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Teacher Lesson Return to "What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You"
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
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Are You Ready for College?—Reading Comprehension and Writing Response

Objectives: Students will practice writing short responses to questions that are based on reading an essay.

Students will learn about the remedial policies of CUNY and other schools. They will reflect on whether they think they will have to do remedial work when they enter college.

Class work or homework: You can assign the writing response as homework after you run the activity with the group.

Before the activity
Note: It is always easier for students (and adults) to understand what they read when they know something about the topic. It also helps to do a pre-reading exercise that researchers and pedagogues call “activating prior knowledge”¾reminding ourselves of what we know about a topic before we begin reading related articles. That is one of the reasons peer-written stories help students¾especially reluctant readers¾grasp content more easily and become more receptive to reading. This pre-reading activity may help them “activate” what they know about making the transition from high school to college. If they don’t much about this, you can help them by giving them simple definitions of the terms on the list.

Put the following list on the board or easel pad:

City University of New York (CUNY)
Regents exams
Remedial classes
Placement exam
Associates degree
Summer enrichment programs
College Now

Underneath the list, write:
Do I know what these items mean?
What in my personal experience will help me understand a story that contains the above expressions?

Activity: Hand out the worksheet on the next page along with a copy of the September/October 2011 issue of YCteen. Tell the group they are going to read a story by a teenager about how a lot of New York City high school graduates must take remedial classes in college before they get to take regular courses.

Ask them to look at the list for a minute and tell them these items will be in the story. Ask for volunteers to define or explain the terms. Then ask them to look at the two questions. Tell them to keep the questions in mind as they read the story. Then tell them they will write short responses based on their reading.


Directions: Read the story “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You” on p. 8. Answer the questions in essay answer format. (This means you should use parts of the question to start your answer.) Write 3-5 complete sentences for each question. The answer for the first question has been started for you. NOTE: You can complete any question on the back of this paper.

1. What is the title? Who wrote it? Why do you think she thought it was important to write it? What audience do you think she is trying to reach? [Example: The title of the story is… FOLLOWED BY: The writer wanted to tell readers about…]

2. What does the title of the story mean? How does it relate to the writer’s ideas in the story?

3. What is the author’s main idea or theme? What is she most concerned about? Do you think it is an important topic?

4. What evidence does the writer present to make her argument?

5. What is one thing you know after reading the article that you didn’t know before?

Media Literacy Lesson: Are You Prepared to Do College Work?—Reading and Discussion About Evidence, and Writing Assignment

Objectives: Students will be able to identify different types of evidence that writers use in their stories.

Students will learn about the remedial policies of CUNY and other schools.

They will write a personal essay on whether they think they will have to do remedial work when they enter college.

Before the lesson: Write this list on the board:

Type of evidence
1) References to studies, books, newspaper articles, and reports issued by well-regarded sources (colleges, internet sites run by colleges, government agencies, major newspapers, research institutions)
2 ) Interviews with recognized experts such as college professors, government officials, and authors
3) Interviews with people most affected by what’s being reported on, for example, flood victims, soldiers in a war, a student being affected by an educational policy, etc.
4) Interviews with people who know the people being written about
5) Personal accounts by the author that describe his or her experience with the issue being written about

Read the story yourself.

Activity: Tell the group, “We are going to read a story by teenager Neha Basnet. She writes about how some colleges require new students to take remedial or make-up classes before they begin regular college work. The colleges thinks that many high school graduates don’t have the basic English and math skills to start college work right away.”

Then say something like, “Look at the list on the board. As you read the story, your job is to identify the type of evidence that the author provides. Notice that each type of evidence on the list is numbered. Write the appropriate number next to the text that has that kind of evidence.” NOTE: You should mark up your copy of the story and show them 2-3 examples. So write “1” next to the last paragraph of the third column where the writer quotes the New York Times quoting a CUNY professor. Write “3” next to the second paragraph in the fourth column where a college freshman is interviewed by the author about his remedial college experience.

After they read the story and mark up their copies, ask them something like, “Are you convinced that Neha accurately portrayed the situation facing many high school graduates? If you are convinced, what parts of the story were important in convincing you?”

After the “convinced” have their say, ask if anyone is skeptical. What evidence in the story bothers them? What kind of evidence would convince them?

Reflection and writing activity: Direct them to read the story again at home. As they read they should think about their grades, the number of demanding classes they have taken and are taking, and how hard they are working. They should then write a one-page essay that answers these questions, “Will I have to take remedial classes or attend a summer prep program when I go to college? What can I do to improve my chances of being prepared for college?”

When the group meets again, ask for volunteers to read their essays or summarize them. Lead discussions based on the responses. At the end of the discussion, hold up page 9 and point to the box entitled, “Worried? CUNY Can Help.” Tell them the box describes programs that help students get ready for college. Invite them to talk about these issues with you or other appropriate school staff.
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