Category Archives: Low Stakes Assignments

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.

Lesson plan “Mother Tongue”


How do you integrate all the languages you speak?

Respond in writing to the following:

  • How many languages do you speak? Here I mean, not necessarily foreign languages but languages you speak with friends, languages you speak with family, languages you may speak with people with whom you share a hobby like a sport.
  • To whom do you speak those different languages?
  • How do you feel about speaking different languages to different people in different contexts?
  • How does your intended audience impact how you speak to someone and the word choice you use?
  • How does the purpose for your communication impact what you say and how you say it?
  • How can you have a similar message or purpose for different audiences but use different word choice based on your audience?

Discuss with a partner, and then we will discuss this as a class.

Let’s watch Amy Tan’s speech at the White House and do

Say Mean Matter about it.

Let’s do a little role play of how you would ask your mom for a raise on your allowance.

Now, let’s do another role play on how you would ask your boss for a raise.

What did you notice about the language?

Take out the SOAPSTONE chart that we used with “Superman and Me,” and do the same thing for “Mother Tongue” and go over it.

Let’s look at how Amy Tan brings her mother and her language to life. Let’s reread as a class paragraph five. In paragraph five what techniques does Amy Tan use to bring her mother’s language to life?

How does she contrast the way her mother sounds to what her mother knows and can understand?

When you write narratives, use dialogue, frame dialogue, develop concrete, specific details, use verbs precisely and use your senses. Show, don’t tell. This came from the students

Definition of anecdote- a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing or biographical incident.


In this essay, Tan uses anecdotes about herself and her mother with the stockbroker and the hospital. Reread 0page2, paragraphs 2-7, and discuss with a partner what makes these anecdotes effective? Make a list and we will share the list.

Use verbs precisely

Add dialogue

Use your senses

Add concrete detail to create a scene.

Build a scene


You are going to write anecdotes about your own reading and writing life. Think about your own reading, writing or speaking life.   Think of an anecdote from your own life? Write it down. Use what we found effective about the Tan essay in your own writing.

Share what you have written with your partner.


  • Do Homework for Open Lab. It’s easy.
  • Do the Brainstorming Worksheet and questions about Baldwin and the Tyson video. The Tyson video is on Blackboard.



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.