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Santa Monica College|Academic Programs|English|English 20 Lab

English 20 Lab



2A  2B  3A  3B  4A  4B  5A  5B  6A  6B  7A  7B  8A/8B  9A  9B  10A  10B  11A  11B  12A  12B  13A  13B  14A  14B 



            The English 20 lab is a very important part of your final grade for English 20.  This semester, the lab will consist of two parts: online (at home or anywhere with Internet access) and on the ground (in a lab with your classmates at SMC).  This “flipped” approach will allow you to prepare at home for your work in the lab (e.g. discussion, writing, etc).  So, each week, you will have one online lab and one lab on campus. 


            It is imperative that you be prepared for the lab at SMC.  That means viewing the videos, reading the articles, and completing the writing assignments posted online.  It also means bringing your packet materials to the SMC lab each week.  If you do not have your materials, it is at the Instructional Assistant’s discretion whether you should stay in the lab.


            If you are asked to leave (because you have not brought your materials, have consistently neglected to bring online assignments, are off task, are creating a distraction, etc.) you will be counted as absent.


            Before you leave each lab on campus, the work you have completed will be checked by the IA’s and initialed by them, verifying your efforts in the lab.  All of the lab activities should be kept in your notebook, and your instructor will specify how these assignments will be credited.


            Of course, it goes without saying that as representatives of your English 20 class, 

you will be expected to follow the same rules in the SMC lab regarding attendance and punctuality as in your classroom.  You will also be expected to confer the same attention and respect to the Instructional Assistants as you do in class with your instructor.




2A: ONLINE                  Flipping the Classroom



This assignment must be completed using the paper copy--the lab book itself.


STEP ONE: Preview the study questions below.  Form an initial impression of the article.


STEP TWO: As you read the following excerpt, highlight MAIN IDEAS in one color.  Highlight important DETAILS in another color.


The article in Lab 2A is an excerpt from the following, available online:

Turning EducationUpside Down​

By Tina Rosenberg

October 9, 2013


On a separate sheet of paper, answer the following questions in complete sentences.


1)    In your own words, what is a “flipped classroom”?

2)    Briefly describe Clintondale High School.  What type of students do they serve?

3)    Why did Clintondale flip their classrooms?

4)    Rosenberg says flipping the classroom changes what students do at home and in the classroom.  How?

5)    What academic results did Clintondale High School achieve by flipping their classrooms?

6)    Which students benefited the most from the new approach?

7)    What are the potential disadvantages of the flipped classroom?

8)    Do you think the flipped classroom concept would work at SMC?  Why or why not?


STEP FOUR: View the online tutorial “How to Write a Summary”



STEP FIVE: Bring your highlighted article and responses to the study questions to your next Lab meeting.



Reminder:  All Lab work should be kept in your Lab Folder for credit.







With your tablemates:

1)    Share your responses to the Lab 2A study questions. 

2)    Discuss:  What is Rosenberg’s purpose in writing the article?  Is she trying to persuade, argue, explain, describe, report, narrate, illustrate?  Choose a precise verb to describe her purpose.

3)    Come to consensus: What is the central idea of the article?

4)    Complete the one-sentence summary (aka “the power sentence”) below by adding an effective verb and the main idea of the text:


One-sentence summary (aka “the power sentence):


In the article “Turning Education Upside Down,” Tina Rosenberg ____________________________




(central idea of the article)

















(NOTE THE CORRECTION PUNCTUATION ABOVE.  There is one comma after the introductory phrase.  There is no comma between the subject and the verb.)



5)    Using the template on the next page, complete a one-paragraph summary of “Turning Education Upside Down.” 



·       Begin with a one-sentence summary that names the title, author, and central idea.

·       Paraphrase 3-5 main ideas from the text.

o   Do not use direct quotes in a summary.  Put the author’s ideas into your own words.

o   Try to introduce ideas in the same order as the original text.

o   Do not include details unless they are essential.

·       Use transitions where needed to show how ideas are connected.

·       After the first mention of the author’s name, use his/her last name only.

·       Do not include your own opinion in the summary.


6)    When you finish your summary, discuss it with an IA.  Make any recommended revisions.

In the article “Turning Education Upside Down,” Tina Rosenberg ________________________

              (genre)                           (title of text)                                    (author)                                  (verb)




 (central idea – who, what, why)




According to Rosenberg, a flipped classroom Is ______________________________________________






Clintondale, __________________________________________________________________________,

                           (briefly describe the school - who)


chose to flip every classroom ____________________________________________________________






As a result of the flipped approach, _______________________________________________________

                                                                                 (what happened?)







Rosenberg reports that there are some disadvantages, however.  For example, ____________________






Despite these drawbacks, _______________________________________________________________








3A: ONLINE               ​Are some people just not good at Math?


“Mindset” and Dr. Carol Dweck


You will be doing some writing during this activity so take out some paper and something with which to write.



