Infinite Canvas – Visualizing the Argument

Infinite Canvas – Visualizing the Argument

Overview: Through creative use of the whiteboard, this activity challenges students to think creatively about their developing research arguments to re-assess what they truly wanted to argue in their upcoming RBA.

Author: Kevin DiPirro

Activity name: Infinite Canvas: Visualizing the Argument

Class: PWR 1/PWR 2

Activity brief description: This activity challenges students to think creatively about their developing research arguments to re-assess what they truly want to (or are prepared to) argue in their upcoming RBA.  This activity presupposes access to a lot of whiteboard space.  It works really well at a point in the quarter where students have started to feel very comfortable with their argument — such as after they’ve completed an outline or a very early draft.  What the activity does is involve them in some creative brainstorming and then some peer work to help them understand the difference between what they’ve planned to argue (in an outline or preliminary draft) and what their claim really is.

Schedule: Weeks 6, 7, or 8 (after a draft or outline)

Activity length: Approximately 30 minutes

Activity goals: To encourage students to reassess their evolving argument and thesis statement at a stage when they’ve started to lock down their claim.

Activity details:

  1. Have each student go up to a whiteboard space (whether on the wall, or a portable whiteboard)
  2. Students should then write on the whiteboard key words that they associate with their project, but in no particular order or placement.
  3. Once they’ve done so, ask them to look at what they’ve written and ask, “Are there any verbs there?”  Usually, there aren’t. Have them add verbs to the words on their whiteboard.
  4. Now, have them reflect on the words they have written and erase all but the 5-7 most important words.
  5. Next, have them “animate” their words by showing their relationships to each other, using boxes, arrows, lines, clouds, etc.)
  6. Once their visualization is complete, have them move over to someone else’s whiteboard space and look it over.  Next to that other student’s work, they should write on the board what they think the thesis statement for the project would be.  You can have multiple students visit each other’s boards (for a variety of perspectives), or keep it to just one viewer.
  7. Have all the students return to their key words and revise the words and their relationships to make the thesis more apparent/clear.
  8. Have each student report out about what they learned about their argument.

Additional notes:  Kevin orignally shared this activity  at a Program meeting in 2012, as part of a session led by Gabrielle called “What I do.”  It was later featured in winter 2014 as an Activity of the week.