Friday, September 21, 2012


Since students are mentioning it, I feel like I should explain Sporcle a little. Sporcle is an online game website, with user-created thinking games. I arrive a few minutes early to class and the students who are there and I play some Sporcle. It's fun. I let them choose which game ... most of the time ... and they shout answers and I try to type them in. We rarely can get all the answers right on one game, but it sure is fun to try.

I admit that the game may run into the first few minutes of class, but it's worth it. The game, which I play with all my classes, is more than just a fun thing to do. It wakes students up and it sets the comfortable, lively tone I strive for in class. Pedagogically, it makes sense to do something like this at the beginning of class. Furthermore, the games are sometimes relevant. One of my all-time favorites are Rap Lyrics in More Scholarly Language, which is relevant because it's thinking about the English language creatively and it has to do with the paper topic, which is pop culture. It also has a Literature category; though most of them are about Harry Potter and other popular novels, it does have some classics, like this game.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Additions (Wasn't That One of the Original Boy Bands?)

Silly title, that was New Edition, not New Additions, which is what we have to the right. Some I added late while others were late to get started.

Here's New Edition:

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

The title of this post is a little misleading, because I don't care that much if students like me. Ok ... I care a little bit, but only in the context that it will help them learn better (also because I don't have a lot of friends ....... just kidding). So this post is selfish because I'm going to revel in the fact that some things are working in class. It's early, so I know I have plenty of time to screw things up, but it's nice to know that the students and I are getting off on the right foot.

If you browse the list at the right, you'll see some posts that show how we brainstormed for our first paper, which will have to be on Pop Culture. Some students are writing about the readings and I'm so happy that they are reading. I don't care so much if they like to readings, but it's nice to hear when they do. I especially appreciate blogs that show when students pull meaning from readings. There's even a post about a student's paper topic -- media influence on teen pregnancy -- which is a worthy thiing to write about, I believe.

I'm also pretty excited about students commenting on each others' blogs.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Topic Choosing

A couple student bloggers (to the right) have mentioned a topic choosing assignment we do in class, so I thought I would explain a little.

I do this thing in class where students have to choose the three topics for their three argumentative research essays. These are the major essays for the class. I give them a list of possible topics. The possible topics are broad, like Gender, Politics, Crime and Punishment, etc. They will then have to narrow their paper topic further as the writing process continues. Anyway, they have to choose three topics from this list of about a dozen. Then they have to choose which topic we will discuss and write about first, second, and third. The kicker is that they all have to agree on the topics and the order. There is no majority rule. Then I hand them the class and I sit in a corner or in the back and take notes, interjecting now and then.

What I don't tell them until later is that the process of choosing these topics is just as important ... maybe more important ... than the topics themselves. I could easily assign certain topics or have them choose topics from "the world." But it's this process that I want them to go through.

The idea is that, while they are deciding, they will engage in the methods they should be using in argumentative papers (and other papers ... and discussions ... and decisions ... and life ...). I am, in a sense, arranging a rhetorical situation for them.

As many semesters as I've done this, I can say that no two classes are the same. Usually, though, the students start off quiet. Someone usually takes charge of asking questions and/or writing on the board. People eventually talk. Sometimes they get angry. Sometimes they get really angry. Some people give up or "don't care." Often, students yell at each other or talk over one another. But here's what always happens: the students figure it out. They work through this seemingly impossible task and through all the methods that don't work. They almost always vote, but that only works to a point when everyone has to agree. They listen, discuss possible subtopics (and sometimes research if the activity lasts more than a class period), they negotiate, they compromise, they use reason and logic to persuade, and they do other great things that can be applied to writing in the real world.

As I said, I take notes, so here is a transcription of the notes from the topic choosing activity for this class:

  • voting ... and more voting
  • "that'd be easy" <--- ! !
  • what is this accomplishing?? (voting)
  • started getting somewhere when started talking about sub-topics
  • people are talking at once and not listening
  • moments of silence (golden)!!
  • doing nothing doesn't work
  • why not let people raise their hands if they are for either?

And here are the topics they chose for the semester:

1-pop culture
2-crime and punishment

When it was all over (it took almost a whole Tuesday session and half of a Thursday session), we had a group quiz/discussion where students had to think and talk about which methods of argumentation worked, which didn't work, how these methods can be applied to real life, and how these methods can be applied to writing papers, especially ones making arguments and including research (like, how do you "listen" in a paper?).

One more thing ... one of the student's blogs says he appreciates my "unethical" way of teaching. I think (and hope) he meant "unorthodox." Otherwise, I may get in some trouble. But it's his blog, so I don't think I should correct him.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Oooh! Here's Something Fun! ... John Cleese on Creativity

Came across this video on Facebook. I like this quote: "It's easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking. And it's also easier to do the little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we're not so sure about."

It also makes me think about Gavin (my 4-year-old son) and letting him play. And how play leads to creativity. And his stuff about time is pretty great too. Ok, the whole thing's awesome.

By the way, for any younger readers, John Cleese was a member of Monty Python and he's considered one of the funniest people around. More recently, he's been in some Bond films and a couple of Harry Potter films. I think he plays a ghost in Harry Potter.

Bunch of new blogs

I added a bunch of new blogs to the righ in the last 24 hours. Once they are all created and then updated, I will point out some specific ones. In the meantime, feel free to click some student blogs and read away!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Updates and New Additions from Class

Some students have updated/created their blogs. We're still working out some kinks, but they are writing ... and saying some interesting things, too. Check out "English 101" by Morgan, with a post about some readings we did in class. Also, there's Shereka's post introducing herself, including a video of a fashion show she was in. Then, another new addition is D'Naja's blog, with a post introducing herself, including some music videos for songs she likes.

There's a running list of student blogs to the right. It should update itself to keep the most recently updated ones at the top.

Also, if you want to comment on student blogs, that would be great. You will need a profile of some sort (you'll see). It should only take a few minutes to make a profile if you don't have one. There may be an option for students to modify their blogs so readers won't need profiles to leave comments. I'll check on that.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

List of Student Blogs (to the right)

This is the first week students have to write blog posts. As I get links, I will add their blogs to the list to the right. As of now, there's only one, but there will be more by Friday.

The first student post is about a couple of essays I assigned from Jane Hirshfield's Nine Gates. The essays are "The Question of Originality" and "Writing and the Threshold Life." Although these essays are specifically about poetry, I think the ideas pertain to all types of writing. Here's what a student had to say: