University of Wisconsin–Madison

Reading Responses by Roles

Reading Responses by Roles by John Martin

What I wanted:

    • ReadingResponseRoles-square2I want my students to engage in “academic discourse” — to learn to argue critically (and playfully) without taking it personally.
    • I wanted them to engage with each other in the reading responses instead of just with me
    • I wanted them to learn to bring outside information to the readings
    • I wanted them to demonstrate that they read and thought about the readings

What I tried

I tried to engage my students in critical discourse by asking them to respond to readings in groups of four, in Google Docs, each taking on a different role.

    • Role 1 was an Advocate for the author.
    • Role 2 was a Devil’s advocate against the author.
    • Role 3 was a Mediator between viewpoints.
    • Role 4 was a Troll.

Each had to create a response that not only fit their role, but demonstrated that they read and understood the reading. They also had to bring in a source or two that supported or challenged or mediated the position taken by the reading’s author.

Next time I would…

They did it, but not all of my readings had an obvious “position” for them to react to. I need to find readings that take stronger stances. I also want to mix it up and have them all see each others’ responses (beyond the groups of four). I noticed that my most enthusiastic students set the bar for others within their group (because they were the first to complete the response, and the others felt pressure to match or exceed the work put into it).

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