Mapping the Conversation

Mapping the Conversation

Overview: In this activity, students put three texts in conversation through using a creative activity involving different colored post-it notes.

Author: Sarah Pittock

Activity name: Mapping the Conversation

Class: PWR 1

Activity brief description: Students should come to class having read three assigned texts that are “in conversation.”  In small groups, students work with three colors of sticky notes, one for each text.  For each point of the text they deem worthy of mention, they write a note on a separate sticky.  They do this for each text.  THEN, and this is the important part, they mix and match.  Where do the authors agree?  How and why do they disagree?  Stickies are clustered according to subtopics that students can clearly see mix the voices (colors) of the conversation.  Each groups develops its own “map” of the conversation on the whiteboard, which they can then present to the class.

Schedule: Sometime in weeks 3, 4, or 5 – right after the students have handed in their final revision of their rhetorical analysis

Activity length: ”Mapping the Conversation” takes most of a two-hour class by the time you set it up, let the students work and present, and then discuss its implications for the assignment.

Activity goals: This multimodal, collaborative activity prepares students to write the TiC by

  1. giving them a note-taking and outlining process that contributes to essays that go beyond the obvious points of comparison and contrast
  2. and by showing students there are many ways to represent any one scholarly conversation and thus highlights the argumentative nature of the TiC.

Activity details: See handout.

Additional notes: When I first taught the TiC, I prepared students by leading a discussion of three assigned texts in class.  In my class, Growing Up Global, these happened to be three perspectives on the importance of children’s play.  My students could see their connections and idiosyncrasies quite clearly.  But the ability to observe these in class did not result in subtle written representations of their independent research.  First drafts of the TiC tended to use train-car organization: one analytic summary after the next.  I wanted my students to do more in the first drafts of their TiC, and I realized I needed an activity that showed them HOW to put texts into conversation.

“Mapping the Conversation” was developed by Sigrid Streit, a former PWR lecturer.  Students should come to class having read three assigned texts that are “in conversation.”  In small groups, students work with three colors of sticky notes, one for each text.  For each point of the text they deem worthy of mention, they write a note on a separate sticky.  They do this for each text.  THEN, and this is the important part, they mix and match.  Where do the authors agree?  How and why do they disagree?  Stickies are clustered according to subtopics that students can clearly see mix the voices (colors) of the conversation.  Each groups develops its own “map” of the conversation on the whiteboard, which they can then present to the class.

I find this activity works best right after students have handed in their final RAs and just as the class is embarking on the TiC.  But I also think it could work well as a process/homework assignment for the TiC.  There are probably ways it could be adapted to the PWR2 sequence, but I haven’t found a way to squeeze it into my syllabus.

This multimodal, collaborative activity prepares students to write the TiC: it gives them a note-taking and outlining process that contributes to essays that go beyond the obvious points of comparison and contrast.  It also shows students there are many ways to represent any one scholarly conversation and thus highlights the argumentative nature of the TiC.

This activity was originally featured as an Activity of the Week in winter 2014.