Presenting Violence in the Classroom

Still from Alain Resnais film Night and Fog

I teach a Literature class called “Banned Books and Novel Ideas.” It is one of the most popular courses in English at the University, with eight sections being taught this semester. Undergraduates prefer this course to others, I assume, because the title suggests something controversial, risqué, or explicit about the course material. Or at least it does to me; I think that a course on banned books should explore the history of controversial literature and take the reasons for banning books seriously.

A Case for Portfolio-Based Assessment

a teacher berates Calvin for giving wrong answers

As far as I know I’m the only instructor at UT-Austin using portfolio grading in a Literature course this term; I know for certain that future graduate-student instructors have been told they are not allowed to use portfolio grading in even their self-designed Literature courses going forward.

A Course of Ice and Fire: on Literary-Critical Pairings

How Bedivere Cast the Sword Excalibur into the Water (1894)

When I was getting my B.A. at the University of British Columbia in the early 2000's, the English professors there assigned primary text readings almost exclusively. There are things to recommend this approach, but one result was that students were left to discover and master literary criticism, theory, and history (or not) on their own. Professors used their expertise to fill in the blanks and keep class discussions focused and productive, but a lot of my papers were kind of unfocused and wandering.

Using Meditation in the (Digital) Classroom

David Lynch Foundation image: three students meditating

I decided to bring meditation practice into my Rhetoric and Writing class against the firm advice of nearly everyone I’d talked to about it. Most of my friends and colleagues said it sounded like a nice idea, but, “would you really want to be that teacher?” In other words, they wondered if my students would take me seriously. These are sensible concerns, but, in the curious and compensatorily over-confident spirit of teaching this class for the first time—and in a digital classroom to boot—I went for it anyway.

Rhetorical Figure of the Day: Introducing Classical Rhetorical Figures in the Modern Classroom

Dictionary page showing the entry for chiasmus and related words

As a PhD student new to UT, I came to my teaching at the Department of Rhetoric and Writing with a knowledge of rhetoric derived from my experience at Mary Baldwin College's Shakespeare and Performance program. Professor Ralph Alan Cohen taught MFA students about the classical rhetorical figures Shakespeare would have learned in grammar school.

Bad Searches and Cultivating Healthy Ambivalence

Champion tag-team wrestlers

Students seem to arrive in my rhetoric classes (RHE 306 and 309K so far) with a polarized understanding of how to use the internet's two most common research tools: Google and Wikipedia. They've either not been clued in (or at least pretend) that both resources are problematic in terms of reliability, or they've been told that both are the devil, to be avoided by any serious scholar.

Confessions of a Teacher with Bias

This photograph zooms in on a white and orange Whataburger sign that reads, "For the safety...of our customers and our team members. Please remove...your Halloween mask at this time. Thank You!"

I spent a great deal of my first year teaching Rhetoric—last year—discussing bias with my students. Time after time, I reminded them: everything you’ll read has some kind of bias, but that’s okay, because bias isn’t inherently a bad thing. Though it is, I pointed out, a thing you’ll need to take into account.

How to use Google Docs for Assignment Submission and Organization

Google logo made of pencil and pencil shavings

Despite my best efforts, I’m a sloppy person with an extremely limited capacity for not losing things. Fortunately, Google Docs provides an easy way for me to organize students’ assignments. Below I outline how to use Google Docs for assignment submission.

Directions for you

1. Using Google Drive, create a Google form for assignment submission. You can set up one submission form for the entire semester or send out a different form for each assignment. Personally, I use the same survey for all assignments because… laziness. You do you.

Administering What All Students Dread: Reading Quizzes

Cartoon Pencil fighting cartoon computer

I have spent a lot of time this semester thinking about how to best encourage my students to do the reading, in addition to how to prep them for class discussion of the material. I have decided upon reading quizzes/prep assignments during the first 10 minutes of class. I came to this conclusion after a few student evaluations and some colleagues told me about how successful this technique is for ensuring more students are ready to add to the conversation.

Field Trips in the College Classroom

Large family memorial in rear with individual gravestone in front.

I can remember taking only one field trip after I left the K-12 system. Between three universities in my undergraduate and graduate career, only one lone little undergrad geology course featured an off-site learning experience as a standard part of the curriculum. Therefore, when I realized that I had the chance to take my own RHE 309K students on a field trip, I jumped at the opportunity.



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All materials posted to this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. We invite you to use and remix these materials, but please give credit where credit is due. In addition, we encourage you to comment on your experiments with and adaptations of these plans so that others may benefit from your experiences.


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