Another great class, but then, Thinkering Day usually is.
This time I have some art Luke made in his digital arts class using Paper 53:
Here is the summary of the class from Jacki:
Here is my report and homework for Everything’s an Argument class – my report ended up being long, so I put the homework first. Our second class was quite active and engaged, the kids enjoyed starting with a argument (“stop using disposable cups”) and exploring invention and stasis theory with it – see report below for details on all that. Using some of this terminology at home can be fun and effective at getting the kids to see that they spend time trying to persuade someone of something every single day.
1. More sentence work:
The island of Gant, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards. (From A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula LeGuin)
Ruth Ackroyd was in the garden checking the rhubarb when the RAF Spitfire accidentally shot her chimney pot to bits. (from Life: An Exploding Diagram by Mal Peet)
The kids don’t need to do both, but do explore the appositive in the first sentence (setting off additional description with two commas) and the way the first sentence starts off in such an ordinary way but ends with excitement. These are both opening sentences to the books, by the way.
Pick one sentence and do the following:
a. Change order and grammar – this means moving the parts around to see what kind of sentences you can make; you can also change the tense, turn verbs into adjectives, whatever! You would be surprised at how many sentences you can come up with if you put your mind to it. My examples:
– – The chimney pot exploded when a RAF Spitfire accidentally shot it as Ruth Ackroyd was checking her rhubarb in her garden.
b. Synonym substitution – this just means substituting synonyms for the main words. You can also change the order around here as well. For example:
– – The little old lady was planting roses when her chimney exploded, due to a fighter plane overhead.
c. Condense the sentence to the shortest one you can think of.
d. Amplify the sentence with content of your own making. In other words, make the sentence longer by adding appropriate details (you will have to invent them).
2. I provided the idea for this last class (the plastic cups), but I challenged the kids to come with an idea for the next class. We worked as a team last time, but we definitely will want to move into a debate format, so will need some ideas for arguments. Also remind them to look for arguments that they take part in every single day. Remember, every time you try to persuade someone of something, you are giving an argument. If you email me the homework, I can print them out and bring it to class for discussion.
Report on what we did
1. First, we spent just a few minutes reviewing our first class to bring Benjamin G. up to speed, talking about the 3 main types of rhetoric (also called occasions for rhetoric by the ancients):
– – Past, or finding blame. This is also called judicial or forensic rhetoric, and is exactly what happens in our modern day trials and courtrooms.
– – Present, or arguing the value or status of an issue. This is also called demonstrative rhetoric, since one is trying to demonstrate something about an issue.
– – Future, or deciding on a choice. This is also called deliberative rhetoric, since one is deliberating on the possibilities, and the most advantageous choice or decision to make.
We also reviewed the three types of rhetorical appeals, pathos (appealing to emotion), ethos (appealing to ethics) and logos (appealing to logic). I asked the kids if they had any examples of arguments they had during the past week, and one of them mentioned successfully annoying a parent for a treat. We mused on that, wondering if that was pathos, and decided that it probably was, but maybe not always the best route.
2. We spent a few minutes going over the homework, discussing the results from playing with the original sentence from Madeline:
In an old house in Paris, covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
Benjamin G. had an excellent question at this point – what does this have to do with debate? I didn’t go right into the canons of rhetoric (invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery), but I did tell him that making effective arguments sometimes involves writing, and writing elegant and rhetorically effective speeches or essays is important. The reason we are working with classic sentences is that examining what happens when you move parts of a sentence around, or practice expanding or condensing a sentence helps us to understand why the original sentence is so effective, and how we can use those same tools in our own writing (i didn’t say it quite like to the kids, but you get the sense of it). Good question though!
– – It took us a few minutes, but we finally decided that “Girls lived” was the shortest sentence we could make from the original sentence. Not interesting or helpful, but we will come back to how effective very short sentences can be soon.
– – I also read aloud some longer versions, and we discussed how substituting some synonyms for words in the original sentence can change the tone of the sentence quite dramatically. One sentence had “scurrying rats” and “decrepit house” which made it a little more spooky than the original.
3. Jumping into the deep end of the pool (metaphor – more on those in later classes), I presented a proposition and asked that the kids help me explore it and come up with arguments supporting it. My proposition was “Stop using disposable cups”.
– – To start, we decided this was a combination of present and future rhetoric (value in not using disposable cups, and asking people to decide to stop).
– – Then we used Definition to explore our proposition. What do we mean by “disposable”? Ah, not paper cups, plastic. What about “stop”? We want people to not use them in restaurants and coffeeshops in Belmont.
– – We then delved into Facts to explore plastic cups. In short, pollution, plastic doesn’t decompose, landfill issues. Also, plastic cups are cheap.
– – What is the Quality of these facts? We think pollution/long life of plastic = bad, and also the cheapness of plastic cups. However, store owners think cheapness = good.
– – Finally, we discussed Procedure. What is our strategy? Again, to summarize, should we go to the City Council, should we talk to restaurant owners directly? Boycott? Pass a law? Go directly to Belmont residents? The kids had so many ideas and thoughts about this part, getting into why people would or would not want to help us and much more.
What are Definition, Facts, Quality and Procedure? These are the components of Stasis Theory, which I think of as being finding the exact point where you and your opponent disagree. You can think of it as the two lines of the letter “X”. One line represents your thoughts and the other line represents your opponents – where they cross is the point of disagreement. Many times it is the definition of an issue that creates the problem – two opponents having two different definitions of a concept, but the other three come up too.
We decided that it was the fact that plastic cups are cheap that is the core of the issue here: we think that is bad, but store owners think that is good. What can we do to persuade them that it is worth it to spend a little more on compostable cups?
We spent just a few minutes starting in on the canon of Invention. Invention is using classical topics (straight from Aristotle) to invent and discover points and ideas that we can use in formulating our argument. We had already gone into Definition, but started on Cause and Effect (plastic pollution —> marine animals dying) and Comparison (plastic cups are like plastic bag issue). And we ran out of time right here, but will return!