2 Teacher Instructions The purpose of the Synthesis Question is for students to interact and establish a conversation with the sources. Conversing with the sources allows a student to determine a document s stance, find his or her voice, and create a meaningful argument. Students must understand that the sources are for the purpose of supporting their own arguments. No matter what the topic of the prompt might be, no matter what the question or the position of the prompt might imply, students must formulate their own position first and then look for three sources that will help them make their point most effectively. NOTE: It is essential that copies of the sources from the mock exam are available for students to use during this instructional session. Analyzing the Prompt In the student handout, students are asked to review the prompt itself, breaking it into three paragraphs. For each paragraph they have 1 to 3 guided questions to think about and discuss. Consider reading each paragraph of the prompt aloud and soliciting student ideas for the questions. Add other observations you might have to this discussion. Suggested answers are in italics below, but know that they are only suggestions for your use, as needed. Paragraph 1 What is the issue presented in this paragraph? Is a college education worth its cost? Or stated as a declarative sentence, a controversy surrounds the value of a college education (or something similar). What are the opposing views on the issue? Some high school students and their parents are wondering if a college education is worth the cost. While, Others, however, believe that a college education prepares students for more than just a job or career. Encourage students to put these ideas into their own words to make sure they understand. If time allows, briefly discuss with students their thoughts about attending college, the high cost of attending a college/university, and their parents expectation of them post-high school. Paragraph 2 What tasks are identified in this paragraph? Students must carefully read the sources, synthesize at least three of the sources and incorporate the content of the source material into a coherent, well-developed essay which evaluates the topic.
3 Suggest to students that underlining the VERBS in this paragraph will make it easier for them to identify the tasks they must complete in order to write an effective synthesis essay. Paragraph 3 Explain what the first sentence of this paragraph means. Students must note the term argument in this sentence (as well as how argument is repeated in the following sentence). They must know that the synthesis essay they are being asked to write is an ARGUMENT, and thus, a stance must be taken. Students must agree or disagree with the issue presented in the first paragraph ( A college education is worth the cost. ) How should the sources be used in constructing your essay? The sources should assist the writer to effectively develop an argument and support the stance taken on the issue. The sources should clearly explain the writer s reasoning and logic on the stance taken. What does avoid merely summarizing the sources mean? Student writers must avoid re-telling the contents of a source to the reader; instead the sources are to be used as SUPPORT of the stance/side taken. A good rule for students to remember is that an effective synthesis argument is STUDENT-DRIVEN, rather than SOURCE-DRIVEN, meaning that at all times the reader can tell the essay belongs to the student writer and not to the sources. Reading the Sources for Support Students could complete this activity as an independent assignment, but a more effective approach might be to allow students to work in a small group to complete their chart. The example noted below is also included on the student handout to provide them a model response. Answers will vary. One example has been completed as a model. Author of Source Claim of the source Evidence that supports the claim Michael Roth Supports the liberal arts/higher education 1. The liberal arts encourage freedom and experimentation (3). 2. The liberal arts introduce students to books, music, sciences, and philosophy (1). 3. A liberal arts education helps develop sound judgment and a capacity for innovation (3).
4 Using information from the full chart of sources, students will complete the following activity. The goal is to help them see one position and then its opposite and after closely examining the sources, to determine which sources will best support each position. They are then asked to write a thesis statement for one of the two positions. Asking for volunteers to share their new thesis statements with the class can be helpful. Position one: Sources that support this position: Opposing position: Sources that support this position: Write a thesis statement that clearly states the position you have chosen from the two possible positions identified above. Sample Thesis Statements Students will read the following thesis statements taken from examination student samples and will choose the thesis statement which is the most effective. Consider dividing students into three groups and assigning each group one of the thesis statements. As a group, students can record their responses and share the results of their discussion with classmates. Though today it may seem like college is a necessity, more and more students are finding that the cost of college cannot compare to the opportunities that could be found elsewhere. Entering college could be very beneficial to you in the future. Once you graduate college, you will have a successful job and career, and you will not only make your parents proud, but you will also make yourself proud. While critics contest the idea that college benefits an individual economically, other areas of life are undeniably improved by a college education; the importance of freedom of thought and innovation provided by a college education cannot be valued under possible economic discrepancies.
5 Revision Activity Students have three sample paragraphs (A, B, C) from essays written to the 2014 synthesis question. Direct them to read the sample and to use the following pattern to identify the three basic parts of the paragraph. Argument (underline) Use of source materials (enclose in a rectangle) Commentary or explanation (enclose in a circle) If highlighters are available, of course, three different colors could be used to complete this activity instead. Helping students through this activity will be necessary; therefore, whole class instruction and discussion is recommended. SAMPLE A Some argue that the financial risk involved in attending college simply outweighs any intellectual benefits that can arise from higher education. However, such sentiment fails to take into account the financial skills that paying for college cultivate. This is one of the first instances in a child s life where they have to start buying their own food, gas, and other services. By enrolling in college, they are also acknowledging that they will have to start thinking about how they will pay for college. In a study by a research group in Washington, the Hamilton Project, college tuition in recent decades has delivered an inflation-adjusted annual return of more than 15 percent (Source D). Clearly, people who took the financial risk of investing in college have seen considerable financial benefits, along with the resourcefulness they have had to cultivate in the years of paying for college. SAMPLE B According to recent studies, new college graduates are making less money today than they were ten years ago, indicating the declining value of a college degree in the job market. As shown by the graph in Source C, the average hourly wage for an entry-level male college graduate dropped by about $3.00 from 2002 to 2010 this decline was also felt by entry-level female employees whose wages dropped by about $1.60 from 2003 to Considering that those same female employees were already making several dollars less than their male counterparts, the smaller decrease is hardly comforting. It is clear that college degrees are faltering in their reliability to provide a stable living.
6 SAMPLE C High School has been popularized in the media as a time to have fun and enjoy the teenage years. This has been imprinted in the mind of the modern student. Generally, high school seniors feel that because they are in their last year of high school, they no longer have to work hard. By ending education after high school, students are not able to obtain a strong work ethic as they would in college a work ethic that could benefit them for the rest of their lives. Not only would college bolster a good work ethic, but also it would build character. In Source F, Pew Research Center reveals that 60% of Americans believe a good work ethic is extremely important and 52% believe the same about social skills. College is the opportunity to bolster both of these values. It provides an environment surrounded by a wide array of people, cultures, and ethnicities. It is a perfect place to meet and learn how to converse and get along with different types of people. Attending and working through strenuous college classes helps students attain a strong work ethic that will benefit them in whatever they choose to do. The goal of the preceding activity is to encourage students to see the link between offering an argument in a sentence of assertion and using source material as support of that argument. In addition, they can benefit from understanding the importance of writing commentary or explanation in which they use their own words to develop and enhance their argument. After students discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the three sample paragraphs, ask them to revisit the synthesis essay they wrote for the mock exam. They should follow the same pattern they used with the sample paragraphs to identify their own sentences containing argument use of source materials commentary or explanation For additional practice, they should select their strongest body paragraph and revise and rewrite it in the space below. This final part of the lesson could be done in small editing groups or in a writing workshop setting.