Lighthouse Initiative for Texas Classrooms

Grade 11 Sample Lesson

Critical Thinking: Synthesizing Ideas and Information

Examination of details, images, and rhetorical strategies to discover purpose and to construct a synthesis essay

Contributed by Sandra Coker, Westlake High School, Austin, TX

(Click here for downloadable MS Word version.)

Time needed:

Eight 50-minute periods

Materials/Resources Needed:

Class Period 1—Pre-reading activity and first reading of "The Last Lesson"

  • Preparation and Instruction
    • Write the following prompt on the board: "How does a society respond to oppression or armed conflict?"
    • Students free-write for 10 minutes.
    • Teacher generates table on transparency illustrating effects given by students.

Effects of Oppression

Text and paragraph number Comments and questions about effects
    • Students discuss effects and responses (whole group).
    • Students are given story "The Last Lesson" (numbered line version).
    • Students read title and write prediction of story content.
    • Students note paragraph focus on left margin of text.
    • Students read story silently underlining text to be used for later reference and noting in margins everything that suggests the effects of oppression, paying particular attention to how that portion of the text suggests oppression and its effects.
    • Suggest that students also notate with brackets [words or phrases that indicate movement of time].
    • See Sample Analysis: Focus and Time Indicators in "The Last Lesson."

Class Period 2—Small groups analyze "The Last Lesson" and annotate for paragraph focus, details, and images

  • Preparation and Instruction
    • Teacher leads students in brief discussion of the effects of the German invasion on the residents of Alsace.
    • Teacher then leads class in noting focus of each paragraph; observe movement of ideas.
    • Small groups examine images and details that suggest change, resistance, and courage.
    • Homework: Write a thesis sentence using the Toulmin model (see below)1 and an introductory paragraph that suggests the thematic ideas presented in the story. Note: students should consider details and images.

Toulmin model:
Because _______________, therefore________________,

Sample: Because such an approach focuses student attention on specific aspects, it is therefore a valuable writing and thinking strategy, since organizational patterns should clarify the significant components of an argument.

Class Period 3—Simulated AP Reading

Class Period 4—Reading Comprehension

Class Period 5—Timed Essay

Class Period 6—Compare reading selections and analyze rhetorical appeals

  • Preparation and Instruction
    • Small groups examine images and details that suggest change, resistance, and courage.
    • Small groups compare and contrast rhetorical strategies (appeals to logic, emotion, or ethics of the speaker) in the two selections using the chart below. Homework: Write a thesis sentence, a compound-complex sentence, and an introductory paragraph that suggests the thematic ideas about change presented in the story and in the speech. Note: Students should consider details and rhetorical appeals.

Speaker’s Attitude Toward Change

The Last Lesson Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Class Period 7—Author attitude and purpose

  • Preparation and Instruction
    • Students, led by teacher, discuss the authors' attitudes and purposes and how they are achieved.
    • Students are given bar graph of Armed Conflicts, 1999-2004 to analyze and draw conclusions.
    • Teacher leads class in analysis and discussion of modern day conflicts and their effects.
    • Small groups discuss how bar graph might change in 2004 and 2005 (conflict in Iraq).

Class Period 8—Synthesis essay

  • Preparation and Instruction
    • Have students respond individually and in writing to the following prompt: Writing Prompt.

Possible follow-up lessons

  • Students can read The Things They Carried or A Rumor of War2 and discuss the connotation of the terms revolution and war and/or any similarities and differences.
  • Students can analyze various war speeches, letters, poetry, song lyrics, or films.

1 For more information, see Toulmin, S.E. (1958). The uses of argument. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Toulmin, S., Rieke, R., Janik, A. (1978). An introduction to reasoning. Macmillan: New York.

2 O'Brien, T. (1990). The Things They Carried. Houghton Mifflin: Boston. Caputo, P. (1977). A Rumor of War. Henry Holt: New York.