Unit 3: Communicating Climate 2: Literary Representations of Climate Change
After being introduced to scientific communication in Unit 2, students will continue by exploring different literary representations of climate change during this unit. Students will analyze various kinds of textual genres—including peer-reviewed journal articles, trade journal publications, editorials, works of fiction, and blogs—that engage with the concept of climate change in order to articulate the differences between different types of texts and the audiences for each. They will complete a formative analytical exercise that measures their ability to differentiate between types of texts and the ways that those texts engage with climate change issues.
Students are introduced to climate change literary genres through class discussion. Students will complete a brief rhetorical analysis and will be able to distinguish differences in types of texts and describe how those texts engage different audiences about climate change concepts.
By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
- demonstrate an understanding of the goals and audiences of different types of genres (blog, editorial, short story, and peer-reviewed journal article).
- identify rhetorical argumentative strategies present in different types of texts (e.g. editorial, blog, short story, peer-reviewed article).
- discuss the ways that various genres engage with climate change concepts.
Context for Use
If this module is being taught in a science course, it is recommended that students be given an opportunity to explore the resources provided. If this module is being taught in a humanities course in which the students have some background in literary terminology, this section may serve as a supplement for those students who need the extra preparation.
This unit can follow Unit 2, or it can be taught as a stand-alone unit that focuses on literary terminology, climate change issues as represented in fiction, and rhetorical analysis.
The activities in this unit can fit in one 50-minute class period and the first portion of the following period, with homework.
Description and Teaching Materials
This section contains pertinent handouts about the defining rhetorical characteristics of different types of texts and a preliminary formative assessment activity. You can utilize this slideshow (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1.1MB Mar20 16) of literary terms, rhetorical concepts, and characteristics of specific genres for both this unit and for Unit 4. Here is a sample rhetorical analysis (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 164kB Mar20 16) of "Diary of an Interesting Year" for instructors only.
- Copies of Unit 3 Parts 1 and 2 Activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 112kB Mar20 16) for each student.
- Copies of sample genre examples (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 133kB Mar20 16) for each student.
- Copies of Information about rhetorical analysis (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 64kB Mar20 16) for each student.
Prior to Class
Have the students read each of the five readings (listed below). You will discuss these readings, about which students will write their analyses, in class. Here is a
- Text 1: Editorial: Climate change is upon us and we must act, published in The Guardian.
- Text 2: Trade journal: 7 Species Hit Hard by Climate Change—Including One That's Already Extinct by Christine Dell'Amore, published in National Geographic.
- Text 3: Peer-reviewed scholarly article: Galbraith, Hector, DesRochers, David W., Brown, Stephen, and Reed, J. Michael, 2014. Predicting Vulnerabilities of North American Seabirds to Climate Change: PLoS ONE, 9(9): e108899. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.108899.
- Text 4: Blog: Despite attempts to erase it globally, "the pause" still exists in pristine US surface temperature data by Anthony Watts.
- Text 5: Blog: Satellite measurements of the troposphere confirm warming trend, data shows from ClimateBrief.
Start by providing an introductory discussion of different types of written genres. Allow students to read through the handout on sample genres and the sample passages from different genres of writing that deal with climate change sample genre examples (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 133kB Mar20 16). Let them very briefly discuss the primary differences that they notice in each. (~10 min)
Break students into groups and have them read through Part 1 of the activity handout Unit 3 Parts 1 and 2 Activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 112kB Mar20 16). Have them discuss the sample passages under "in-class practice." Ask that they answer the following questions in this formative assessment: What kinds of differences do you see in terms of tone, word choice, and purpose? Who is the speaker? Who is the audience for the passage? Follow this with a full-class discussion. (~30 min)
In the same groups, assign all of the students in each group one of the five texts that they have read for class today and have them discuss the rhetorical aspects of the text. Be sure to mention that they will be completing their own rhetorical analyses for homework and should not copy their group members' work. (~10 min)
Assign the formative assessment Unit 3 Part 2 activity for homework to be turned in at the next class period (included in the handout).
In the first part of class, have the students divide into groups of four students. Information about rhetorical analysis (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 64kB Mar20 16) can be discussed with the class. Each student in the group will have read and completed a rhetorical analysis on a different reading. Allow students time to discuss their rhetorical analyses with the class, allowing the students to hear about and discuss their peers' analyses of the other types of climate change readings.
Teaching Notes and Tips
Having students read definitions and learn literary terminology as homework assignments will allow them to better engage with this material in class. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University provides an extensive literary terminology glossary.
We have included two blogs as readings for Unit 3. The first is by Anthony Watts, a climate change denier. He uses data selectively, but in a way that appears convincing. We include this piece because it is important that students understand that they should read blogs carefully and critically—and to allow a comparison to the second, a blog by Roz Pidcock, a scientist with a PhD in physical oceanography. Her piece contains a more complete picture of the global situation with regard to climate change.
The students will write a rhetorical analysis on the four texts referenced above, which can be assessed using this rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Mar20 16).
Criteria for assessing the initial rhetorical analysis:
- The students should be able to identify the type of writing (expository, persuasive, descriptive, narrative, etc.).
- The students should be able to identify the intended audience for the piece.
- The students should be able to discuss the way that each text addresses climate change. Students should reference the specific climate change concepts and discuss if/how climate system components are incorporated.
- The students should be able to describe the credibility of the text. Students should comment on why the text is/is not credible, citing specific examples.
References and Resources
All sources below are referenced and described in the above material:
Dell'Amore, Christine. 7 Species Hit Hard by Climate Change–Including One That's Already Extinct. National Geographic. April, 2014.
Emmerich, Roland. The Day After Tomorrow. Twentieth Century Fox, 2004. DVD.
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism: The New Critical Idiom. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.
Glotfelty, Cheryll and Harold Fromm, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996.
McEwan, Ian. Solar. New York: Anchor, 2011.
Simpson, Helen. "Diary of an Interesting Year." I'm with the Bears. Ed. Mark Martin and Bill McKibben. New York: Verso, 2011. 101-115.
Thiess, Derek J. "On The Road to Santa Fe: Complexity in Cormac McCarthy and Climate Change." ISLE 20.3 (2013): 532-552.
Tuhus-Dubrow, Rebecca. "Cli-Fi: Birth of a Genre." Dissent, Summer 2013.