writing

"Don't Feel So Down": When Your Students Don't Understand Your References

I recently had a teaching experience I could only compare to being on a sinking ship—like the band on the Titanic, I played my song dutifully as I sunk into the murky waters. With every word I spoke, attempting to explain the material I prepared, I could sense the students’ disinterest, disengagement, and utter confusion. This wasn’t the first time I experienced this sinking feeling of a total misfire while teaching, nor do I expect it to be the last time. And do you know whose fault it was? Julian Casablancas. 

ProTip: Always Assign “Shitty First Drafts”

Our sister site, the DWRL Lesson Plans Library, is full of all kinds of gems. But my most successful lesson plan is too simple for me to post over there. Directions: (1) assign Anne Lamott’s "Shitty First Drafts" from from Bird by Bird, (2) watch your students as they start to think about writing as process rather than product, and (3) prepare yourself for “this-is-why-I-do-this” feels.

Open… Like a Book?: Writing New Media and the Materialities of Textual Production

New ideas give way to new methods. And since new media changes the way we link ideas to ideas and ideas to readers, perhaps our experiences with new media should prompt us to reconsider what we “know.” Specifically, educators might be well-served to consider the ways in which new media writing differs from traditional, humanist prose, as this deliberate differentiation could open up (rather than foreclose) epistemological and pedagogical possibilities for the digital humanities.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of ... Learning?

Drawn portrait of Hunter S. Thompson

Awhile back I remember reading that, early in his career, Hunter S. Thompson began every morning typing word for word full chapters of The Great Gatsby. At one point in his early twenties, apparently, he’d typed out the whole book multiple times. As with most things Thompson, his friends and colleagues were baffled. When asked “why?” Thompson said “I want to know what it feels like to write something great.” 

Collaboration and Chaos

Text reading collaboration in chaos in a GoogleDoc

As long as I’ve had the pleasure of teaching in one of the DWRL class rooms I’ve flirted with the idea of using Google Docs in a classroom setting.  In-class writing assignments are certainly nothing new, but Google Docs made it possible to transform what was a space for quiet reflection into one that demanded open collaboration.

Thank You, Mr. Putin

Andy Warhol-style grid of four Putins

When I talk to fellow teachers about students in Rhetoric 306, the complaint is curiously uniform:  students struggle with limiting their engagement with a source to the level of rhetoric. Though the distinction between a particular argument and the subject of that argument can seem perfectly clear to teachers in the field, it’s a divide that continues to puzzle students, sometimes deep into a semester.

Oral Presentation by Peers

Podium outside the Capitol

I’m teaching an upper-division rhetorical theory course about legal rhetoric that requires students to write a 2,500-4,000 word research paper in which they rhetorically analyze two or more opposing arguments regarding an evidentiary controversy in a forensic dispute (typically this will be a trial or similar proceeding), and critique or extend a particular theory of forensic rhetoric as it applies to the rhetorical analysis they provide. This is a staged writing assignment that begins about a thirdd of the way through the semester and is concluded at the end of the semester.

Social Writing: Done with the One-on-One

Image of journalists in the Radio-Canada/CBC newsroom in Montreal, Canada

It’s been a few months since we had Criterion co-founder and innovator extraordinaire, Bob Stein, on campus, and since his visit I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the things he had the say. For those of you who missed it, Stein was showcasing a few new projects related to the future of the book, centered on the idea of social reading (you can hear Zeugma’s great interview with him here.

Benefits of Paper Workshops

Black-and-white photo of tools hanging on a wall

This spring I’ve been teaching RHE 310: Intermediate Expository Prose for the second time. The first time I taught it was two years ago, so I had plenty of time in between to think of ways to improve upon my first effort. I love teaching this class. I’m not sure I’ll get to teach a class like it in my new job, but I will definitely try to work in the practice of in-class paper workshops in future classes. Workshops are a cornerstone of RHE 310, and in this post, I’d like to describe how I run workshops, what I think works well, and what I will change in the future.

Teaching and Writing

A dog chewing on a large ball

So I went on the job market this year, and one of the questions that kept coming up was how I saw my teaching and my scholarship fitting together.  I’m working on a dissertation on early American poetry and have taught poetry classes, so some of the connections are pretty obvious.  But this semester I’m teaching 306, and while my students would certainly freak out (by which I mean feign sleep in spectacular and dramatic attitudes of disinterest) if I busted out some Puritan funeral elegies, I have been thinking a lot about the parallels between the writing

The Chicken In the Egg: Theme and Comp in the Truthy Classroom, Revisted

Three people on the street in egg costumes with legs

I want to revisit my post from last semester today, because it dealt with the lessons of grading the first major assignment in my first advanced composition course, and this week I found myself doing the last class meetings before this semester’s first major assignment deadline.

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.

Technology and Pedagogy: The Forum and Form of Blog Posting

Comic with Shakespeare at a computer asking To blog or not to blog?

According to legend, the Athenian orator, Demosthenes, overcome a speech impediment and a weak delivery through a practice of filling his mouth with stones and speaking through them. One might argue that Demosthenes was ahead of the curve in his use of technology. Others might suggest that my example is perverse, since 1.) the stones impede his natural ability to speak, and 2.) they were removed when he spoke in public.

The Many Upsides of the Student Conference

Photo of red, sun-shaped sign with the word Yay!

Even for a small class, student conferences take a lot of time and energy. I often hold conferences to discuss a plan for revision of their essays. That means that 6 hours of conferences (15 minutes each x 23 students) usually follow long nights spent grading the essays that are the basis of our discussion. I’ve often left the campus coffee shop after I’ve met with half the class in and felt like I’ve been stuck on repeat—drained from keeping my enthusiasm up during so many different versions of the same basic conversation.

Successful Student Writing

Black and white photo of hands typing

Students come to Rhetoric 306 without much writing experience. Some students even come to RHE 306 fresh out of high school. The novelty of the college classroom, coupled with the fast pace of writing assignments in our course design, can make even confident writers newly wary in this course. As an instructor, I combat this with low stakes writing practice and by drawing attention to successful student writing, when my students produce it.

Licensing

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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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