Blog Post

08. Lesson Plan for Complex Claims: Gaga Edition

As a Composition instructor, I'm always looking for ways to keep students engaged while still teaching them mechanics of good writing in an academic context. I'd like to post a lesson plan that has worked well for me in the past. What follows is a lesson plan for a 1 hour 50 minute class, with some minor notes on how it might be adapted for a 50 minute class. While different insitutions teach writing in different ways, I've found the concept of the "complex claim" to be fairly widespread. At the University of Washington's Expository Writing Program, we teach complex claims as having five major components, or what I call "The Big 5" for my students: counterargument, claim, evidence, stakes, and roadmap. This lesson plan usually happens at a point in the quarter when this concept has already been worked with in some detail (it's often the centerpiece of my own teaching philosophy for any EWP course). It has received positive feedback from colleagues, advisors, and also THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES. 

Lesson Plan

10:00 Class welcome, review previous day’s work and go over general gist for today’s lesson plan with a sense of how this will help them prepare for next writing assignment, generally a major paper here.


10:05 Review Lady Gaga video ("Bad Romance") students watched at home. Make note of interesting visuals, potential themes of the video, any lyrics that jump out at you, potential arguments. Annotate with videoANT (having already used this tool as a class several times).


10:10 Free-write: If you were going to write a major paper on this video, what argument would you be interesting in pursuing? You don’t need to articulate a full complex claim at this point, just a core argument. Keep your free writes for now.


10:18 Class discussion: What were some general themes or points of interest people noticed or explored in their free writes? Track answers together on board, trying to cluster core concepts together.


10:25 Run through “Big 5” and characteristics of a successful complex claim together on board (this is a review at this point in the quarter).


10:30 Let’s look at a former student’s first draft of a complex claim about this video. Are all the components of a complex claim there? What is working well? What could be improved and why? Draft a revision plan together and re-work several or all necessary components of complex claim for “successful claim characteristics.”


10:45 10 minute break OR break for day (though here you’d need 3 minutes of wrap up time as well. Homework: bring your free-write arguments back to class to share with groups tomorrow).


10:55 Settling. Go over basic overview for second hour of class, connecting it to revision plans, strategies, and evaluation techniques for complex claims (more or less time depending on whether break was 10 minutes or full day).

           -Break down into 5 groups, sitting in circles. Each member will read his or her free write about Lady Gaga’s video. Once everyone has had a chance to share, choose one central argument to work with and turn it into a complex claim. This will need to be written on a clean piece of paper to be passed to the next group.


11:15 Pass the complex claim to the next group. Take a moment to check for “Big 5” and then revise the claim to be more successful. Take notes on what changes you are making and why, keeping it all on the same piece of paper to be collected at the end.


11:25 Report out.  4 minutes per group. You can also do 4 groups for 5 minutes each.


11:45 Wrap up. Emphasize transferability of strong claim and revision skills, especially in the context of current assignment sequence. Questions. Homework. Collect workshop materials and let students know I will create a Word document with each version of claim and extensive comments (using "Track Changes") and then post the final document on our Canvas site.


11:50 DONE!

*** You can see that 1. I love denominations of 5 (except for free writes. I find that 5 minutes is always too short and 10 is always too long. OCD lesson planning self hates that). 2. I really use my lesson plan as a guiding tool. Things almost always change in the middle of the lesson depending on how the class is going.

Also, if you haven't used videoANT before, I just found out about it this quarter and I'm obsessed. It's a great way to work together either in class if you have the technology or at home and on discussion boards.


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