Archive | September, 2010

This Week

27 Sep

bell hooks

Today I’ve been grading more of your essays and creating a powerpoint for chapter five in your textbook, which you should be reading at this very moment – wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  Think blue light, and try not to fall asleep when we embark on the journey towards creating more solid thesis statements. None of you can afford to tune out! Though the powerpoints highlight some key material in the textbook, you really still need to do the readings. You need the examples offered in the text, especially when we don’t have a lot of time to come up with our own in class. The process of learning to write a smart thesis (and an academic essay) begins first with good imitation, and as you gain insight and confidence, you will begin to stray from the formulaic so that your ideas represent your own personalities.

Speaking of personalities, many of yours shined through in your essay two completed drafts, and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to hear your voices (the ones you use in class) start to take form in 2nd and 3rd person. You still have a lot of work to do, but many of you are on a very successful path. This assignment is probably the most difficult of the entire semester, so breathe a deep sigh of relief and know that you can only become a more articulate 3rd person writer from this point on, that is, if you really put your mind to it.

One class of completed drafts has been graded, and I am not about to begin grading the prewriting materials. Stay tuned in class for approximate return times for your essay portfolios. I start with a different class each grading cycle, so if you were the first to get your essays back the first time around, expect yours a little later this time around.

Don’t forget the bell hooks’ reading “Confronting Class” to be completed by Wednesday or Thursday depending on your day rotation. Your initial discussion posts must be completed on those days before we meet. Your responses to your peers will be due the following class, Friday and Tuesday respectively.

Grading Essay II – Part I

27 Sep

The Gas We Pass

So far in grading the second round of essays, I’m pleasantly surprised by how creative many of you have been in your topic choices.  Many of your essays have made me laugh aloud, making the people sitting around me wonder what in the world could be so entertaining about student essays. If they only knew what you were writing about, they would understand. So far, the most entertaining essay has been one about dancing on a chair in the student cafeteria. I nearly peed my pants. Ok, not really. I have much more bladder control than that.  I have also very much enjoyed an essay about a blind date – I swear I thought I was on one myself when reading it, and there was another essay about going to the beach alone to which I could really relate, although I have gone to the beach alone many times, and as the student noted, it is a very serene experience, especially the drive home with the wind in your face and the sun continuing to burn your skin even in the shade of the vehicle.

Some students forgot our discussion of publicly passing gas, and thus, they forgot the need to “decenter” and relate the described experience as something part of a larger set of common experience within our society. In those essays, I’ve been reminding students of the need to develop an overarching idea for their essays – something larger than the routine experience of daily life for the individual. This making of experience as a communal event is key to pulling analysis out of the details we include in our essays.  I know for many of you this feels like stating the obvious, but once you get into the habit of providing these explanations, you will see your writing transform. It’s usually in retrospect that the light goes off.

Settling In

25 Sep

When entering into a college composition classroom, some of you may be curious to know how your writing is going to be judged and whether your professor has some standard of writing against which you will be measured. Some of you might have bad experiences with previous English teachers who failed to notice your creativity, responding negatively to comma splices and poor organization without at least giving you credit for the thought that you did put into the written words that appeared on your paper. If you have had these experiences, I hope that you find our classroom community to be a place where your efforts are recognized, though this might not always translate into an A or B on your assignments. Likewise, I hope you find our community a place to develop and contest ideas, others as well as your own. I also hope that you don’t see it as a space of rigidly defined “truths” to which you must comply in order to receive a good grade. Overall, our community should become a place to flesh out your ideas, the many ideas that all your classes should spark. The most successful student papers in my classes allow idea buds to grow into something more recognizable and meaningful through synthesis, interpretation, and analysis. Throughout our semester-long journey, I hope that learning to write in an academic setting becomes not just easier but something in which you will come to enjoy because of the ability it will give you to express your ideas, even when those ideas come in the form of third person.