Respond in writing to this question: What is your belief about intelligence? Can young adults become more intelligent than they already are, or is intelligence something that can’t be changed by the time we mature? Please be sure to say why you have your particular beliefs about intelligence.



Enjoy the following video showing a psychology experiment about intelligence:



Look over the study guide questions in STEP 4 and then watch the following video (which you might want to pause every once and a while to write your answers to the questions):


Watch the video to the 12 minutes, 32 seconds mark (12:32):



Using complete sentences, evidence from the video, and your own words, respond to each of the following questions. Some of these questions probably need a paragraph to be fully explained! Do not write your answers on this page.

1.     What does Dr. Dweck mean when she says “fixed mindset”?

2.     What does Dr. Dweck mean when she says “growth mindset”?

3.     Explain what happened to the medical students with a fixed mindset when they experienced a setback or made a mistake.

4.     Describe how praise influences mindset, according to Dr. Dweck. Be sure to explain the two types of praise and what they do.

5.     Choose one of the following options:

a.     Describe someone you know who seems to have a fixed mindset—and be sure to explain how you know he or she has that mindset.

b.     Describe someone you know who seems to have a growth mindset—and be sure to explain how you know he or she has that mindset.


Please bring your written responses to these questions (and the Step 1 question) with you to lab next time. Responses will be checked and signed by Instructional Assistants.       




3B: IN LAB                   "Brainology" and Descriptive Outlining

 Chunking is an activity where you break up a reading in order to understand what you’ve read. Typically you would break the reading into separate chunks such as the introduction, examples, explanation, and conclusion. You would then briefly summarize the important content or details of each section. In this activity, a section of Dweck’s article, “Mindsets and Achievement,” has been broken into different chunks for you.


STEP 1:  Read the chunks of the text and pull out the most important details and ideas. With your group or partner, write a one- or two-sentence paraphrase of the main idea and/or details in the box below the text.



Transforming Students’ Motivation to Learn, by Carol S. Dweck


Mindsets and Achievement

Many students believe that intelligence is fixed, that each person has a certain amount and that's that. We call this a fixed mindset, and, as you will see, students with this mindset worry about how much of this fixed intelligence they possess. A fixed mindset makes challenges threatening for students (because they believe that their fixed ability may not be up to the task) and it makes mistakes and failures demoralizing (because they believe that such setbacks reflect badly on their level of fixed intelligence).




Other students believe that intelligence is something that can be cultivated through effort and education. They
don't necessarily believe that everyone has the same abilities or that anyone can be as smart as Einstein, but they do believe that everyone can improve their abilities. And they understand that even Einstein wasn't Einstein until he put in years of focused hard work. In short, students with this growth mindset believe that intelligence is a potential that can be realized through learning. As a result, confronting challenges, profiting from mistakes, and persevering in the face of setbacks become ways of getting smarter.






(1) To understand the different worlds these mindsets create, we followed several hundred students across a difficult school transition — the transition to seventh grade. This is when the academic work often gets much harder, the grading gets stricter, and the school environment gets less personalized with students moving from class to class. As the students entered seventh grade, we measured their mindsets (along with a number of other things) and then we monitored their grades over the next two years.







(2) The first thing we found was that students with different mindsets cared about different things in school. Those with a growth mindset were much more interested in learning than in just looking smart in school. This was not the case for students with a fixed mindset. In fact, in many of our studies with students from preschool age to college age, we find that students with a fixed mindset care so much about how smart they will appear that they often reject learning opportunities — even ones that are critical to their success (Cimpian, et al., 2007; Hong, et al., 1999; Nussbaum and Dweck, 2008; Mangels, et al., 2006).










(3) Next, we found that students with the two mindsets had radically different beliefs about effort. Those with a growth mindset had a very straightforward (and correct) idea of effort — the idea that the harder you work, the more your ability will grow and that even geniuses have had to work hard for their accomplishments. In contrast, the students with the fixed mindset believed that if you worked hard it meant that you didn't have ability, and that things would just come naturally to you if you did. This means that every time something is hard for them and requires effort, it's both a threat and a bind. If they work hard at it that means that they aren't good at it, but if they don't work hard they won't do well. Clearly, since just about every worthwhile pursuit involves effort over a long period of time, this is a potentially crippling belief, not only in school but also in life.







(4) Students with different mindsets also had very different reactions to setbacks. Those with growth mindsets reported that, after a setback in school, they would simply study more or study differently the next time. But those with fixed mindsets were more likely to say that they would feel dumb, study less the next time, and seriously consider cheating. If you feel dumb — permanently dumb — in an academic area, there is no good way to bounce back and be successful in the future. In a growth mindset, however, you can make a plan of positive action that can remedy a deficiency. (Hong. et al., 1999; Nussbaum and Dweck, 2008; Heyman, et al., 1992)







(5) Finally, when we looked at the math grades they went on to earn, we found that the students with a growth mindset had pulled ahead. Although both groups had started seventh grade with equivalent achievement test scores, a growth mindset quickly propelled students ahead of their fixed-mindset peers, and this gap only increased over the two years of the study.







(6) In short, the belief that intelligence is fixed dampened students' motivation to learn, made them afraid of effort, and made them want to quit after a setback. This is why so many bright students stop working when school becomes hard. Many bright students find grade school easy and coast to success early on. But later on, when they are challenged, they struggle. They don't want to make mistakes and feel dumb — and, most of all, they don't want to work hard and feel dumb. So they simply retire.

It is the belief that intelligence can be developed that opens students to a love of learning, a belief in the power of effort and constructive, determined reactions to setbacks.








STEP 2: Make sure your group finishes chunking Dweck’s writing, and be sure to ask for an Instructional Assistant’s signature before you go.


4A: ONLINE                  ​​Motivation: Cash, Marshmallows, or Mindset?



Freewrite for five minutes about what you think are the best ways to motivate someone at work and at school (if you think a different motivation is needed for each one, say why).



Before you watch the video, read the following definitions and survey the questions listed in number 4 (you will be answering these questions after you watch the video).



Call into question (v)—to challenge the accuracy or truth of a statement, theory, or belief


Incentivize (v)—give someone a motivation or incentive to do something


Mechanical skill (n)—an ability or expertise at moving one’s body in a certain way; for example, a person who can paint a house more neatly and quickly than another person would be said to have greater mechanical skill.


Rudimentary (adj)—basic


Cognitive skill (n)—an ability or expertise at thinking or using one’s brain


Replicate (v)—to repeat or reproduce; for example, one scientist might replicate another scientist’s experiment to make sure that the results were correct


Anomalous (adj)—different from what was expected or normal; for example, a rubber ball not bouncing back when thrown at the ground would be very anomalous.


Preview the study questions below and then watch the following animated video about motivation according to Daniel Pink:



Go to the transcript of the video and read it before you answer the study questions below. (The transcript does have a few errors in it; be patient!) See the transcript here:



Using complete sentences, evidence from the text, and your own words, respond to each of the following questions. Note that the most thorough response to each question will be about a paragraph in length, using quotations and your own careful explanation of those quotes. Bring your written or typed responses to lab. Do not write your answers on this page.


1.     Write a one-paragraph summary of Pink’s video, and be sure to include his main idea.

2.     In your own words, summarize the results of the experiment performed with MIT students and people from Mudarai, India.

3.     Is Daniel Pink arguing that money is not important? Explain what he says about the role of money when it comes to work that is cognitive and creative.

4.     In your own words, carefully explain each of the three important concepts from Pink’s talk:

​A.    Mastery      B. Autonomy    C. Purpose


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4B: IN LAB          With your mind on your what?



For five minutes, freewrite about your life goals. What are they, and where do you see yourself five years after college?



Once students are done freewriting, Instructional Assistants quickly review popcorn reading and Talking to the Text.



Get ready to read the excerpt “The Good Life” from Daniel Pink’s book Drive. Start by reviewing the following key terms from the article:

Extrinsic (adj)—coming from outside, not originating from within


Intrinsic (adj)—coming from inside, essential


Aspiration (n)—a hope or ambition of achieving something


Attain (v)—to achieve or reach what one has worked for or seeks


Conundrum (n)—a confusing and difficult problem or question



Within your small groups, read “The Good Life” popcorn style so that each group member reads a paragraph before the next person starts. On top of that, use Talking to the Text throughout your reading.



Once your group has finished reading (and re-reading) the text, discuss your responses to the following questions and be prepared to share your responses with the class.

A.    What is a “profit goal” and what is a “purpose goal”? Explain each one and give an example of each.

B.    Explain what happened to the “profit” goal students a few years after college.

C.    Write a one-sentence summary of Daniel Pink’s “The Good Life.”

D.    Now, read the free write you did at the beginning of lab. Apply what you have learned from Drive to your own goals. Would you consider them “purpose” or “profit” goals? Do you have just one kind, or both? Share with your group, and be as specific as you can be.

​E.    Be ready to share with the class your group’s responses to question A, B, and C.


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5A: ONLINE                 A marshmallow tells your fortune—or not.



Watch the “marshmallow experiment” video and think about what it has to do with the issues raised by the last few readings about motivation. Here is the video link*:



Write a one-paragraph summary of de Posada’s video talk. (Remember what to include in your first sentence!)



Your one-paragraph summary is due at the beginning of class.


*For a typed transcript of the video, use the “Show Transcript” menu to scroll down to English. You might use the transcript to write a strong summary.



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Read the following discussion of a recent research study.  As you read, highlight the main ideas.


