ETAP 530: Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Spring, 2011
Guidelines for the Summary/Response Papers













Leading Class Discussion

Submission Guidelines




For this assignment, you will select one of the assigned readings for this course, write a summary/response paper based on that reading, and lead a discussion about it in your study group on the assigned date. The purpose of the assignment is to engage the reading carefully and thoughtfully in a way that will enhance our understanding of it and contribute to our collective inquiry into literacy and literacy instruction.

The main steps in this assignment are as follows (in chronological order)

  1. During the second or third week of the semester, you will meet with your study group and sign up for a specific week to lead your group's discussion of an assigned course reading.

  2. You will select one of the assigned readings for the week when you will lead your roundtable discussion; you will write a summary/response paper based on that reading (see below for paper guidelines).

  3. On the Tuesday before your study group's discussion of your selected article, you will post a completed draft of your summary/response paper to your study group's discussion forum on the course Blackboard site. Your study group members will read your paper before coming to class the next day

  4. You will lead discussion of your selected reading during your study meeting on your assigned day.

  5. Your study group members will post a brief response to your summary/response paper (see guidelines below) on your study group's Blackboard forum by midnight on the day after your group's discussion.

  6. By midnight on the following Sunday, you will post a final, revised version of your summary/response paper to your study group's forum on the course Blackboard site.

Each of these steps is explained in more detail below.


Your summary/response paper is an examination of the ideas presented in the assigned reading about which you are writing; it is also an exploration of the significance of these ideas for our understanding of literacy and literacy instruction.

In your summary/response paper, you should

  1. offer a succinct, accurate summary of the reading that highlights its main ideas;

  2. discuss those main ideas in terms of important implications they might have for our understanding of adolescent literacy and literacy instruction.

Your discussion of your assigned article may focus on questions that were raised for you by the article, or you might extend the author's argument or analysis in some way. Keep in mind that your purpose is not to agree, disagree, or criticize but to engage in a careful examination of the author's ideas in a way that might deepen our understanding of the issues at hand. In other words, these papers are not intended to be critiques or opinion papers; rather, they are intended to explore the assigned readings and to facilitate our collective inquiry into important issues related to literacy teaching and learning.

Please keep in mind that a simple summary of your article is insufficient for this assignment; you must also discuss what you see as important implications of the articles main ideas. In this regard, your opinion is appropriate--but it is your opinion about the implications you see of the article’s ideas, not your opinion about whether you liked the article or enjoyed the author’s writing.

Leading the Roundtable Discussion.

As part of this assignment, each student will lead discussion an assigned reading with the other members of his or her study group. Group discussions will occur at six of our fourteen class meetings (as noted on the course schedule). You will meet with your study group during each of these six class meetings. Each time your group meets, the discussion will be led by the member of your group who wrote the summary/response paper for that week. These discussions will follow a general protocol that will be explained in class.

Study groups will be formed during the second or third week of class. At that class meeting, sign-up sheets will be distributed so that each member of your group can sign up for a specific week when he or she will lead the roundtable discussion.

On your assigned day, you will lead your study group discussion about the reading on which you have written your summary/response paper. You should not think of this part of the assignment as a formal presentation; rather, your task is to facilitate discussion of the issues that emerge from the reading. Your summary/response paper will serve as the starting point for that discussion, but you should feel free to pursue other issues and questions related to the article that you find relevant. The protocol to be distributed in class will help you keep your discussion focused.

Please note that the study discussions should not be considered a forum for casual "shop talk" about student teaching or your teacher education program. Although your discussion may range widely and include references to such matters, it should be substantive and remain focused on the assigned reading and the issues it raises. Remember that the purpose of these discussions is to explore the issues raised by the readings in a way that deepens your understand on the reading and of those issues.

Expect the roundtable discussions to take 45-60 minutes of class time.

Peer Responses to Summary/Response Papers. As part of the process, each member of the study group is required to submit a brief written response to the summary/response paper draft, which is to be posted to the study group's Blackboard forum by Friday of that week (that is, the day after the group discussion). These peer responses should include the following:

  • a reaction to the writer's summary of the assigned reading (Is the summary accurate? Is it sufficient to capture what you consider to be the main ideas and/or arguments of the assigned reading? Is anything important missing from the summary?);

  • a reaction to the student writer's response to the assigned reading (Does the student writer's response extend the issues raised in the assigned reading sufficiently? Has the student writer explored important implications of the reading for our understanding of teachers and teaching? What was your own response to the reading?)

  • relevant comments about the reading and about the summary/response paper that might have occurred to you as a result of the roundtable discussion (e.g. Do you want to add a point about something that was said during the discussion that you did not have a chance to make during the discussion?);

  • any specific suggestions for revision that you might have for the student writer.

The student who wrote the summary/response paper for that week can use these peer responses as he or she revises the summary/response paper for submission to the instructor.

Each student will write a peer response for each summary/response paper (excluding his or her own) that is discussed in his or her study group. For most students in this course, that will mean writing five brief peer responses during the semester.

Please note that these peer responses will not be graded individually by the course instructor; however, they will be part of the grade for participation for this course. (See the course grading policies for more information about the participation grade.)

Submission Guidelines

Length. Summary/response papers should not exceed 850 words in length. Please keep in mind that this length requirement is inflexible. Since we will be reading many summary/response papers during the semester, it will be important to keep their length manageable.

Format. All summary/response papers will be posted to the course Blackboard site, where they will be available for all members of the study group to read prior to the class meeting for that week.

Deadlines. Your summary/response paper must be posted to your roundtable forum on the course Blackboard site by noon on the Tuesday before the class meeting at which you will lead your study group discussion.

A revised version of your paper should be posted to your study group forum on the course Blackboard site by the Sunday after your group's discussion of your article. This timetable will give you a few days to revise your paper after the discussion of your article. Please submit your final revised version of your paper as an attachment in MS Word format.

Grading. This assignment is worth 15 (of 100) points. Your summary/response paper will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Accuracy of your summary. Your summary of your assigned article should be succinct, readable, and accurate, highlighting the main idea or argument the author is making and including the key ideas or points the author raises. (6 points)

  • Substance of your response. Your response to your assigned article should engage the author's main issue or argument in a substantive way that enhances our understanding of the article and connects the article's ideas to our ongoing course inquiry into teachers and teaching. You should not merely raise a series of questions or criticize the author, nor should you simply agree with the author's position. Rather, if you raise question about the author's views, discuss your question in a way that helps us see its value. Similarly, if you see problems with the author's position, explain those problems in a way that will advance our understanding of the issue rather than simply pointing out flaws or disagreements you might have. Above all, remember that we are not reading these articles in order to find ideas we agree with or to criticize those we disagree with; rather, we are reading them to deepen our understanding of the complexities of teaching. (5 points)

  • Quality of your writing. Your summary/response paper should be clearly written and well organized, with few surface errors. (4 points)