Monthly Archives: April 2020

Genre Awareness Low Stakes Assignments

What are some strategies or low-stakes assignments you might use to teach your students what genre is, and how and why we move between genres in order to reach our audiences and achieve our desired outcomes? Try to think of strategies that you might be able to use online.

I actually found this great in-class genre exercise from the FSU Composition site Robert suggested in January. I tried this exercise in both my 1101 and 1121 classes this semester. It was a fun way to engage the class and get them thinking about genre. I tweaked the 1121 class lesson plan by adding in a discussion and analysis of multimodal genres. In both classes I started the class by asking them to define genre and how they came up with that definition.  I gave them five minutes to write the response and told them we can share the responses after class. After they finished writing I asked the class to name genres of films. Once we had six genres on the board, I broke the class up into six groups (the average size of the group was 4). I asked the group to answer these four questions about their film genre. (I lifted these questions from the FSU lesson plan)

  1. Genre: What are the conventions of your group’s movie genre?
  2. Audience: Who watches this type of movie?
  3. Audience Expectation: What does an audience expect to experience/feel/learn/see from this genre?
  4. Evidence: Provide 3 examples of movies that fit this type and explain why they fit.

I moved the conversation to writing and we talked about genres of writing, asking the class if a poster, text, letter, instruction manual, etc. was a genre? And why? We filled the board with a long list of genres.

I asked the class to answer the original question about genre that I had written on the board again, and if there were any difference between the first response and the second, and if so, what they were. The class shared a few responses and we had a short class discussion. We also discussed subgenre and about rhetoric and genre.

After we completed this exercise, I handed out copies of Dirk’s reading, which was the assigned reading for the next class. The students referred to the exercise in both their writing responses and the following class discussion on the Dirk reading. I have been thinking of how I could do this online. I might try to break this into a series of discussion posts, with three people working together in groups to answer the questions about their assigned genre.


Why I think this exercise worked–I think starting a discussion with a subject the class is familiar with (like film) helped the students understand the broader concept of genre and the role of the audience.

Low Stakes Assignment & Genre Awareness

I love the low stakes assignment that Janet Boyd in “Murder! (Rhetorically Speaking)” uses because it seems like such a creative way to teach students about genre awareness. She gives students five specific facts about a murder and tells them to write about it. Borrowing from Boyd, I would do the same. I could give five facts about a character and have students write a short story about the character, a blog post from the character’s perspective, or a song about the character. In general, I think it’s important to show examples of different genres, too. Another option that I think will help is to show multiple genres about one specific theme. For example, the theme could be “prison reform” and I would be able to show blogs, newspaper articles, poems, narratives, songs, court files, books, etc. all about the topic. I do believe that all of these assignments will be simple enough to follow in a virtual world.

Overall, I believe that genre awareness is one of the most important parts of the reading AND writing experience. For me, genre awareness and audience awareness are two sides of the same coin. Learning how to differentiate an audience and a genre is probably the most important thing a person can learn in this world; the writing rules for sending an email to a boss and sending a text message to a friend have very distinct stipulations. Continuing to emphasize these differences are necessary.

1121 Unit 3– Optional, but useful

Hey everyone! Thanks for the meeting today– it was quite useful.  I’m really impressed with everything you guys are doing with your classes, especially in light of the circumstances.  Thanks for being so available for your students and for each other.

If you would be so kind as to share your assignment for 1121 Unit 3 as a new post (the category is…”1121 Unit 3″) it would be really useful for everyone else to see. Thanks!

Thinking about genre.

Hi everyone!  Just to recap, here is our upcoming schedule:

April 23:  3 pm Zoom call. By this date, please review 1101 Units 2 and 3 (below) as well as Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genre” ( you may recall we read this one million years ago, in January) and read “Murder, Rhetorically Speaking”. Please write a post (New Post) on Open Lab before our April 23 meeting answering the following question: (You can use the category 1101 Unit 2)

What are some strategies or low-stakes assignments you might use to teach your students what genre is, and how and why we move between genres in order to reach our audiences and achieve our desired outcomes? Try to think of strategies that you might be able to use online.

Download (PDF, 4.34MB)


Education interviews

Project #2: Introductory Interviews with Image and Text

In our First-Year Learning Community, you have already introduced yourself in class and on our site, and reflected on your first weeks of college. For our this project, imagine you are being interviewed for an online publication about first-year students in your major—you can imagine this will be a publication from your department to be featured on an OpenLab site, or dream bigger and imagine that it’s a feature on a professional site in your field, such as the AIGA Eye on Design site, with the article by Emily Gosling, “Today’s Design Grads Are More Woke Than Ever—and It’s Looking Great,” about a recent design graduate or the interview, or Ksenya Samarskaya’s interview, “Nontsikelelo Mutiti on Interrogating the Euro-centric Design Canon.”

