Write an Analysis
Writing Skills: idea, organisation, analysis, analogies
Is life a journey, or something else?
This guided writing activity helps ESL students tackle that question with a simple framework to develop a thoughtful answer.
Suitable for intermediate+ levels, this thinking and writing activity challenges ESL students to reflect on, organize, analyze and articulate their own ideas concerning one of life’s big questions.
Essentially, the writing activity asks students find and evaluate two analogies in an argument and decide if one, both or neither, are good descriptions of life’s purpose.
Step 1 Pre-Assign Homework
Student learning in this activity depends on their ability to understand the words and message delivered by Alan Watts in this video.
I suggest the teacher assign the video as homework a few days before running the lesson. That gives the students a chance to catch the gist before class. This video has subtitles, which can assist student comprehension.
The video background does not add much to the story. Students should focus on the spoken words and subtitles (total time 3:23).
Step 2 Pre-Assign Vocabulary
Assigning a small amount of vocabulary homework will also help the lesson run smoothly in class (printable worksheet here).
physical universe necessity playful a destination
an analogy composer the whole point
a racket a quota to rot senior citizens community
Step 3 Show Video
Review vocabulary questions with class. Show the video in class.
Step 4 Comprehension
Break class into small groups of 2-4 students. Students answer questions in groups. The purpose of this task is to ensure all students understated the main ideas of the video through peer assistance before writing.
The vocabulary and comprehension questions are on this printable worksheet.
Why is the universe playful?
How is music different from travel?
Summarize the speaker’s description of the way education works.
The speaker talks about A THING many times. What is THE THING?
What does he mean when he says, “I’ve arrived”?
What does he mean when he says, “We simply cheated ourselves the whole way down the line”?
Explain the meaning of this sentence: “It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”
In that sentence, what is THE MUSIC?
The speaker describes two different analogies. What are they?
Step 5 Writing Activity
Student writing should include two main sections:
1 Students summarize the main idea and argument presented by Alan Watts in the video. The key point here is a summary. Students should not retell the whole story. Ideally, a student response will include four parts:
a) introduction – the speaker is talking about the meaning of life;
b) some people use analogies to describe the meaning of life;
c) the analogy life is a journey is not good (explain with his reasons);
d) the analogy that life is like music is better (then explain with his reasons).
2 The second task is to evaluate of the speaker’s argument (life is music and playful) with reasons. Agree or disagree? What are the consequences of living a life suggested by Watts? Is it feasible? Is it desirable?
Student output should probably be 1-2 pages of thoughtful text. Evaluate student writing based on the six writing traits.
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