Another Look at the Marshmallow Experiment


Many people have heard of the famous marshmallow experiment.  It is a classic study designed by Walter Mischel in the 1970s.  Researchers gave young children a marshmallow and told them that if they did not eat the marshmallow for 15 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.  Most children ate the marshmallow right away.  Some children had enough impulse-control to wait for the bigger reward.  Later, Mischel followed-up with the children when they were teenagers.  He found that the pre-schoolers who had refrained from eating the first marshmallow grew up to be adolescents with better grades, more friends, and fewer behavioral problems than the impulsive tykes who ate the marshmallow. Some people interpreted the results of Mischel’s experiment as proof that self-discipline is an innate trait. Either you’re born with it, they reasoned, or you aren’t.

In 2013, researchers at the University of Rochester redesigned Mischel’s experiment with a twist: before the children got a chance to eat the marshmallow, they were asked to decorate a paper cup.  Researchers told children that if they waited a few minutes, they could have new crayons and stickers to use.  Half the children who waited received the promised art supplies.  This group was called the “reliable environment” group.  The remaining children were put in the “unreliable environment” group.   They were also promised new art supplies.  Although the children waited, they never receive the promised reward.  Instead, these children were told that the researchers had run out of new supplies.

After the decorating project was finished, the researchers moved on to the marshmallow experiment.  Guess what?  The kids from the unreliable environment – the ones who saw the researchers break their promise – didn’t wait for the bigger reward.  They ate the first marshmallow right away.  Some of the children from the reliable environment ate the marshmallow, too; however, they waited a lot longer before they gave in. 

This new research suggests that self-control is not just a question of nature.  It is also a question of nurture.  Children in unreliable environments may decide that delaying gratification is not a rational choice. If they can’t trust the adults in their life to keep promises, choosing immediate gratification over long-term rewards may seem like the smarter strategy. 



Comparison of Wait Times During the Marshmallow Experiment


Data from “Rational snacking: Young children’s decision-making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability” by Celeste Kidd, Holly Palmeri, and Richard N. Aslin:

   LAB 5B SKILL-BUILDER: Combining sentences

Combine the sentence pairs below to create a single, grammatically-correct sentence.  When using conjunctions, be sure to identify the relationship between the ideas (e.g., contrast, cause and effect, etc.)


1. Group details together to join these ideas.  Remove unnecessary words.

a) Many people have heard of the famous marshmallow experiment. 

b) It is a classic study designed by Walter Mischel in the 1970s.






2. Create a compound subject to combine ideas.

a) In the 1970s, Walter Mischel found that self-control in childhood correlated with success later in life.

b) Researcher Monica Rodriguez replicated Mischel’s results two decades later.

c) Joachim de Posada conducted a similar study in Brazil and came to the same conclusion.









3. Use a coordinating conjunction to join ideas.  Remove unnecessary words.

a) Most children in Mischel’s experiment ate the marshmallows right away.

b) Some children in Mischel’s study had enough self-control to wait for the bigger reward.








4. Use a subordinating or adverbial conjunction to join ideas.  Remove unnecessary words.

a) Some people believe that the self-control is an innate trait.

b) Researchers at University of Rochester believe self-control can be affected by environment.









5.  Finish the thought (complex sentence):  If we want to help children develop a sense of self-control,










6. Combine an idea from the de Posada video with a SIMILAR idea from the Rochester study. 















7. Combine an idea from the Rochester study with a CONTRASTING idea from “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!” 














8. REFLECT: Which study is more compelling to you?  Why?
























SKILL-BUILDER: Sentence Combining

Sentence combining is the process of taking ideas from two or more sentences, removing or replacing any repetitive words, and joining the ideas into one grammatically-correct sentence.  Sentence combining is a good way to tighten your writing, emphasize the relationship between ideas, and create sentence variety.


Three Tips for Combining Sentences


1) Identify the relationship between the ideas (e.g., contrast, similarity, cause and effect, chronology).


A.    If two or more ideas are equally important, consider using a compound subject, compound verb, or compound sentence.


Walter Mischel, Monica Rodriguez, and Joachim de Posada tested toddlers’ self-discipline by offering a reward to children who were able to resist eating a marshmallow for 15 minutes. (compound subject)


Most children did not wait the full 15 minutes, but some resourceful tykes were able to distract themselves from the temptation. (compound sentence)


The children who resisted temptation sniffed and licked the marshmallow but didn’t eat it.

(compound verb)



B.     Ideas of equal importance can also be combined with adverbial conjunctions or semi-colons.


Students in the reliable environment waited at least 10 minutes before eating the marshmallow; however, students in the unreliable environment ate it almost immediately.


C.    If one idea is dependent on another, consider using a complex sentence.


After the adults broke their promise, students in the unreliable environment lacked self-control.


Students showed more self-control when adults kept their word.


2) Look for ways to insert information at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a main idea.

