Author Archives: Julia Ait-ziane

Unit 2 and 3

Overview for all Units – “You know I really need to know/(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)” – Pete Townshend

Units 2 and 3 are presented together because Unit 2 will basically provide the information that you need for Unit 3. Unit 3 will be a “remix” of Unit 2. A “remix” in music is a “variant of the original recording”. We know what they sound like: think about popular artists today who take an old song and repurpose it in some way. Sometimes the lyrics are retained, sometimes the beats are retained, but there is always a moment of listener recognition, a moment of “I heard this before, but not in this way.” So, with Unit 3, you will be choosing to present your information in a new genre.

Throughout these two Units, we will continue reading and discussing topics related to Units 2 and 3. A few of these readings will serve as technical support, while some of these readings will provide models of what you might do. Some technical readings we will use are:

Donna Kain and Elizabeth Wardle: “Activity Theory: An Introduction for the Writing Classroom”

Laura Carroll: “Backpacks vs. Briefcases”

Anne Lamott: “Shitty First Drafts”

Sandra Giles: “Reflective Writing and the Revision Process: What Were You Thinking?”

Unit 2 – Genre Investigation and Analysis

“Find what you love and let it kill you” – Charles Bukowski

If Unit 1 was about exploring the “you” that exists in an academic venue, Unit 2 will be about exploring the other side of you, the you that exists when you are not working, out of school, or have that elusive time know as free time! You must develop a question about a specific topic that interests you. What make you tick as a person? If you tell me taking photos related to New York City transit, I’m curious, but I don’t really know what that means. Explain it to me by finding four sources of different genres that give me a full-blown picture of that hobby or interest. I want you to go in-depth here. For lack of a better explanation, imagine that I’ve landed from Mars and I don’t have any frame of reference for what you’re presenting. You will have to:

  • Develop a specific question about a hobby or personal interest you have. DUE:
  • Research, gather information on and analyze four sources that are at least three different genres. This will become the annotated bibliography for your sources. DUE:
  • Read and annotate your sources with your question in mind. Make note of how the issue is discussed or presented in each source. Develop your argument about how effective each source was in presenting its message and purpose to its audience. Write a report about what the source says, but also how and why it says it. DUE:
  • Please bring a copy to class on:
  • Final draft: DUE:


  • Are the ideas clear and is there a central focus to your argument?
  • Is there evidence of in-depth research here?
  • Are there three different kinds of genres?
  • Are the ideas organized in a way that makes sense to both of us?
  • Is your language appropriate to the audience? Was there a clear consideration of audience?
  • Is there a Works Cited Page?

Learning Objectives:

  • Read and listen critically and analytically in a variety of genres and rhetorical situations.
  • Use research as a process of inquiry and engagement with multiple perspectives.
  • Demonstrate the social and ethical consequences of writing.

Unit 3 – Writing in a New Genre

“Sometimes a remix is good because it reaches a whole new generation.” – A. R. Rahman

In Unit 3, you will be using your research from Unit 2 to compose a document/artifact in a new genre. You might want to write a newspaper article or a children’s book, compose a short story or create a video essay. There will be no new research done. Since I wrote a report about New York City Transit photography in Unit 2, can I create a photo essay about New York City Transit photography in Unit 3? The possibilities are endless, but you need to consider your audience and the best way to communicate with them. This will help guide your genre. You also want to consider the purpose of your final product. What do you want the audience to walk away from the experience of your piece with? Your final product can contain pictures or sound, but it must contain at least 1500 words as well. You will have to:

  • Create a proposal that explains what you want to say, how you want to say it, and who you want to say it to. There will be more specific details about this proposal later, but this is the gist. DUE:
  • Find two to three examples of a model text. You can use one of the texts you used in the Unit 2, but find at least two more and explain how all of these texts meet the needs of your final project. Not every text has to mentor every aspect of your final project. Please explain what aspects of the text do. Please turn in another annotated bibliography. DUE:
  • Write a rough draft. Use your mentor texts to guide the structure of your final assignment. Your project must have about 1500 words in it. Please bring a copy to class. DUE:
  • Final draft. DUE:


  • Did your final project follow the rules of the genre that you picked?
  • Did you make decisions about language and design of the project based on your audience?
  • Was there clear effort and organization on a global, but also sentence level?
  • Did you communicate a clear message that people can learn from?

Learning Objectives:

  • Read and listen critically and analytically in a variety of genres and rhetorical situations.
  • Compose in 21st Century Environments.

