Tag: teaching writing

Trying Out the Unessay

Thanks to Twitter, the Unessay has been on my radar for a minute — but I only finally tried it out in my Short Story lit class this summer. My students really enjoyed having a creative option in lieu of a traditional research paper, and examples of their work are shared with their permission below (along with the full prompt, and the course syllabus).

But before I get to their work: let me give some clarification on what an Unessay is, exactly. My prompt and grading criteria were adapted and cobbled together from Professor Emily Contois’ “Teaching the Unruly Unessay,” Professor Emily Suzanne Clark’s Unessay post on her personal site, and Professor Ryan Cordell’s Unessay assignment on the Technologies of Text class site.… Read more

Revisiting Black Mirror in Composition + Special Issue of Supernatural Studies

A few folks emailed me in the past couple of weeks asking for more information around my Black Mirror-themed composition course, so I thought I’d post a few revisions and tweaks I’m working on as I prepare for the next iteration of this class. I focused on Get Out in the fall, but will come back to Black Mirror in both Composition I and our Liberal Arts capstone in the spring. I’ll post in the next week or so on the capstone class.

In case you are looking for additional resources on Black Mirror — both scholarly articles and/or reflections on teaching — I’d suggest you also check out the special issue of Supernatural Studies (4.2) devoted to Black Mirror that I edited.… Read more

Reflecting & Tweaking (Or, What We Should Be Doing All the Freakin’ Time): Get Out Syllabus Edition

I don’t want to quantify it because I haven’t conducted a formal study or anything, but an immense amount of teaching is about reflection.

Oh, students didn’t get something?

It’s not them. It’s you, boo.

A reading didn’t go over very well, or almost everyone struggled with it?

Well, maybe you need to chuck it. Or create a reading guide, with questions to engage and prepare them before they dive in. Mark particular points in the text that you want them to focus on, paragraphs that are crucial to unlocking the text–and ask them, in advance, to mull over these passages in depth.… Read more

Notes:

  1. I’m leaving a .1% margin here to account for things like fire. Or natural disasters and extreme weather that prevent students from physically getting to class, or other things outside of our control.
  2. Many thanks to Elizabeth Alsop, Luke Waltzer, and the TLC Summer Institute participants for inviting me!

Creative Writing Assignments in Composition: Creative Retellings

As summer winds down and our thoughts turn to trimming/pruning/burning and razing our syllabi, I thought I’d share a creative writing assignment I use in my second-level composition class, ENG 102: Writing Through Literature. This Creative Retelling assignment is cobbled together from prior work done by Amy Cummins, Pam Regis, and Stephen M. Park. 1 

At some point, the act of slogging through dozens of research papers on literature chips away at my resolve, and deadens my soul. It’s just boring AF. 2 I work all semester on the nuts and bolts of writing and responding to literature: close readings, paragraph construction, quotation sandwiches, citation methods, etc.… Read more

Notes:

  1.  Amy Cummins, “Tell Me a Story: Effective Use of Creative Writing Assignments in College Literature Courses.” Currents in Teaching and Learning 1.2 (Spring 2009): 42-9; Pam Regis, “Understanding Point of View” in The Pocket Instructor: Literature edited by Diana Fuss & William A. Gleason, pp. 75-78; Stephen M. Park, “Flip the Script,” ibid., pp. 78-81.
  2. This post grew out of a conversation I was having last week with the brilliant and talented Sarah Hildebrandabout course prep and the soul-deadening task of grading piles of research papers, and in which I promised to share materials, and realized I just needed to get my ass in gear and post this stuff already.
  3. In my fall sections of ENG 102, I plan on teaching Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware,” Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds,” and Carmen Maria Machado’s “Inventory” for short stories (and will probably add a couple more before the semester starts). As I said above, if I include “Monstro,” it will be for modeling purposes for this assignment, and the other short stories will be fair game for the assignment itself.