University of Rochester researcher Celeste Kidd revised the marshmallow experiment to explore the effect of environment on self-discipline, which has been defined as the ability to delay gratification.

 Joachim de Posada, a psychologist and best-selling author, believes self-discipline can be taught.

3) Add information with verb phrases and prepositional phrases.

Believing that the adults would keep their promise, the children from the reliable environment were willing to wait more than 12 minutes, on average, for the second marshmallow.

With the memory of being cheated fresh in their minds, children in the unreliable environment chose not want to hold out for a reward that might never arrive.




6A   Online                    Students getting paid?



Print and read the New York Times article “Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?” Find it here:



Create Cornell Notes of “Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?” (Notes due at the beginning of lab.) For a quick review of Cornell notes, see this short video:



Write a one-paragraph summary of “Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?”



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6B   In Lab                  Evidence—what do you see?



Present Cornell Notes and responses to questions for quick check and signature by Instructional Assistants.



Participate in whole-class discussion of responses to questions 1–4 from lab 3A.



Now, you are going to create an evidence journal. The question is, what evidence for and against the cash reward program does one find in “Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?” To answer this question, start by dividing a blank piece of paper into two columns. At the top of the left column, write “For cash rewards”; at the top of the right column, write “Against cash rewards.”



Now, as a group, search the text for evidence and record what you find. In the left column of your paper, jot down any piece of evidence that you think supports the cash program; in the right-hand column, record any bit of evidence that you think goes against the cash reward program. For each piece of evidence, write down the first few words of the quotation, the page number in parentheses, and a very brief paraphrase or summary of the quote; just be sure your notes will actually help you to find the quote again . . . because you might need it in a future assignment!


Here is an example of your two-column evidence journal, with just two sample pieces of evidence (you should have many in your two columns once you are done):


“For cash rewards”

“Against cash rewards”


“First three words of quote . . . “ (page #) Paraphrase/summary of quote



“This motivates us. . . . (3). Student in cash program says students are more motivated because of cash.


(These columns would go down the entire page, and you should fill them with as many pieces of evidence as you can find. Follow the format for each one!)


“First three words of quote . . . “ (page #)

Paraphrase/summary of quote



“No teachers were willing. . . .” (4). Teachers admit that the cash rewards will not cause them to work harder.



If time allows, work on the same two-column evidence journal but for Daniel Pink’s “The Good Life.” In other words, look in “The Good Life” for any evidence that would either support or go against the kind of cash reward program described in “Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?” (Note: if you are finding evidence on one side of the debate only, discuss with your group why you think that is.)



Be sure to ask an Instructional Assistant to sign your two-column evidence notes before you leave lab.



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7A    Online


Write an essay in response to the following prompt:



Some evidence in “Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?” suggests that paying students for their performance at school can actually help them become better, more motivated students. On the other hand, many critics of the program—and other people we have read this semester—would argue that reward-based motivators, like money, are not always the best way to encourage learning and growth in a person. 

Using evidence from Jennifer Medina’s article and at least two other source texts to support your position, write an essay responding to the following question: Should Los Angeles middle schools offer students cash rewards to improve their academic motivation and performance? Why or why not?




·       Show that you have carefully read the texts from this unit, and that you have fully digested and considered the different viewpoints and evidence. You must use evidence from three of the readings, including Medina’s article. You should also feel free to include outside research, or material from previous readings.


·       Show you are really thinking about the topic—these are complex questions, so don’t settle for easy answers. And don’t feel that you have to take an either-or position.


·       Write so that someone NOT in our class could understand it. That means you'll need to spend some time summarizing key ideas, defining key terms that might be unfamiliar, choosing short quotes from the original reading to help your reader get a sense of what the author was talking about.


·       Write at least 3 complete pages, typed, 12 point font, double-spaced


Source Texts:

“Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?” by Jennifer Medina (article)

“The Good Life” by Daniel Pink (article)

“Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us” by Daniel Pink (video)

“Don’t eat the marshmallow!” by Joachim de Posada (video)

“Brainology” by Carol Dweck (article)

“Mindset—the new psychology of success” by Carol Dweck (video)


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7B     Revising your essay by outlining it in reverse.

Step 1: Read this entire set of instructions, all the way to the end.

What is a reverse outline?
If a regular outline is something you write before you draft out your paper, a reverse outline is something you do after you write a draft.

Why should I reverse outline?
The reverse outline can be an extremely useful tool for helping you see the big picture of your paper, and can be especially useful for papers in need of major reordering of paragraphs or papers filled with paragraphs that have too many ideas in them and therefore don't hold together.

How do I make a reverse outline?
Go through the paper and number each paragraph. Then on a separate sheet of paper, write #1 and the main point (or points) of that first paragraph. Then, on the next line write #2 and the main point(s) of the second paragraph. Go through the entire paper this way. When you have gone through the entire paper, you will have an outline giving you an overview of your entire paper.