Ait-Ziane Low-Stakes assignments

I actually really like the ones suggested in both readings, so I would probably steal those.  I did ask my students in one class to read a poem and turn it into a newspaper article.  We did it very quickly, but if I were to build it out into a more formal assignment, we’d probably read some poems and articles as mentor texts, then have a discussion about the elements that define each genre. Then, I’d give them a specific poem and ask them to proceed with the task of turning the content into an article. In the end, I might ask them to analyze what they did to translate one thing into the other. I think once we all figure out what makes a specific genre a genre, we could proceed with a weekly “show and tell”.  Students bring in something that seems undefinable and proceed with applying the criteria. It might be interesting to ask them to create their own genre, although that might turn into a bigger assignment than what is being asked for here.  Perhaps we could start the steps as low-stakes assignments.

Julia Ait-Ziane Unit 1 Draft

Unit 1 Literacy Narrative

Let’s start with a definition.  What is a narrative?  According to the dictionary, a narrative is a “spoken or written account of events.” What is literacy? Again, according to the dictionary, literacy is “the ability to read or write.”  So, if you put those two words together, what I’m looking for you to produce by the end of this unit is a piece of writing (yes that is our mode of communication…for now) that describes your experiences as both a reader and writer, from birth to present dayIt is not an autobiography of your whole life.  It is a close-up of events that apply directly to your development as a reader and a writer.  As the camera gets closer, there should be many things that we readers can see, so the focus of this paper is on details, as well as analysis of these details.

Consider these questions as you write:

  • What experiences have shaped you as a writer? (positive and/or negative)
  • What experiences have shaped you as a reader? (positive and/or negative)
  • What do all these details add up to? (What’s the bigger picture here?  Connect the separate dots of your experiences with a common thread)
  • How do you view yourself as a reader and writer now?

We will be reading and discussing how others experience language in different ways and forms.  We’ll also be watching things as well.  Hopefully, all these examples will help you articulate your own experiences with both topics.

Proposed Readings (complete articles, essays and a lone poem)(links will be included on the syllabus):

“Me Talk Pretty One Day” – David Sedaris

“The Sacred Spell of Words” – N. Scott Momaday

“The Writing Revolution” – Peg Tyre

“Does Texting Affect Writing?” –Micheala Cullington

“Introduction to Poetry” – Billy Collins


The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

The Story of My Life – Helen Keller

“Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119” – George Plimpton


You will also be responding to specific questions on Open Lab to start building components of your narrative.  There will be specific questions to answer, and the order of these questions will hopefully help you with the details and structure of your assignment:

Post 1 – 9/2 – David Sedaris discusses his French teacher in his short essay “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” Write about a positive or negative experience with a teacher or instructor in your past.

Post 2 – 9/9 – Tyre discusses how one high school changed its citywide writing scores by changing their writing programs.  Write about your high school writing classes.

Post 3 – 9/14 – Cullington discusses the impact of technology on people’s writing skills.  Write your opinion about the impact of technology on your writing skills.

Post 4 – 9/16 – Maya Angelou describes her writing routine.  Describe your own writing routine.  Even if you think you don’t have one, you probably do!  Think about the room you write in or the mode that you write in.

Each of these posts may contribute to your Unit 1 final project. It is imperative that you complete them before your first draft is due!  You might be able to lift one of your posts out and transfer it to your paper.

First draft due (850 words) (bring a copy to class): 9/21

Final draft due (850 words) (upload to OpenLab):  9/30


Grading Schema:

  • Concrete significant detail
  • Analysis of your experience
  • Carefulness about sentence clarity and organization
  • Word Count: 850
  • Whether or not prep work (Posts and first draft) were done


My remote teaching experience thus far:

To say I feel like a fish out of water is putting it mildly.  Also, I’ve never felt so chained to the computer.  If I’m not posting stuff, I’m reading submissions and responding back to them.  I feel like I’m sending my responses out into the ether of the cyber world.  I was using Open Lab with both my classes, but I really miss the face to face contact.  Video chats just don’t cut it.  One positive is that I started using posts more and I find that I’m interacting with the students more informally.  I’m making jokes and they’re making jokes back.  I really think that posts will become a permanent feature in my future classes. Also, despite the various ways that I have to contact students, I’m not hearing from more than half of them.  The students who were keeping up with the work in the class are still keeping up, but the students who were struggling are really struggling now.  I’m not sure what I can do to bridge that gap that is probably caused by a number of factors: lack of technology, access, sick family members, etc.  That is really the most frustrating thing.