Posts Tagged ‘assignment’

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Masterpiece Video Games?

posted: 3.7.11 by archived

In my last post, I wrote about the Masterpiece Comics of R. Sikoryak, suggesting that they might inspire some multimodal assignment ideas or just some discussion of the interpretive and imaginative work the author does to translate these canonical novels into new terms. My suggestion was that students wouldn’t necessarily have to draw a comic, but they could be asked to discuss or write about ways to make a novel, poem, or other literary work fit into a new genre; they could even use the comics medium and its themes, characters, and narrative techniques to distill current events. What would the gulf oil spill or the recent Egyptian protests look like when framed as a comic? Who would play the roles of heroes and villains, and what would their super-powers be?

Well, this post will stick to that theme, and perhaps give you some ways to expand on the comics assignments or discussions, asking students to translate across genres and mediums.

As you might have guessed from my title, great works of literature are also available in video game form: the Great Gatsby, Dante’s Inferno, Alice in Wonderland, and even Waiting For Godot have their own video game versions. As you’ll see from the links, many of these are available for free online.

[read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Jay Dolmage, Literature
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Gen Ed Poetry: Finding a Real Toad or Two

posted: 3.4.11 by archived

It’s poetry time in my Writing about Literature class, so I’ve been considering yet again how to approach talking about something  a majority of my students dread. I think back to my own experiences with poetry in college. Beyond the introductory Lit Crit course I took as an English major (I remember explicating William Carlos Williams’s “Spring and All”), I took two Form and Theory of Poetry classes, one as an undergraduate and the other in graduate school. In the first, the reading list was eight or ten books of poetry, many several hundred pages long: Rimbaud, Pound, Eliot, Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens. Despite my love of reading and my overall diligence as a student, I found my eyes bouncing over the words without much comprehension and I gave up partway through each book; instead I annotated a few poems while dutifully following the teacher’s comments.

In the second course, with a far different approach, we studied prosody and wrote our own samples of heroic couplets and blank verse, ballads, terza rima, villanelles. It took me forty exhilarating hours to finish my first sonnet. Neither of these courses, however, seem useful models for my method and goals in asking composition students to read, think about, and write about poetry. [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Holly Pappas, Literature
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WAW as Survival Guide to College

posted: 3.3.11 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Downs pic for BitsDoug

In our last post, Laura Martinez considered transfer within WAW courses and how students interpret their assignments there. Her post, along with a workshop I recently conducted for peer tutors in our writing center at Montana State, have me thinking again about how WAW prepares students to be, in Lucille McCarthy’s terms, “Strangers in Strange Lands.”

Imagine a course where a student encounters an assignment like this (loosely paraphrased from real life):

First Term Paper. You must have a title page, abstract, essay including intro, body, and conclusion, and a reference page. Your paper must cite at least three references, in-text, in APA style, at least one of which must be from a scholarly journal, and none of which may be more than 10 years old. The paper should be 3–5 pages, not more than 10, using a 12-point regular font like Arial or TNR. The title, abstract, and reference pages are separate and do not count in the actual page count. Do not use “we,” “our,” “you,” and similar words in the paper—second person writing as to a friend is not appropriate. You must submit the paper in .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf formats, as my computer won’t read any others. Make sure you proofread the paper and read the grading rubric so you know how I’ll assess the paper.

The paper should describe how people’s decision-making can be explained by one of the three approaches to game theory we’ve studied over the past several weeks. You are to select three popular movies from the list of ten provided and apply one theoretical approach to each movie….

So how will a student get this paper produced?  Everything in the assignment suggests that form comes first and content is nearly incidental, and there are so many rules that it would be a challenge to follow them all while coming up with what to say. When the grading rubric gives more credit for form than for ideas, what should a student focus on in order to submit a successful paper? [read more]

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Categories: Writing about Writing
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Promising Moments: Putting It Together

posted: 3.2.11 by Barclay Barrios

This week I wanted to provide you with a full and concrete example of how I focus on promising moments in my comments. Parkin’s rough draft is in response to an assignment I posted about earlier. For clarity’s sake, I’ve focused on my work identifying what is really promising about the draft and what needs work. I’ve condensed my marginal comments so that you can see them in action as well as see how those comments relate to my end comments.

Parkin’s revised draft shows how well she was able to revise her work based on my comments. The end comments reinforce her progress, while pointing to areas that still need work.

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Categories: Emerging
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Promising Moments, Part I

posted: 2.23.11 by Barclay Barrios

One of the keys to effective commenting is locating the most promising moments of any student paper, those bits where the student is starting to pull it all together even if it’s not quite there yet.  By identifying those moments for students, I can help them see exactly where they need to focus their work—starting with what they’re already done, thinking about what it needed to be more successful, and then incorporating that insight into their next paper.

Take, for example, some of the comments I made on the first set of rough drafts I received last semester, in response to this assignment.  For this first paper, many of my students struggled with argument. That’s not surprising, really, since it’s not something they’re expected manage well until the end of the semester. But given this particular weakness of the class, I sought out promising moments in several student papers.

I start by making a marginal comment about the promising moment:

OK. Here you have the start of an interesting idea because you’re thinking about the relationship between immigration, value of rituals, and change. You could develop this into an argument.

I then reinforce the point in my end comment:

I’m not sure I see your argument, so that’s where you really need to focus your revision.  I’ve pointed to a couple of places where you have some interesting ideas.  You could start from these places to form a clear argument but, ultimately, without that clear argument your paper is really at risk.  So work on that argument and then make sure each paragraph supports it.