Teaching Get Out in a Composition Class

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted. 1 My semester starts at LaGuardia this week, and with it comes my personal pedagogical ritual: taking a decent, pre-existing syllabus I conjured forth (that has been already tweaked and refined); putting it aside; and completely overhauling the content, usually within a mere week before classes begin. 2 To be clear: I am constantly reflecting/tweaking prior assignments and in-class exercises — and many of these are fairly portable and can be recycled with ease into another section of composition. But I want to teach content that I find fresh and exciting, and that I hope will engage students.… Read more

Notes:

  1. I got into an MFA program, and CUNY foots the bill if full-time employees want to take graduate classes within the system (or undergrad classes, for that matter). Yes, I’m lucky AF. It’s also a bit time-consuming, turns out.
  2.  The Black Mirror composition course (detailed in my last post, many moons ago) went quite well, and only needed some minor adjustments. I made them soon after the semester ended, and will probably re-visit that at some point again. I just felt an urge to trot out this idea first.

The #LemonadeSyllabus & A Last Minute Switcheroo

The semester starts in less than two weeks, y’all. So what did I do, with my ready-to-go-syllabi, numerous writing deadlines, and paper-/committee-work looming over me, vulture-like?

I posted a proposition on social media that would lead me down the last-minute-abandonment-of-already-developed-syllabus road.

And yet, that is exactly what I ended up doing today.

 

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Of course, the major source of inspiration behind all this was Candice Benbow’s stunning, comprehensive, and wonderfully detailed/designed Lemonade Syllabus. I live in awe of this document.… Read more

Using Adaptation & Performance to Teach Literary Analysis

I had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment while reflecting on my teaching over this “break”. 1 The moment mostly involved our second level composition class – ENG 102, “Writing Through Literature.” It is also kind of an intro to lit class, but not really a hardcore lit survey – or not in my hands, anyway. It’s more like “flirting with literature” in my rendering of the thing. Bean's Engaging IdeasSo I have been running ENG 102 primarily as a writing class, usually focused around a particular theme (my last few sections used post-apocalyptic and dystopian works), in which students also encounter literature (there should be three genres included, poetry and drama are mandatory among those three), and begin to learn how to analyze and write about literature. … Read more

Notes:

  1. The “break” where I’m working on syllabi, a certification program, a book proposal, a conference paper, and a couple articles. That “break.”

Hybrid & Digital Pedagogy

As the semester winds down at LaGuardia, we took stock during the English department hybrid showcase last week, thinking about our work over the past year.  With a mini-grant we received from our Center for Teaching and Learning (previously mentioned here), we’ve been developing our program and our individual classes; what began as a course development plan has morphed into a full-on training/certification program. There are some ongoing questions for consideration that came out of the hybrid mini-grant workshops: both in the interdisciplinary faculty planning meetings with the Center for Teaching and Learning, and on a departmental level. This list includes several other items I’ve been thinking about as well.… Read more

The End of the World As We Know It; Or, My Post-Apocalyptic Lit/Comp II Class

Yesterday, a small team of faculty in our department spent four very productive hours, fueled by coffee and mini-Creme Brulee confections from Doughnut Plant, workshopping our hybrid syllabi and assignments for the spring. We applied for and received a generous grant from LaGuardia’s Center for Teaching & Learning to work on our hybrid program this year, and a group of us are working more closely on hybrid course design and further program development.

This is my first time teaching ENG 102: Writing Through Literature – our second-level composition class – as a hybrid. I taught the course around post-apocalyptic lit last year, but I’m overhauling it now both in terms of content (while keeping the post-apocalyptic theme) and design for hybrid delivery.… Read more

Kicking Off the New Semester: Grading Contracts (Part II), Portfolios, Podcasts, & the End of the World

We’re almost through the first week of classes at LaGuardia. I’ve tweaked some old things, rolled out some new things, and based upon the insights/connections students are making in our initial meetings, I think a lot of great work is going to happen this semester. 1 I spent some time during the winter break thinking about the grading contract I used during the fall. While the grading contract was an improvement (in my mind) on my older grading practices – and I think it made things more transparent in general – the act of revision was still not prioritized to the level I wanted.… Read more

Notes:

  1. In my composition classes yesterday, students came to class armed with double-entry notebooks on “Race,” “Ethnicity,” and “Ideology” from Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin’s Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts. I projected a few images from mostly 19th century works on race with little information other than the source, and asked them what the image had to do with the readings. They had 30 seconds to reflect on the image and review their notes before we launched into discussion. They generated ideas about (and elaborated on) imperialism, the “Other,” phrenology, polygenesis, interpellation (one class wanted to go more in depth about Marxist notions of “false consciousness”), and hierarchy, consistently linking the images back to quotes and concepts from the text. I did a happy dance when I got back to my office.