Monthly Archives: January 2019

Low-Stakes, High Gain — Student Work in Unit 1

Before Orientation, I posted my first low-stakes assignment for UNIT 1. This week I made a few revisions to it, based on the needs of my sections, and will update it soon once this hectic week is over! Meantime, here is an early result — a first paper that is quite amazing by one student. He was asked to write without using the letters “p” “q” “y” “g” and “j” — in short, to use no letter that would allow him to “escape” below the line of text. I adapted this from the “Prisoner’s Constraint” used by the OULIPO group. For more background on using lipograms/OULIPO as prompt reading, see my previous post.

The topic/prompt I gave the class was: Write about something you fear.

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Just FYI…

If any of you happens to look at the blogs of any of my sections, you might see a post “Would You Trust This Man?” It has a picture of someone in a turban, sunglasses and mustache. It’s part of an exercise we’ll be doing in class tomorrow about diversity and stereotypes. I realize that it might cause concern–which I will allay in class. For those who won’t be there, don’t worry: The man in the picture is me.

Bardolph’s Built-In Reflection Rings True

Megan J. Bardolph’s essay, “Modifying Classroom Routines to Provide Reflective Space” gives me some much-appreciated pedagogical go-ahead. Thank you, Jackie, for giving it to us. Bardolph’s suggestion that we begin this reflective process early on fuses well with what I’ve already attempted in this short time, and as it’s my first week with this new pedagogy, and the feeling of being overwhelmed is very real, I want to take a moment and say why.

Learning Unit 1. Literacy. Metacognition. The students in at least one of my sections are already flying (boldly!) into uncharted brain space. As I am talking to them, I sense that my desire to NOT reign them in, and yet, my need to give our FY folks some real deliverables, will start to clash soon. So: what I  told them (after giving them a quick overview of Wittgenstein and linguistic game theory) is: “Tell me, in ongoing notation, your:

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Interesting article

Hi all. I found this article in the December issue of TETYC. An instructor interested in Teaching for Transfer and reflection was trying to find a way to build reflection activities into the early parts of her assignments. This details what happened (mostly good) and how she wants to modify it. It might be worth a look. Megan J Bardolf, Modifying Classroom Routines to Provide Reflective Space

Cool Word Press Stuff

Grade Plugin

I just discovered that when you comment on a blogpost, you have the option to post private comments and also to assign a grade. I know somebody (Jackie or Carrie?) mentioned that in our last meeting, but that’s a really great feature that we can put to use.

In addition, Jackie’s site has a plugin that will allow students to check their grades. I don’t see how to set this up, but another awesome option.

Library Search

I saw on Jackie’s site that you can do a CUNY Onesearch library search directly from the OpenLab. Is this a plugin?



One thing I am going to try this semester (I’ve done it before, but not explicitly or comprehensively) is to do what my students do. Maybe a little before, as an example, maybe at the same time. I don’t know how this is going to work with section four but, hey, that could be part of the fun, my own exploration. There are going to have to be limits to this: I don’t think I can effectively participate in in-class exercises, for example, and still provide the assistance (and, yes, oversight) that students often need. But I do think I can complete each of the five major assignments and have them available to the students so that they can look not only at what other students are doing but also at what their teacher is about.


Websites: Cool Stuff.

I’ve just spent a little while reading through the 1121 (and in Jackie’s case, 1101) websites, and there’s some great stuff on there that I think will be really helpful to all of us as we scramble to “go live.” I really love Jackie’s placeholders for all the blogposts, which are, incidentally great examples of metacognitive assignments on the readings. And I love Sarah’s statement that “you write to become a more effective person– across the board!” A couple of things I loved from Aaron’s website: that you ask not only “who are you writing to?” but also “who is writing to you?” and I love that handout on primary research. Anyway, I know we’re all busting our,um, selves to get ready– but there’s a lot of great stuff up there! See you all soon!

Camera Angles

This whole MAGA Covington Highschool controversy has me thinking about the multimedia project. It might be worth discussing camera-perspective bias with students. There’s an interesting NPR audio bit about this where Steve Inskeep interviews Adam Benforado the author of Unfair.  It’s just a short bit, but it’s a conversation starter. Benforado talks about the tinted lenses that we see the world through, what Kenneth Burke called terministic screens. Anyway, thought it was worth sharing.

Encouraging Students to Imagine with Shipka

Cognizant that the student work featured above may seem strange, especially when the norm for student work is equated with linear, argumentative, thesis-driven print texts that are passed forward in class and geared primarily, if not exclusively, to an audience of one (the instructor), I would suggest that the rhetorical, material, methodological, and technological choices students made while engineering these complex rhetorical events merit serious and sustained attention. Based on the kind, quality, and scope of work I have witnessed students producing for the past seven years, I am moved to argue, with George’s claim in mind, that students have a much richer imagination for what might be accomplished in the course than our journals have yet even begun to imagine, let alone to address. (282)

I admit it readily enough: I am often afraid of technology. So while I love multi-genre work and in theory embrace assignments focused on transfer, visual rhetoric, multimodal forms, media, and digital or audio components, sometimes I get nervous. What if my students want to translate their argument into a podcast and I don’t have the first idea of how to help them? What if they are as nervous as I am about the idea of a translation or original argument created in a multimodal, digital, audio, or interactive media format, such as a text-based video game or a video essay?

Some of the examples that Shipka brings up remind me that I shouldn’t worry, because offering students room to imagine how how they might best bring a complex idea to their audience might far surpass my own imagination. I’m now certain that no one under the age of 25 has any kind of anxiety about using digital or mobile technologies, so if my students don’t yet know how to produce a podcast on their phones, they will surely find a way to do so. It’s impressive to see what is possible for multimodal assignments, and also raises the question for me of how to best frame them, when there is a lot of choice — such as a choice of both topic AND genre — involved.

What Counts as “Evidence” in Kynard

It was largely through working with Elva that I began to question more rigorously the nature of the research paper in terms of what counts as “evidence.” The type of data that Elva was collecting and her attempt to write it up should not have been a new endeavor for her. She was in fact focusing in the social sciences and was well into her major. None of what she described as her previous research papers, however, seemed to fall outside of the typical library-go-fetch process. (135)

In the Kynard reading, I kept thinking about how often, when our students go and find “sources” for their research paper (sometimes an artificially determined number, for the sake of “sufficient rigor”), they come back with some of the weirdest things. I recall reading papers and thinking not just “How on earth did you find this source?” but also “Why on earth did you think that this source would be a good context, commentary, or voice to enter into a conversation with as you built your argument?”

And it makes me agree that we should introduce research as early as possible, but also its motivations– relevant research can help writers build credibility, understand the nature of a situation or problem, and insert their own original ideas into that gap between others’ voices. But it takes a lot of gathering and analysis and reading and fact-finding and synthesis of sources to effectively deploy sources as the log cabin-like foundation that we stand atop to make a coherent and interesting new argument. So how can we not only help students consult other texts, voices, and sources whenever they approach writing, but also use them effectively? I also have a feeling that primary research — whether ethnography, interviews, observations, or site visits — can also be very empowering in this way for students, since it puts them more in touch with what the research is for, and they are interpreting their own sensory experiences to find meaning.