Choose or create an avatar to represent you on the OpenLab. You might need to reconsider your avatar choice if you’ve already selected and uploaded one. Write one or two paragraphs in which you describe the image well enough that your readers need not look at it to know what it looks like, call attention to specific details in the image, and explain how the image represents you, specifically the you you’re representing in the interview.

In your interview, you will identify and answer 5 questions, four of your choosing from among our brainstormed list, plus the question about your avatar: What is your avatar and how does it represent you? Be sure to write more than the 5 and choose from among your best answers to shape a profile of you as a first-year design student. There might be some repetition from one question to the next, but that should be minimal, and instead each question should provide different information about you, your experience, your vision for your future, your goals, your artistic sense*, your place in your chosen profession’s world, that professional world’s place in your life, etc. Refer to the list we brainstormed for the range of questions, and feel free to modify as needed to best answer the questions.

The project overall should be approximately 750-1200 words, with each answer being roughly 100-200 words with an introduction framing the interview approximately 150-200 words.

Throughout your project, you can include images to express yourself better—not only your avatar but also other images that express you as a student in an aesthetic field, as a future  professional, etc. Use the publications from Eye on Design as a model, your visual library and other sources (be sure you’re allowed to use their work!) for images to include, and feel free to be creative!

Ultimately, the materials you develop here can become part of your OpenLab profile or your ePortfolio’s About Me page.

Requirements for this project:

  • Add your work on our course site as comments or posts, according to instructions.
  • When adding a post, use the category ENG Project #2, and add any tags that you find appropriate, indicating both substance and which part of the project your post corresponds to (draft, final, etc). For the final draft, use the tag Deliver.
  • complete the related homework posts described on our Ways of Seeing site
  • include your avatar image
  • re-read your work carefully several times, making changes as needed based on your ideas and feedback from me or from your peers
  • post your finished work, approximately 750-1200 words, to our site by Th 10/10 11:30am
  • Be prepared to write a cover letter in class on Th 10/10.

*I ask about artistic sense in this assignment for learning communities with Communication Design and Architectural Technology

1101: Unit 1

Literacy Narrative Assignment – Nadine Lavi

Essay #1 Literacy Narrative

For Unit 1, we will read several literacy narratives. “Mother Tongue,” by Amy Tan focuses on the various “Englishes” that the author, a Chinese-American writer who had trouble fitting in until she found her own, unique “voice” as a writer in English, and her mother, an elderly Chinese native whose English was less than perfect, but who nevertheless, managed to make herself be understood and taken seriously by others. The author gives various anecdotes about how the different Englishes she grew up hearing, at home and at school, conflate with the Englishes her mother uses, and the times when they, or are not effective.

We will also read Donald Murray’s “All Writing is Autobiography,” about the “voices” that he uses when he writes about himself, and how they correspond to different parts of his identity.

In this unit’s writing assignment,  you will write an essay in response to the statement,  “My voice is that of a __________.” (Fill in the blank – with a noun that describes your identity or the identity that you are trying to establish and the voice(s) that you use to affirm that identity) (For example, some of the words that you might use to describe yourself might be: survivor, martyr, kid, seer, cynic, wizard, multi-cultural, multi-gendered, player, stand up guy, lady, bitch, boss, ceo, activist, sibling, parent, student, etc.).

Think about the role that language plays in terms of your identity and your voice. The purpose of this is to connect your participation in this class to the rest of your experiences with writing in your life. As a result, each of you will bring something of yourselves to this assignment and to the class as a whole, and you will leave the course with a greater comprehension of what the usefulness of this class and how to take the steps and practices we will use and transfer them into other writing situations and settings.

In preparation for this assignment, you should read the two examples of literacy narratives: Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue,” and Donald Murray’s “All Writing is Autobiography,” and a third literacy narrative. Use them as models for your essay.

Think about the following and include them when you write:

  • Your culture’s approach to reading and writing
  • Your family’s “English” and how it is similar to or different from the English you learned in school
  • Your thoughts about your earliest experiences with English (reading, writing, school, etc.)
  • Any story or book that you liked which may have shaped you
  • Your unique voice and how that reflects your strengths, weaknesses, path, and goals in life

Your essay will be approximately 3-4 pages long, with your title, indented paragraphs, double spaced, Arial or Calibri 11 point font, with 1 inch margins all around.

Take some time to jot down notes and any words that come to mind (word associations) about your early recollections of English and how that intersected with your voice. Use the first person, “I.’ Bring in two printed copies for our peer review class, and turn in a final draft electronically and a bring an extra hard copy to class to hand in to me.

Email me if you have any questions.

