Writing about Music Lesson Plan: Orienting

Lesson Plan on Orienting
Emily Wilbourne, Queens College, CUNY, Music
Music 121 or 122

Lesson objective(s): Students will revise their drafts with an eye to orienting the reader.

Total estimated time: 40-45 minutes.

Additional outcome(s): N/A

Course work or assignment underway: A major piece of writing (any).

Work and/or reading completed before class: Completed draft of paper.

Sequence of Classroom Activities:

  1. Review Gordon Harvey’s definition of “Orienting” (5 mins).

    Orienting:  bits of information, explanation, and summary that orient the reader who isn’t expert in the subject, enabling such a reader to follow the argument.  The orienting question is, what does my reader need here?  The answer can take many forms:  necessary information about the text, author, or event (e.g. given in your introduction); a summary of a text or passage about to be analyzed; pieces of information given along the way about passages, people, or events mentioned (including announcing or “set-up” phrases for quotations and sources).  The trick is to orient briefly and gracefully.

  2. Working with their own draft or that of a colleague, students should identify one place where orienting is necessary, and one place where the work of orienting fails to be “brief” or “graceful.” (7 mins).

    They should make a dot point list in answer to Harvey’s central question: What does the reader need here? (Focus on identifying the minimum amount of extra information.)

  3. Turn to the place where orienting could be managed better and redraft the section. This may involve cutting large swaths of text (remember that you can store some material in footnotes, either because you’re not yet convinced that it’s superfluous, or because it’s interesting but tangential to the argument). It may involve rewording or restructuring sentences. (10 -15 mins).
  4. Once students have a “new” version of their chosen paragraph(s), they should exchange their work with a colleague. The colleague should read the original version AND the new version. Write a brief statement identifying which of the two versions is more successful and why. If there is a noticeable shift in argument (not just tone) between the two versions, point that out, too. (7 mins)
  5. Return to the group for a discussion of the exercise. (10 mins). You may wish to take a show of hands for (1) how many students liked the new version of their own work better and (2) how many students like the new version of their colleague’s work better.

Reflection on the lesson’s success or alternative approaches:

Some authors have trouble working out what is “missing” from their own work; having students choose the problematic sections from a colleague’s work can therefore work better. It will probably require that students have read each other’s drafts in advance.

If students complete the written component quickly they can move to drafting the other identified problem area. At this stage they should not feel concerned about not having the sources to hand, they can put in blanks or asterisks for cited material that they will complete the references for later. This is a useful skill for them to develop as it can reduce distractions and interruptions in the writing process.

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