Teaching English as a Non-Native Speaker

Hand writing the alphabet on a chalkboard

Teaching English classes (or any kind of class, for that matter) to an audience of native speakers can be intimidating for graduate instructors who are not native speakers of English. Even if communication as such is not a problem, students will react differently to a non-native speaker when it comes to grading their papers or teaching them about grammar or style.

The Pedagogy of LOL

Photo of black cat glaring with text Happy Cat is ready for judgement day

Like most writing teachers, I like incorporating informal writing assignments into my class in order to make my students comfortable with writing casually and in the moment, without the the threat of a bad grade stifling their process. One way I've done this in my Banned Books class this semester is by requiring them to post a blog entry on the day's reading at least once during the semester.

A Second Look at Video-Conferencing in the Classroom

Teacher standing in front of classroom with projector screens

As described in more detail here, students in my “Literature and Biology” course participated in a Skype conference with the science writer Jonah Lehrer.

Bringing the Blog to the Classroom: Special-Topics Blogging and Presentations

Photo of student giving a PowerPoint presentation

Since the beginning of my time instructing students in rhetoric and English courses, I have found that students are much more successful at communicating and developing their ideas when they become more aware that their writing is geared toward a concrete audience. I have also found that writing skills improve significantly when students learn to articulate their ideas in a variety of situations and formats.

Procedural Engagement and Inform7

Spatial map from the program Inform7

In my “Critical Reading and Persuasive Writing” course last semester, I included an assignment that drew on Ian Bogost’s understanding of procedural rhetoric while also aiming to complicate it. After studying communities of their choice throughout the semester, my students had to create procedural arguments about their communities using the interactive fiction software Inform7. This assignment drew on a similar one designed by Jim Brown.

Why We Just Can't Seem to Teach Logos

Computer drawing of a sculpture of Aristotle

When it comes to argumentation, what's the hardest subject to teach: pathos, ethos, or logos? Based on my experiences teaching RHE306 and RHE309K and from asking my colleagues this question over the past two years, I believe the answer is indisputably LOGOS.

What's so hard about teaching logos? I think the big reason is that, when you're talking about persuasion and then you introduce the word “logos,” students' brains immediately recall the word “logic.” Instructors hesitate to allow this understanding. Many, including myself, dispute it outright.

Student PUBLIC-ation

Stop sign with the word WHOA in place of STOP

I’m teaching RHE 309K - Rhetoric of Going Viral this year, a course dedicated to the study and design of digital texts in the public realm. The final project asks students to create a digital text designed to participate in a particular online conversation and publish it in an appropriate venue. Last semester, I had a student with the digital composition skills to create any number of smart and engaging final projects. Instead he opted to write a product review and post it to an online retail site. The review was thoughtful and tailored well to the rhetorical situation.

Distributed Peer Review

A student peering at the work of another student

What is the purpose of peer review? Whom is it meant to benefit? 

The Case for Digital Submission

Student papers in a box

It's the end of the semester, and across the nation an all-too-familiar sight is littering the hallways of English departments: the box of student essays.  Sometimes it's an envelope, sometimes it's a stack of papers half-shoved into a mailbox or under a door.  But the sight of these final papers abandoned by their students and/or professors reinforces my conviction that it's time for us to move to digital submission.

Analogical Reasoning, Otherwise Known as Legal, Casuistic, Exemplary, or "Rhetorical" Reasoning

Robber figurine pointing gun at a bank teller figurine

I’m teaching an upper-division rhetorical theory course about legal rhetoric in which I specifically focus students on the forensic rhetoric of adjudicating particular cases in dispute. Accordingly, among other subjects of the course, one of the units focuses students on the casuistic or “case method” of reasoning from precedents in judicial rhetoric, a mode of reasoning often simply called “rhetorical reasoning” in recognition of its inherently rhetorical quality.



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