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Reading for Next PD Wed., 3/20

Hi folks,
We’ll be reading this piece by Reiff and Bawarashi. Rather than writing individual blog posts as a response, please posts your responses below in the comments section. We’d be interested to hear the connections between the reading and your own teaching this semester.

Our meeting is scheduled in the Dean’s conference room, not in the President’s room. If anything changes I’ll be sure to let you know. See you Wed!

Angel Footsteps

Stepping In

I have no idea which of you introduced me to the phrase “stepping in” in terms of composition, but I am stealing it from you and, maybe, using it in a different way. Thank you, though.

In class, yesterday, I used “stepping in” as a phrase for, initially, the transition from the unit on discourse communities to the one on the argumentative essay. As I talked, I realized that “stepping in” could do much more for me and for the students than I had originally imagined.

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My first month story includes no “Narrative”

So I realize that I’m guilty. I didn’t really do a Literacy Narrative in my UNIT 1. I think/hope that I can take forward those skills that I fostered with my UNIT 1.

Intuition. Recognizing how we are all hardwired with language — and how to re-wire ourselves, create different pathways.  Self actualization: its benefits, and a little bit of How to Do It — how writing can be a tool for it. How scary and powerful writing is. It’s not safe. It’s also totally accessible.

In addition to the feedback I got from the classes, this is what I, personally, am telling you I felt we got.

Nobody really taught me how to access my own intuition in an English Class environment. I learned that in the arts and in the performing arts.

I also have long done a “literacy narrative” lecture of my own. Only, I didn’t know that’s what it was called. And I’ve done it late in the semester, not early. I will try to cycle all this around, like some sort of charcoal in a fish tank.

Thanks for reading. I’ve found all your writing so inspiring on Literacy Narrative. Now, I (the teacher) know what it is.That’s a start for next time.

P.S. We talked a lot about Process. Still, it’s not the same.

UNIT 2, here I come.

Compiling a List of Genres

Hi Folks,

So I’m working on compiling a list of usable, visible, practical genres for our students. I’d appreciate if you’d add any you can think of in the comments.


Spotify “About the Artists
Police Blotter  Brooklyn Daily
Death Announcements
Urban dictionary entries and Sample Sentences
Mug writing
SNL Weekend Update Jokes
Movie/Show synopsis (NYT Watching)
You Write the Cartoon Caption
Questions and Answers to Judge John Hodgson (A Twist on the Advice Column)


New York Times Best of Late Night
New York Times Morning Briefings
Book Back Cover Copy
Time Out New York News
Our Favorite Songs Playlist

Game Guides and Walkthroughs
Band Interviews 


Siberian ice

Thawing Siberia

One of the things I have become attuned to in the classroom is  what Ira Shor refers to as “Siberia.” I’ve had to; we all have. The row of disaffected and suspicious young men, often African-American, at the rear of the classroom. One of Shor’s strategies is to walk back and speak to the class from next to them. That doesn’t work for me, but I do have ways of addressing the problem that do–sometimes. An experience in one of my 1121 sections over the past week shows that one of them, at least, can work.

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Epistolary Rap: What Passes?

Hi Aaron: you wrote a while back asking about Hip-Hop songs that reference writing or the act of writing and I meant to respond. Apologies.

Stan” by Eminem. That’s a whole heartbreaking story told in letters. And it’s rap and I am guessing that hundreds of students at this school can recite it by heart.

Lots of rap references writing directly, to answer your question. Unfortunately, the lyrics are quite rough. I wonder if we can talk about what is “ok” to use in class? Not just the words, the messages…for instance, Kendrick Lamar is probably the best contemporary artistic voice out there. Period. To Pimp a Butterfly is quite literary. But…

Commenting on papers: some thoughts

So, I’m at the tail end of a grading marathon, and I’ve been thinking anew about my philosophy of commenting, especially since I have to give a talk on Integrated Reading and Writing later this month. We talk a lot about minimal marking, and that’s important, and I’m not always as good at that as I should be, but I also don’t think I need to talk about it too much here, except to reiterate, students can only take in so much at once– if they get a paper covered in red, they’re going to think “I’m a shitty writer, just as I suspected,” and shut down. And I’ve talked to a number of students who’ve had that experience.

But one thing I’ve been thinking about a lot is– how do I comment AS A READER (while not pretending that I’m not the one giving a grade) and also respecting the students AS WRITERS. In other words, as much as I can, I want my comments to be less about “master/ novice” “right/wrong” dynamic and more about a “reader/writer” dynamic– or sometimes a “writer to writer” dynamic. So I try to say things like “As a reader, I feel like you set up a promise for me in the introduction that never gets fulfilled, and I’m kind of bummed because I want to know what happened to that bunny!” or “I honestly am pretty confused with this sentence, and can’t figure out what you’re trying to say” or “as a writer, I find it sometimes gets the point across more clearly if I…” That said, if there’s something I NEED the students to do for a grade, like introduce/ summarize and analyze quotes (this is something I’m really drilling in 1101) I will make that clear. “As the assignment says, part of your grade is on integrating quotes, as in the handouts. If you’re having a hard time with this, please come see me.” This dichotomy: I’m just another writer like you, and also I’m your teacher giving you a grade is, at times, annoying, I know. But I think it’s still useful to write to them as writers and to ASK them– “why did you make this choice in your writing?” instead of saying “this is wrong,” even though sometimes they may not be aware of having made a choice at all.

On grammar: I pick one issue per student per paper, whatever I think most impedes comprehension, I mark the first few instances of that issue, and then I ask them to look it up on the OWL– unless that issue is “sentence focus,” in which case, I make them come talk to me. If it’s subject/ verb agreement, verb tense or articles, I would normally send them to the tutoring lab to work on that one issue only (because those issues are very difficult to handle on your own) but with the ALC issues, and because I can make the time, I ask students to come see me about those issues too. If an issue affects nearly half the class, I have a mini-lesson on it for the whole class. All of this said, I tell the class repeatedly what the research shows: the best (and honestly, basically only) way to learn grammar is by reading (and to some extent writing.)

Discourse Community Activity

HI all. Following on Kim’s comment (I think it was Kim) about never teaching Swales again, I thought I’d share this lecture/activity I got this from Portland State University some years ago. II did tweak the original, but’s a nice explanatIon of Discourse Communities  and a set of activities. It’s probably better for 1101 than 1121 but I wanted to share it anyway — along with a three-part activity. It makes Swales a lot more student-friendly.

I’ve used this in previous classes where it’s worked really well, but I’m changing the activities a bit this year. For Phase One, after the students brainstorm their own communities, they’ll create a Discourse Community web, using the one in Anne Beaufort’s course outline as a model. For Phase Two, I’ll see if I can get them to talk about taboos or at least write about it on their Web. And for Phase Three, I’m turning it into a blogging assignment.

After that, they’re going to read Perri Klass’ New York Times column from many years ago (the pdf is below) about being a medical student, and have them tease out the features of that discourse community. (Complete honesty, I got this from Jeff Sommers’ article about doing a virtual workplace ethnography for my ENG 2570 class where it worked well.)

Hope somebody finds this useful. At least it’s something to talk about this week.