process of synthesis make sense to my students, I use the analogy of a conversation happening at a lunch table. I tell my students to pretend they are at lunch with their friends and they are all talking about cheese. One friend likes Cheddar, the other Swiss, a third maybe Parmesan and all of a sudden their friend walks up and sits down at the table and decides to start recording them with their phone (doesn’t contribute just records the cheese conversation) and when asked what their opinion is, they just smile and play back the recording of their peer’s conversation. I ask the students how they feel about this, and they all say things like “awkward” or “weird” and I say EXACTLY! You don’t want to be “the weirdo.” In your synthesis essay, you don’t want to be the student who just restates what the sources have already said because then you are not original, you are just “the weirdo”.
Then, I have them imagine the same scenario above but instead, replace the weirdo with a friend that sits down and interrupts the cheese conversation, is abrasive, and just switches the topic of conversation with something that is slightly related to cheese but really is about condiments on a sandwich. The students usually laugh at this, but when I ask them how they would feel about it they say “that kid is rude” and I said, YEP! You don’t want to be “the jerk.” In your synthesis essay, you don’t want to completely disregard or misuse the sources as they may lead you away from the prompt, your claim must be original but must be on topic, otherwise you are “the jerk.”
Finally, I say to them now, what does a “good” friend look like in comparison to “the weirdo” or “the jerk?” I let them discuss at their tables for a moment and then solicit responses. Usually one table comes to the right conclusion: You want to be the “good friend” that sits down, listens to the conversation, and then adds in your own opinion taking the other opinions into consideration and using them to support why really, Gouda is the best. This is what you do with synthesis. If every source in your packet is a friend talking at the lunch table, what parts of that conversation best support your position on that same topic of conversation?
Once my students understand their role in the synthesis conversation, writing their paper gets a little easier. I hope that this helps you in explaining synthesis to your students.