1) Gender is no longer a helpful concept
2) How to eat ice cream
Citing the author's argument in your response
The purpose of the reading task is to get you to critique the author's arguments. Given the purpose, it should be clear that you would need to do the following:
(a) Identify the specific arguments from the author which you would like to discuss
(b) State your position on these arguments
Many of you did not identify any arguments from the text and went straight to give your own opinion on the issue in general. Such a discussion can be done even without close reading of the text and is not the intention of the Reading Programme. In real life, it is like having a discussion with someone without addressing any of his points specifically.
Several students did manage to identify arguments from the text. But for this group of students, a common problem is the presentation of your information. If you are unclear in your signalling, your reader would not be able to tell which part of your paragraph consists of the author's argument and which part consists of yours. A simple way of doing the signalling would be to use phrase such as "The author argues / points out / states that...", "One point from the author is that...", "I think that...", "I agree with the author...". You could also replace the word 'author' with the first name of the author (e.g. Lo).
Summarising / Repeating / Explaining the text
The Reading Task is an application task, not a summary task. As such, there is no need to spend an inordinate amount of time to summarise, repeat or explain the text. Just cite whatever you need to make your argument. You can assume that your reader would have read the same text as you. Having said that, do not cite blindly from the text either. You need to show some understanding, and it is possible to show understanding without needing to do a lot of explanation. In fact, much of your understanding would be displayed in your ability to make judgements on the author's arguments and draw in your own examples to relate to these arguments.
Supporting your opinion with your own examples
Many students are not providing any examples to support your opinion. What you cite as examples are often mere opinions. It would be good to review your understanding of what constitutes an opinion and what constitutes an example.
Key points in the text "Gender is no longer a helpful concept"
Lo points out that in terms of differences in economic roles (e.g. jobs), social roles and expectations, and even biological roles, gender as a differentiating concept is becoming increasingly irrelevant. However, he maintains that the concept of gender still has an important role to play as a moral guardian.
Students may discuss any of the points raised by Lo and relate it to their society. Some students ignored the requirement to relate the points to the situation in their society and went on to write a general response about gender roles in the world, which was largely irrelevant to the question.
Key points in the text "How to eat ice cream"
Eco opines that there is a human tendency for excesses and waste. He laments that this is worsened by parents over-indulging their children and spoiling them, and a consumerist society trying to do the same to adults. He finds this development undesirable, indecent and decadent. Students were asked if they found Eco's concern still applicable in today's society (in general, not just your society).
Students may choose to discuss whether children and adults in today's society are still being encouraged to over-indulge and if so, whether such over-indulgence is indeed undesirable. A typical argument would likely point out that today's children are also spoilt with many of them being given expensive things they do not need (just like having two 2 cents cones), for example, smartphones. A valid concern would be the values and attitudes that the children would grow up with, as well as how consumerism can be harmful to the environment. However, it is also possible to disagree with the author. Smartphones for example, could be seen as an investment in the future of the children, by getting them exposed to the technology that drives their world at an earlier age so as to give them an edge. Therefore, it might not be fair to characterise smartphones as two 2 cents cones. Moreover, consumerism is not entirely without its merits. It is the engine that drives the world economy, helping to lift many in the world out of poverty and bringing us many modern conveniences.