Then what?

  • Now look carefully at your overview, asking yourself the following questions:
  • Are the paragraphs properly focused, or are there multiple main ideas competing for control of a single paragraph?
  • Now that you've identified the main point of each paragraph, does the topic sentence reflect that point?
  • Are some of those ideas in a paragraph extraneous and should they therefore be deleted from the paper? Or do they simply need to be moved to a different part of the paper? (Many times you may find that a random idea tacked onto the end of, say, paragraph five really belongs in paragraph eleven where you fully develop that idea.) When you look at the outline as a whole, does the organization of the paper reflect what you promised in your introduction / thesis? If the answer is no, consider whether you need to revise the thesis or revise the organization of the paper.

Step 2: Create a reverse outline of your essay.

Once you have it, look carefully at your thesis statement and body paragraph main ideas. Does each one make a claim? Do they add up to a well-organized essay? Make a plan to improve your essay based on what you learn from your reverse outline.

Author: Rebecca Schoenike Nowacek

From: University of Wisconsin—Madison’s Writing Across the Curriculum website.








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Critical Thinking: Science Versus Pseudoscience Online Assignment 1








1.   ASTROLOGY_____   

2.   WITCHES_____    







8.  GHOSTS_____







Science- A set of methods designed to describe and interpret, through observation and experimentation, the natural world.  Science creates a testable body of systematized knowledge open to rejection or confirmation.


Pseudoscience- False science claiming to be science.  Its claims (of truth) are unverified and falsified by the scientific community.  Examples of pseudoscience: astrology, mind reading, talking to the dead, alien abduction, etc.


Skeptical Inquiry-  A set of methods testing claims using the scientific method.  The assumption of skepticism is that a claim should not be believed until it is confirmed using logic and evidence.  It is a vital part of science.


Dowsing- A method of locating a hidden substance, most commonly underground water, using a bent stick or rod.  After numerous tests, it has been deemed a pseudoscience by the scientific community.


Cognitive Biases- Brain functions that prejudice objective observation.  Examples include the tendency to see human faces or bodies where none exist and our mind inclined to seek patterns where none may exist.


Auditory Illusions- Sounds that the brain wrongly perceives to be words.  Examples include songs that when played backward appear to be transmitting a message.



ACTIVITY 3: View video of Michael Shermer TED Lecture: Why People Believe Weird Things:





Make a list (at least four) of bogus (false) claims and bad ideas Shermer uses as examples of weird things people believe.  (You may need to view the thirteen minute video a second time and stop it at certain points to jot down the examples). 

For each example, explain the false claim and why you think people believe(d) it.





 8B   In Lab

Critical Thinking: Science Versus Pseudoscience In Lab Assignment 1




Briefly review the Shermer video and the survey in the large group, and discuss the written responses for the day 1 online lab either in a large group or at tables in small groups. (20-25 minutes)

Day 1 online lab work should be checked by IA’s before discussion





Michael Shermer argues that whenever we are confronted with something extraordinary, we should ask, “What is the most likely explanation?”  Scientists state that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to be believed.


For example, psychics would need to prove in a controlled scientific setting that they have the ability to read minds. Many people believe in ESP, but science has not verified it.  A series of experiments would need to be conducted by objective observers to verify the claim of mind reading, perhaps placing the psychic in one room attempting to “read” the cards selected by someone in another room. (So far, no “mind reader” has ever successfully passed such tests).


Discuss two extraordinary claims (see previous lab written assignment and today’s discussion) mentioned by Shermer that should require extraordinary evidence to be believed. What is extraordinary (i.e. hard to believe,going against science) about each of them?  Explain what kinds of evidence you think would satisfy science in these specific cases to prove them to be true. (One paragraph each).



Day 1 online and day 2 lab activities should be checked and initialed by the IA’s before leaving lab.








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9A   At home/online

Critical Thinking: Science Versus Pseudoscience Online Assignment 2





Psychic- A person who claims to have the ability to perceive hidden information through extrasensory perception (ESP).


Tarot Cards- Special cards used by a “reader” in the belief that the cards can be read to gain insight and predict people’s lives.


Palm Reading- The belief someone’s life and future can be “read” by studying the lines on one’s palm.


Therapeutic Touch- A practice of some health professionals where it is claimed that negative energy of a patient can be identified and removed by placing hands four or five inches from the body.  The therapeutic touch specialist then “channels the healing energy of the universe” into the patient.


Placebo- A fake medicine, usually a pill, given to a patient who is told the pill is a real.


Placebo Effect- A fake pill is given, but then the unsuspecting patient, expecting the real pill, still feels the effects of what a real pill would have done.



