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Discussing Stereotypes in the Classroom

One of my primary aims in a rhetoric classroom is to equip students with the skills to thoughtfully respond to the world around them. What that means, as fellow instructors know well, is that sometimes it is appropriate to discuss rhetorical arguments that make the audience uncomfortable—a discomfort that could potentially halt or hinder discussion in the classroom.

Making the Most of Digital Tools in a Class on Black Public Intellectuals

Photograph of Harris-Perry on TV set

I am teaching a literature course next term (African American Literature and Culture). Thankfully, when I teach in the fall, I will be in the Digital Research and Writing Lab (DWRL). However, unlike a research-based writing class, literature classes do not seem as easily tailored towards the digital tools we have available. Thus, I’d like to take this blog post as an opportunity to throw out some of the ideas I have for class projects and activities.

Reading Like a Detective

Photo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson from the BBC series Sherlock

Close reading is a cornerstone of literature classes, but it can be a drag to teach. The excitement I sometimes feel about finding new and contradictory meanings for words a little difficult to translate to the average non-major (and even the average major). So this semester I decided to frame my close reading lesson in terms of detective work. Specifically, I decided to show them about fifteen minutes' worth an episode of the BBC drama Sherlock

Multimodal Writing: How Do We Assess New Media?

Vintage television with the words Read Instead posted on the screen

 "Students should be able to both read critically and write functionally, no matter what the medium" (William Kist).

Why Teach Popular Culture?

Photo of South Austin Museum of Popular Culture

This semester, I have taken great pleasure in teaching The Rhetoric of Celebrity to a group of enthusiastic and talented students.  In my office hours a few weeks ago, a student who came in to discuss a recent assignment with me began our conversation by asking if “all rhetoric teachers had to be so young.”  

“Well,” I answered, “most of us are graduate students, so we don’t have our PhDs yet.  We’re generally in our twenties and thirties.”  

Truthiness and Consequences: Balancing the Content-Driven Rhetoric Classroom

Photo of Stephen Colbert waving a flag above a crowd with the words Listless Students? Relax, Bro. I Got This.

When I decided to make my rhetoric and writing course about “truthiness” as Stephen Colbert defines it—something that “feels true,” without needing to rely on pesky facts—I thought I knew what I wanted to do with it. I wanted to be in a networked computer classroom, to break down the barriers between the classroom and the homework. I wanted a course blog so students could practice writing in a variety of modes, and have the chance to see what their classmates were doing and thinking, and to establish more connections between classroom and individual learning.

Having Fun with Technology in the Classroom

Photo of student working on video next to iMovie logo

As instructors, we all know how haggard most students look on the day that a paper is due—the sunken cheeks, the bleary eyes, the undaunted yawns all signal to me that heady material isn’t going to be as quickly (or as enthusiastically) received as usual. So, many of us make it a point to have some sort of fun activity on the day that a paper is due. We all know the kind of activity I’m talking about—the kind where students don’t have to have read or prepare prior to coming to class.

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.

Mapping Community

Old illustrated map of Austin, Texas

In my RHE 309S: Critical Reading and Persuasive Writing course at UT Austin, my students are spending the semester studying communities of their choice. The first paper asked students to "map" their community, charting the people, places, events, social practices, and issues that help the community define and organize itself while also examining arguments made about the community. This assignment resembles one of our main first-year writing assignments which asks students to map the arguments made in response to a specific critical situation or issue.

Crowdsourcing Narrative Techniques: TV Tropes in the Literature Classroom

Panel from webcomic XKCD--stick figure sits at computer clicking through website tvtropes, with caption It's like rickrolling, but you're trapped all day

I tend to be one of those lit instructors who rarely brings up the dreaded "literary devices" in the classroom.  Too often, handing out a list of tropes and techniques and asking students to recognize them in a text becomes a labelling exercise that does nothing to further the student's engagement with the work.

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