Challenge Accepted: Difficulty Paper, Part 3

In case you missed it, here is Part 1 and here is Part 2 of the Difficulty Paper.

One of the many things I like about the Difficulty Paper is that, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, it’s not an assignment you can do at the last minute. Students can’t BS their way through it — and because it all revolves around the student exploring what they found interesting/confusing/challenging in the difficult text, they don’t really want to, either.

In Part 2, you developed a reading strategy to help you explore your central question about the text. Here in Part 3, it’s time to write about the insights you gained as a result of applying your strategy.

How did your understanding of the text change? What new insights did you gain as you re-read the text using your strategy? In Part 3, write about what you learned and discovered. Be specific.

Some notes on using the difficulty paper as an alternative to essays in the writing classroom: in doing this assignment, I remind my students to organize their ideas in each section into paragraphs (sometimes they get disoriented by the fact that they aren’t writing a five-paragraph essay and produce massive blocks of text, especially in Part 1 and Part 2). Because each section of the difficulty paper has a different purpose, this assignment creates natural opportunities for discussing how to organize ideas for different purposes.

In Part 3, students can see how organically their insights can each be seen as a “big idea,” and thus a good focus for a paragraph. To develop these paragraphs to “show” the reader where the new insight occurred, I ask that students to quote the text as needed. If I’m requiring that students do research as part of their strategy, I sometimes put in minimum quote requirements from the original text and from the research; this way, they are showing the reader how their research helped them gain insight on the original text.

I also encourage students to connect their insights to their strategy, so that we can all see how their strategies helped them (or didn’t) gain insight as they re-read the text. But we’ll go into more detail on the strategy in Part 4; here, the main focus is on the insights themselves, and the strategies are simply supporting details.

Next time: Part 4.


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