ACTIVITY 2: View video of James Randi: Testing Psychics for the One Million Dollar Prize:



ACTIVITY 3: Answer the following questions from the James Randi video

1.   Explain the $1,000,000 test.

2.   What excuses did each contestant give for why they didn’t win the prize?



ACTIVITY 4: View video of John Stossel: Testing Therapeutic Touch



ACTIVITY 5: Answer the following questions from the John Stossel video

1.   Explain Emily Rose’s test of therapeutic touch.  What were the results?

2.  Why do you think the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, decided to publish 4th grader Emily Rose’s results of her therapeutic touch test?

3.  Why do you think the placebo effect experiment was added after the first segment on this ABC program?  How is the concept of placebos related to therapeutic touch? 


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9B       In Lab



Briefly review the Randi and Stossel videos in the large group, and discuss the written responses for the 9A lab in a large group or at tables in small groups (15 min.)




Next, discuss the list of claims and weird beliefs on that handout.

In pairs, students choose one weird belief to research for Lab 10A (online).

(35 min.)



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10A             Online   


Watch “Bill Nye Destroys Noah’s Ark”  (4 1/2 min. on Youtube)

**Pay special attention to Bill Nye’s scientific reasoning calling into question the existence of Noah’s Ark.** The purpose of watching Nye's video is to help you see how he uses science to question and critize using scientific reasoning. 



Now that you and your partner have chosen one specific weird belief from the list, your job is to use the provided websites to do some research on that particular belief.

The information you gather through your research should include what science says about the belief and how popular this belief is with the public.  The purpose of your research is to prepare you for what you are going to create in lesson 10B--take a look.

Hint: you will be making a kind of commercial about the belief—what it is and what science has to say about it.




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10B               In Lab


Student pairs will collaborate on their research and write a 30 second (approximately one page) public service announcement (PSA) about why the public should question the weird belief they researched.  They should use the “Characteristics of Thinking Like a Scientist” to help prove their points.  Each student should have a copy of the PSA script that s/he writes with his or her partner.

(45 min.)



If time allows, students should rehearse the script orally.

Instructor has option of asking students to rehearse script for presentation in the next class, or the IA’s can collect scripts and deliver to instructor.  Also, students may opt to make a video of their PSA and present to class.





1.   Look for natural explanations.


2.   Keep an open mind, but be skeptical of any unsubstantiated (unsupported) claim.


3.   Make sure a claim or belief can be tested.


4.   Evaluate the quality of the evidence for a belief.  Is it anecdotal? (Not always reliable) Were there proper   controls?  Were the misses counted along with the hits?


5.  Can the claim or belief be falsified? (Can it be proven false?)


6.  Consider alternative explanations.


7.  Can the claim or belief be duplicated?


8.  Other things being equal, the simplest explanation for the phenomenon is usually the best.


9.  Choose the claim or belief that doesn’t conflict with well-established knowledge.


10.           Your belief or claim should be in proportion to the amount of evidence for or against that belief.


TIP SHEET on how to evaluate a conspiracy theory (from Butte College)





CHOOSE 1 Belief (but look at each website for the belief)

9/11 Conspiracy


Global Warming Deniers


Pyramid Power


Pyramid power: myth busters prove pyramid power wrong




Aliens and pyramids:


Loch Ness Monster


Area 51

“Alien interview” video with text – a telepath interviews an alien at Area 51.


A new twist to the Area 51 conspiracy theory (text with video).  Those weren’t aliens that crashed into Roswell, they were Russian children.  Stalin staged the whole thing!


Area 51 truth revealed  (text).  The government is hiding something, just not alien corpses.


TIP SHEET on how to evaluate a conspiracy theory (from Butte College)


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11A  Online


Code-switching and Comedy


Step 1

Freewrite or list for five minutes the pros and cons of code switching.


Step 2

View the clip of Key and Peele talking to their studio audience about how and why they “adjust their blackness.”


Step 3

View the Key and Peele sketch, “White-sounding Black Guys.”


Step 4

Freewrite for ten-minute in response to this question: What did you think of this sketch? How do race and code-switching lend themselves to comedy, if at all? Be specific.


Now let’s take a closer look at why you believe these things you wrote in your freewrite. To do this, we will learn about the fact-idea list, sometimes called a metacognitive log or an evidence-interpretation log, and then practice using it.


Step 5

Review the Powerpoint presentation that briefly describes the Fact/Idea list.


Step 6

Watch someone create a fact/idea list.


Step 7

Re-watch “White-sounding Black Guys” and make a fact/idea list for it. Bring this list to lab.


Step 8

Write down any questions or comments you have about the fact/idea list and the Key and Peele clips and bring to lab as well.


Step 9

Bring your fact/idea list, freewrites, and questions and comments to lab.

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11B  In Lab


Step 1

Students get in self-selected pairs and discuss the fact/ideas lists and questions and comments about the lists and Key and Peele clips.


Step 2

IAs field questions that cannot not be answered in pairs.


