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CRITICAL ANALYSIS USING CLEVER CLOZE

Grant Webb

Monitoring and Assessment

Four Resources Guideposts

K-W-L

Read and Retell

First Steps Reading Developmental Continuum

Classroom Organisation

Engagement: Empowering Teachers with Successful Strategies

The Critical Analysis Using Clever Cloze strategy involves students drawing on their understandings of the political nature of texts to deconstruct and then reconstruct texts from a particular ideological position.

Cloze

Cloze passages have been used for many and varied reasons and as a result, practitioners have a wide range of views regarding the strategy’s relevance and effectiveness. In many cases, cloze has been used as both an assessment instrument to determine level of comprehension as well as an instrument to measure the reading levels of texts.

However, as well as an assessment instrument, cloze can be used as a teaching strategy to help students to engage with texts in meaningful ways. For example, cloze can be used to teach about cohesive elements in a text as well as to uncover and make explicit the bias evident in the text.

Critical Literacy

Critical literacy is an essential part of a comprehensive literacy program and focuses on the relationship between texts and the power relationships within society. That is, how do texts serve to naturalise and maintain existing power relations?

According to Barbara Comber (1993) critical literacy involves students:

  1. becoming researchers of language, eg How are words used to empower or dis-empower certain groups? How is mood used to give power?
  2. problematising classroom and public texts; comparing multiple texts on the same topic, focusing on dominant and alternative readings of texts and looking for ‘gaps’ and ‘silences’ in texts

Critical Analysis Using Clever Cloze then draws on cloze as an instructional strategy that allows students to engage with critical literacy principles.

For more information on Critical Literacy:

http://www.discover.tased.edu.au/english/

http://www.criticalreading.com/

Engagement: Engaging Students in Purposeful Social Practices

Strategy

Critical Analysis Using Clever Cloze

Text

Middle East Conflict

  • integrates the Four Roles/Resources of the Reader
  • can be used in all curriculum areas
  • may be used with a variety of genres
  • allows students to both deconstruct and reconstruct texts from a variety of ideological positions
  • takes students beyond the text to explore real world issues by:
    • engaging students in social justice issues
    • encouraging students to be active and socially just citizens in a complex and inter-connected world
  • engages students with texts which challenge rather than ‘talk down’ to them
  • engages students in focused discussions around the text and contemporary issues
  • encourages students to engage in ‘action research’ around community texts
  • real world texts
  • explores a topical social issue
  • links to other learning areas especially Studies of Society & Environment (SOSE)
  • has a complexity of language which challenges students, promotes higher order thinking and problem solving, and extends students to develop new skills with the assistance and support of the teacher

Four Roles/Resources of the Reader

Based on the Four Roles/Resources of the Reader developed by Freebody and Luke (1990), the Critical Analysis Using Clever Cloze strategy involves students in the following repertoire of purposeful social practices:

Code breaker

Decoding the codes and conventions of written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • focuses on particular vocabulary in texts
  • focuses on cohesive chains in texts
  • focuses on modality within texts
  • develops a range of decoding strategies (semantic/syntactic)
  • develops a range of encoding strategies (semantic/syntactic)
  • carefully reads and rereads the text focusing on specific wording

Text user

Understanding the purposes of different written, spoken and visual texts for different cultural and social functions, eg:

  • develops an awareness of how the cultural and social context shapes the nature of texts
  • develops an awareness of how the field (subject matter) and tenor (audience) of a text shape the grammatical features of that text
  • manipulates the linguistic features within a genre to achieve a certain purpose
  • develops a critical response based on knowledge of how texts are used to convey meaning

Text participant

Comprehending written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • links the text to real life issues
  • draws on own background knowledge
  • is able to ‘see themselves’ in the text
  • responds to texts on a personal level

Text analyst

Understanding how texts position readers, viewers and listeners, eg:

  • examines the writer’s point of view and develops own position on the text
  • critically analyses own ideological position relating to a topic
  • explores how the writer is positioning the reader
  • develops a critical response to the text
  • analyses and discusses if a text provides an accurate representation of the world in which we live

Four Resources Guideposts

Critical Analysis Using Clever Cloze Guideposts provide a useful assessment tool.

Implementing the Strategy

Critical Analysis Using Clever Cloze using Middle East Conflict Texts

This is a generic strategy and can be used with a variety of texts dealing with a variety of subject matters. The strategy is best incorporated into a unit of work where students have a good background in the content area or on a topical contemporary issue where students have some understanding of the issues involved.

newspaper article

Preparation

  1. Make copies of the two articles in Why we’re on the side of justice by Faisal Bodi and Peter Hitchens, (April 7, 2000, above), from the Sunday Mail for students. These texts are challenging texts and may need more scaffolding for some underperforming students. Note that these images are scans from a tabloid newspaper and will be more legible at A3 size.
    >> [page 1 (434K Acrobat PDF)] [page 2 (419 Acrobat PDF)]
  2. Make overhead transparencies of Unequal Naming: the Gulf War 1991 and Naming the Enemy as Bad from Janks (1993) Language, Identity and Power; Hodder and Stoughton.
    >> Unequal Naming: the Gulf War 1991 [screen size (78 KB GIF)] [print size (425 KB Acrobat PDF)] 
    >> Naming the Enemy as Bad [screen size (55 KB GIF)] [print size (365 KB Acrobat PDF)] 
  3. Download and copy the Clever Cloze Anti Strike March in City for students.
    >> [html file] [Microsoft Word file (21KB)]
  4. Provide Butchers Paper or A3 sheets for cohesive chains.

