Category Archives: Low Stakes Assignments FA2019

Debating Language Diversity

This handout sparked lively debate in the class.  I asked my classes to respond to which argument they found more persuasive and why.  We also examined what rhetorical strategies each writer employed, including what type of evidence each relied upon.   Students were really impressed with how Vershawn Ashanti Young’s response to Fish made sentence style itself into a kind of persuasive argument–a strong argument on behalf of language diversity and against the prejudices underwriting SAE.

Research Question and Reflection Assignment

Here is an assignment I found on the Arizona State University website.  I have modified it for my classes as we have been stumbling over the creation of our research/curiosity questions (in part because we have had so many holidays and missed classes….no complaints about that though)  Hopefully, this will help.  I plan on using this assignment this week.  

Download (DOCX, 10KB)

First Day Exercise – Intro to Genre

I introduced the concepts of genre and rhetorical analysis on the first day of class with an easy exercise. I put up 3 questions on the board, asking students to:

  1. Introduce themselves briefly, including any details they felt were pertinent for the class to know about them.
  2. Compile a list of 2-3 questions they had about the course (before going over the syllabus).
  3. Describe what they’d like to achieve by the end of the course.

This first genre was the basic in-class response to a writing prompt. Afterwards, they were asked to convert their answers into the genre of an oral presentation. Each student was asked to get up and present the content of these questions, but in a format more suitable to a presentation.

Finally, for homework, students were asked to convert this information into a third genre, the academic email to me, their professor. Once again, students were asked to reflect on the different rhetorical choices they would make depending on audience and purpose.

The following class we had a more in-depth discussion of the differences between the 3 genres and how reflecting on the rhetorical situation impacted the style, tone, language, content, etc. of their writing/speaking.

Low-stakes assignment: genre analysis


We have been studying genre analysis using The Bedford Book of Genres. We used the key terms from “Rhetorical Situation and Choices” and “Genre” to analyze ads in class. Then, I had students find an ad for homework and post about it on the discussion board using the same terms that we had studied in class.

Discussion board assignment:

Hi all! Look at the chart on page 32, then pick an ad that you’ve seen in your life and write about the rhetorical situation and choices (purpose, audience, rhetorical appeals, modes and media) and the genre conventions (common examples, style, design, sources).

If the ad is a video or a link, please post it!

In-class application:

I had them circle up in small groups and explain to their group which ad they analyzed. Then I picked a couple of ads that students had posted about, had the students who wrote about them explain them, and then we watched those ads as a class and analyzed them. It was especially useful when I had several students who analyzed ads from similar companies (like Nike, Reebok, and Adidas). In this case we watched each ad and then decided which company was doing their ad campaigns the best and why.

Low Stakes Assignment

This is more of a class discussion than an assignment, but it did really help with engagement. I asked students to reflect on just the title of Anzaldua’s “How To Tame a Wild Tongue.” We spent probably 20 minutes thinking about how “tame” relates to “wild”, for instance, and what the implications are within that relationship. We also talked about “How To” as a genre (“it’s like an instruction manual,” a student said), and how thinking about that genre could be useful–or not–for thinking about what the text is trying to say. Really slowing down and thinking about the title’s six words helped some students feel less overwhelmed, I think, and gave them a model for how to read by focusing on specific details and the thoughts and feelings those details provoked.