Nathaniel’s Literacy Narrative Assignment Draft

Literacy Narrative Assignment Draft           Due Date: February 15, 2021           Prof. Amity Nathaniel

You’ve read “Da State of Pidgin Address” by Lee Tonouchi and watched “The Dangers of a Single Story” Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which are two narratives about personal experiences involving language and education. Through these two pieces, and various other texts and videos that we’ve so-far examined in Unit One about vernacular language, literacy, and education, we have identified some of the dilemmas involving these topics—particularly when it comes to standardized English and the communities of people who are largely (and negatively) impacted by the system of “perfect” English and misconceptions about their intelligence. Now, it’s time for you to share your own personal narrative! Write about your experiences at school involving your natural vernacular and misconceptions people may have had about you.

There are several ways you can tackle this assignment. As long as you are writing and reflecting about the general topic at hand, you can draft your essay in whatever storytelling method feels best to you.

As Tonouchi does, you can write an essay about vernacular being taught in schools by using examples from your own experiences and by showcasing the importance of your personal language system. Examples of topics:

  • Did you have a teacher who taught non-standard English in the classroom or a teacher who was extremely strict with standard English? What was the classroom experience like?
  • Do you code-switch or code-mesh when you’re in school?
  • What is your proudest writing moment in school? What language style did you write in? 

Or, you can follow Adichie’s method about misconceptions involving language. Examples of topics:

  • Detail a stereotype you were labeled with in school.
  • Share a story about a lesson you learned outside of the classroom.
  • Discuss a book that really changed the way you viewed the world.

These are just examples; you can specify any particular educational incident that really impacted the way you viewed your writing skills, your education, your culture, and your language system(s).

Please write 800-1000 words. Use size 12 font and Times New Roman font style. Good luck!

Literacy Narrative, 1st Draft

Unit 1: Literacy Narrative Essay

In this unit, we are investigating the place of language and writing in our lives. We’ve read and discussed (formally and informally) narratives that examine language—both spoken and written, with the following goals in mind:

We have:

  • reflected on the varied experiences of language and writing, and how language shapes our identity and community, and the role writing (and reading) plays;
  • reflected on the languages we use with friends, with relatives, immediate family, fellow students, teachers, supervisors, etc;
  • reflected on our relationships to language and looked critically at our own writing processes.

Part I: Narrative (800 words, minimum)

We will write an essay about a significant event in your experience as a writer/student. Consider what you’ve written in the journal entries: perhaps you want to expand on some of the things you have written there. Remember the different ways the writers we’ve discussed write about their own experience as writers/speakers of language.

You may want to write about:

  • an event in your educational career that was particularly formative;
  • a specific literacy/learning event that led you to become the thinker you are today;
  • the first time you had a profound experience related to language;
  • your experience as a writer in this class so far, or in writing classes in general

Whatever the context you choose from the examples above, you should:

  • talk about how the event shaped your relationship to reading and writing, or to school/education in general;
  • how your particular experience relates to some of the bigger social and cultural issues we discussed in class, such as race, the education system, Standard Written English (SWE), etc;
  • reflect upon how your experience has enabled you to understand something specific about reading, writing, learning, or language AND how that understanding reflects on the communities/world you inhabit.

This assignment isn’t meant to be a traditional essay with a thesis statement and five structured paragraphs. Instead, this is you relating to your peers the story of who you are as someone who belongs to a particular speech and/or writing community, and your history as a reader and writer. In that spirit, you can choose to format or write this in whatever way you think best communicates your story honestly.

Part 2: Share, Respond, and Reflect

After you have completed the first draft, you will bring in copies of you to share with your peers. You will share these essays with your group, and, after reading each other’s essays, provide thoughtful, critical feedback (a worksheet will be provided).

Note what you think works and what you think could use some work. After the session, write an email based on your responses on the worksheet (~250 words) to each of your group members responding to their paper with your comments and suggestions. You will attach a copy of this email to your final draft.

In addition to the email, you will write a reflection (250 words), also to be attached to the final draft. In this, you will explain:

  • why you chose to write the way you wrote
  • what insights you’ve gained from the readings, the journals, and your peers
  • what you think worked and what you might improve on

Due Dates

  • Conceptual Outline: XX
  • Rough Draft: XX
  • Final Draft: XX

All deadlines are absolute. If you do not turn in the assignments on the published deadlines, you will receive zero points for that particular deadline. This will be discussed further in class.


You will receive two grades on this assignment. The first grade will be on your narrative. The grade will depend on the following:

  • depth and clarity of your writing
  • organization of thoughts
  • concreteness of details
  • details support the greater narrative/argument

The second grade will be on the responses to your peers and your reflection. The grade will depend on the following:

  • thoughtful response to each peer (this must cover both the things you think worked as well as suggestions for improvement)
  • thoughtful reflection on why you chose to write the way you wrote, what insights you gained, and what you think worked on your narrative and what you hope to improve upon

This assignment was adapted from Andrew Stone’s U1 assignment on