Orientation Activities

To scaffold reading of the articles from Why we’re on the side of justice, brainstorm with the students a range of issues that are related to the topic of the articles.

  • What do we know about this issue?
  • Do all people agree about this issue?
  • What differing views surround this issue?
  • Are there differing views in the class?
  • What influences have been important in developing these views?
  • How have your views been influenced?

Sensitive handling of this discussion is required, particularly if the class includes students from Moslem and Jewish backgrounds.

If students are unaware of the structure of a persuasive exposition, there may be some need to revise the generic structure:

  • Thesis: The introduction of the topic and should state the author’s position
  • Arguments: Elaboration of the position with evidence and examples
  • Reiteration: Restates the author’s position and may summarise all the arguments presented

If you are using a different genre, especially narrative, there may be no need to revise the generic structure.

Form two groups of students and give each group a differing newspaper article from Why we’re on the side of justice. Distribute each article without discussing the view that the specific article is taking.

Enhancing Activities

Critical Analysis

Ask students in groups to read and analyse the text and summarise under the headings of:

  • Thesis
  • Argument 1
  • Argument 2
  • Argument 3

As an extension, students could also be asked to make some general observations and have a group discussion of the text around the following questions:

  • Who is included?
  • What is missing from this text?
  • Who is empowered?
  • Who is disempowered?
  • What types of social realities/world views does this text construct?
  • Are there spaces for alternative readings in the text?
  • In whose interests is the text written?

To help students focus on the particular words in the text that convey a certain point of view (lexical cohesion) ask the group to make a list of words that show either differing sides of the issue or the point of view that the article is taking. (Lexical cohesion refers to relationships between and among words in a text). Use Unequal Naming: the Gulf War 1991 as an example/model and then ask the group to complete the activity for the text that they have engaged with.

However, at this stage each group may only have ‘one side’ of the argument. Some texts that you will use will be in the genre of analytic exposition and will present multiple sides of an issue. In this case, the students may be able to develop opposing chairs.

There may be more than one lexical chain. Lexical chains may be constructed for the group of people and another for their actions as shown in Unequal Naming: the Gulf War 1991. Lexical chains group a series or string of words based on their lexical cohesion.

This more detailed type of analysis then allows another ‘layer’ in the reporting back. It allows the students to see that in one text a particular group is empowered while another group may be disempowered.

Through discussions between the two groups, students can discover that in another text the roles are reversed. Teachers may need to explicitly lead and scaffold this discussion.

Report back to the whole group.

Structural Analysis

  1. What was the thesis of each article?
  2. What were the arguments supporting this thesis?

Critical Analysis

  1. Who was silenced?
  2. Who was privileged?
  3. In whose interests was the text written?

Vocabulary Analysis

  1. What words were used to describe the ‘heroes’ in the text?
  2. What words were used to describe the opponents of this view?
  3. Where there similarities or differences in the words that were used?

Have a general discussion regarding similarities and differences. In the vocabulary analysis discussion put the two groups together to create the whole picture as in Unequal Naming: the Gulf War 1991 (which refers to relationships between and among words in a text).

As an extension, you may wish to replicate the activity shown in Naming the Enemy as Bad.

Clever Cloze

This Clever Cloze activity now allows students to bring the exploration and skills that they have developed in deconstructing these persuasive texts to reconstruct a piece of text from a particular point of view.

Provide each student with a copy of the Clever Cloze. This cloze passage has been constructed so that words have been omitted which carry any type of bias. Form two groups of students and assign them a role.

Allow them to either complete the cloze passage individually or in groups.

Example of Clever Cloze

ANTI-STRIKE MARCH IN CITY

Police made 20 arrests during anti-strike protests attended by 4,000 people

in the West Bank yesterday. A small and ..................... group of Palestinians,

including ...............................protesters, were ......................... in

slogan chanting by .......................... patriots.

The ..................... Israeli supporters contrasted markedly with the

.................................... demonstrators. There was no doubt the police were

................................ in their arrests and ............................... the demonstrators.

Synthesising Activities

As a whole group, compare and contrast the words that were chosen by the groups. The focus is not so much on the words that were chosen but on the discussion around why those words were chosen by the group. What influenced the selection (and non-selection) of certain words?

Place the opposing insertions on a large sheet of paper to enable the students to compare and contrast.

While the cloze activity is an end in itself, it may be used as a lead in to other writing, particularly expository writing, and to analyses of texts in other media such as film, radio and the Internet.


References

Bodi, F. & Hitchens, P. (April 7, 2000). Why we’re on the side of justice in Sunday Mail. Queensland: News Limited.

Comber, B. (1993). Literacy and Social Justice in A. Reid and B. Johnson, Critical Issues in Australian Education in the 1990s. Adelaide: Painters Prints.

Education Queensland, Queensland and Brisbane Catholic Education Office. (1990). Further Literacy Inservice Project.

Janks, H. (1993). Language, Identity and Power. South Africa: Hodder and Stoughton.

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