Step 3

As a large group, watch Key and Peele’s, “Substitute Teacher”


Step 4

IAs facilitate classroom fact/idea list for “Substitute Teacher” on the board. Each student should copy what is on the board.


Step 5

Students individually revise/add on to their own fact/idea list from “White-sounding Black Guys.”


Step 6

For 5-7 minutes, freewrite on this topic: How did the fact/idea list help you go deeper into thinking about Key and Peele?


Step 7

Small group discussion (if time is available). Everyone in the group should take notes.

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12A  Online



Go to this website and print the article, “Are Key and Peele Biracial Geniuses or Are They Just Really Funny?”



Summarize the article and write 2-3 questions or comments you’d like to discuss in lab. Type everything and bring to lab.



Let’s get acquainted with a reading strategy called, “Talking to the Text.” To find out what this is, go to this site below and read just the first page of it: (Please print this page and write down any questions you have about it.)



Also, take a look at just the first page of this: (Please print this page and write down any questions you have about it.)

Keep in mind that steps 5 and 6 are the most important for higher learning.



Now watch different types of teacher demonstrate how Talking to the Text is done: -- An ESL teacher -- A science teacher



Write any questions or comments you have about the Talking to the Text (TttT) clips and bring those and questions from Steps 3 and 4 to lab.

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12B In Lab



Take out your questions about TttT. Discuss these with a partner and see if he or she can help you with them.



Watch the IAs demonstrate how to TttT with Edge-less, Post-racial Lie.”



Ask questions about TttT, if you have you. (You’re going to be doing it on your own soon, so please get clarity from the IAs.)



TttT on your own with the rest of Edge-less, Post-racial Lie.” Ask questions of IAs if you come across any obstacles during this process.



Write your concluding thoughts about the article and 1-2 questions you’d like to discuss either on the backside of the article or another sheet of paper.


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13A  Online



Go to this site and print the article, “The Daily Show’s ‘Racist or Not Racist’ Segment was Offensively Funny.”



TttT on this article.



Summarize the article and write 2-3 questions or comments you’d like to discuss in lab.



Take out your summary and discussion questions/comments for “Are Key and Peele Biracial Geniuses or Are They Just Really Funny?” and “Edge-less, Post-racial Lie.” Look at these readings as well as “The Daily Show’s ‘Racist or Not Racist’ Segment was Offensively Funny.” Compare the comments and notation on the readings. Which of the three do you recall best? Why do you think this is? What impact does TttT have on your reading process? Be specific. Do 10-12 minute freewrite to respond to these questions.



Look at the discussion questions/comments you have for all three articles. Add any that you think blend concepts from more than one article. For example, do you see contradictions? Commonalities? Of these, which questions would you most like to discuss in lab? Select 2-3 from your list and write them on a separate piece of paper. Make sure that they are legible. Bring these to lab.


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13B  In Lab



Give your selected questions/comments to IAs.



While the IAs review these questions and put them on the board, get yourself into a group of 3-4 people. Sit with these people.



Look at the questions/comments the IAs have put on the board. In your small group, quietly choose one question and begin discussing it. Pick specific evidence from one or more of the readings and/or details from the online sketches to help develop your ideas.



Participate in large group discussion facilitated by the IAs.



Begin group project:

a.     As a group, choose a question on the board that has not been discussed.

b.     In your group, discuss the question thoroughly.

c.     Write and prepare to perform a sketch that includes code-switching. Please make sure that your sketch is related to the question your group discussed and has some social commentary and/or theme.

a.     Everyone in the group should exchange contact information.

b.     Before leaving lab today, decide on a meeting time for all of you to work on this next week or later in the week.

c.     If applicable, delegate certain tasks today. For example, if you know the setting of your sketch is on a farm, the person playing the role of the farmer can be tasked to find a straw hat or other farmer-like things.

d.    Be creative! You may incorporate singing, dancing, rapping, playing an instrument, etc.

d.    For next lab, be prepared to explain to the class why you wrote this sketch and how it relates to your response to the question your group chose. You will be asked to tell this to the class as well as perform your sketch and turn in a typed copy of it. Bring costumes, props, etc. Each person in the group must have some lines in the sketch, and the sketch must be 5-7 minutes.


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14A  Online



Meet with your group to finish writing and typing your sketch. Discuss who will bring what props, costumes, etc.



Practice your sketch together. While you do not need to memorize it, the sketch will be more effective the better you know your lines.



Make any other plans necessary for your lab performance, discussion, and typed work.



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14B  In Lab



Groups will have 3-5 minutes to prepare their sketch and discussion.



Each group will go to the front of the room and do the following:

a.     Introduce each person

b.     Tell the class the question the group chose and their response to it. Additionally, the group will explain how the sketch was inspired by this.

c.     Perform the sketch.

d.    Turn in the hard copy.



Large group discussion about sketches and their relevance to issues raised by Key and Peele.