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Categories: Emerging, Teaching Advice
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Masterpiece Comics

posted: 2.22.11 by archived

UntitledCartoonist R. Sikoryak has published a series of books entitled Mastepiece Comics. In these graphic works, he has taken famous novels and reinterpreted them by making the protagonist of each book a superhero. For instance, in his reinterpretation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov is played by Batman.

Many have dismissed these comics as simplifications, but the work he does to translate these canonical novels into new terms also reveals important interpretive moves. As one reviewer argued, “Sikoryak [has] found the comic in the classic, the classic in the comic. In what is both parody and homage, he retells the classics in ways that are both funny and, oddly, deep.”

Students might not learn as much from reading his comics as they would from reading the original works, but being asked to write like Sikoryak could help them summarize the key themes in a work, and synthesize and translate information. Students don’t necessarily have to draw a comic, but they can be asked to discuss or write about ways to make a novel, poem, or other literary work fit into a new genre. This needn’t be a “dumbing down” of the text, nor would this discussion have to replace other, more traditional means of reading and analyzing literary works. Instead, it could serve as one avenue into literary analysis and one imaginative activity among others.

This multimodal activity could also be applied beyond literary analysis. Students could use the comics medium and its themes, characters, and narrative techniques to distill current events. What would the gulf oil spill or the recent Egyptian protests look like when framed as a comic? Who would play the roles of heroes and villains, and what would their super-powers be?

You can view (and then share) an excerpt from Sikoryak’s work here

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Jay Dolmage, Literature
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Tweaking Assignments

posted: 2.18.11 by archived

Ever since I happened upon Bonnie Stone Sunstein and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater’s book FieldWorking, I have been assigning some form of ethnography in my first-semester comp classes. I wrote about the assignment in theory and in practice over six years ago. Since then I have appreciated the opportunities it gives my students for rich, varied subject matter; my students have written about waitresses, cashiers, saleswomen at cosmetics counters, dog-walkers in the park, graffiti artists, dance moms, weight-lifters, phlebotomists, Boy Scouts, VFW regulars, polka dancers, karaoke singers, pizza delivery “boys”, preschoolers, wiccan women, Renaissance reenactors, old-guy hockey leagues, garden club members, Bible study groups, and gymnasts. In addition to the (selfish) pleasure of getting to read such essays, I also like that the assignment positions my students to be active researchers and reinforces the sermon-message of my writing classes: keep your eyes open! But I’m trying something a little different this semester.

More like journalism than classic argument, an ethnography is not the sort of assignment that demands a well-defined thesis, but it does require a focal point and an organizational strategy, and which has been a challenge for some of my students. In the serendipitous way that I develop many of my assignments, I happened to rediscover on Malcolm Gladwell’s site an old (1996) article titled “The Science of Shopping,” in which Gladwell reports on the findings of Paco Underhill regarding consumer behavior and how stores can influence that behavior. I began to think that perhaps I could use this article.

So here’s the current plan (and what I hope it accomplishes): [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Holly Pappas
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Commenting: The Basics

posted: 2.16.11 by Barclay Barrios

When I am training new teachers, I like to tell them that grading is easy—it’s commenting that’s hard.  That is, once you get used to whatever criteria your program uses to determine grades (see ours for reference) you can quickly determine the grade any paper has earned. The real challenge, and the real reason grading takes so much of our time, is commenting. How do you comment effectively?  How much is too much and how much is not enough? How do you frame comments in a way that will help a student improve?

These aren’t easy questions for any teacher, as indicated by the rich body of literature on commenting. I’d like to that by sharing my experiences with commenting on student work. Much of what I do is what we all do, but humor me—I’m hoping there is some value in seeing it at work in the context of real student writing. For this series of posts, then, I’ll use the papers of one of my students from last semester, who was writing in response to the assignments I referred to in my earlier series of blog posts. [read more]

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Categories: Emerging
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Writing Activities for Special Campus Events

posted: 2.15.11 by Traci Gardner

3290553513_b6a03b0fae_mOne semester I found myself with a challenge. I wanted to encourage students to participate in the Black History Month activities on campus (as well as Women’s History Month, National Poetry Month, and Asian Pacific Islander Month events).

However, that term I was teaching business writing courses. Most of the activities on campus seemed irrelevant to the pedagogical goals of the course. How could I connect poetry readings, concerts, and film festivals to professional communication?

What I simply needed to do was to think creatively about how students responded to the events. I realized that for my business writing course, event reports or trip reports (your business or tech writing book may use either name) were the answer.

Students selected any event they wanted from the long list of special events on campus. After attending the event, they wrote trip reports that relayed their experiences and whether they would recommend the event to other students.

Since the events were occuring all semester, I used a relevant due date for the projects—one week after the student attended the event. Over the years I’ve set up the trip reports as required graded work and as bonus work. Either way, I add five bonus points the students’ grade if they can also produce an artifact from the event (it’s my way of asking for evidence that they actually attended). [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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Exploring Photographs for Black History Month

posted: 2.8.11 by Traci Gardner

In an upcoming issue of Ink’d In, I’ll share some of the web sites I use in class to celebrate Black History Month. I also want to share some specific activities this month on Bits.

One of my favorite assignments focuses on photographs and visual images.

Imagine sharing this image from the National Archives with a class. It appears to show a young African American soldier about to celebrate with a birthday cake.


Now click on the image to show the class the details in larger version. Share the description of the image from the National Archives:

“For his 19th birthday, this sergeant’s buddies baked him a cake and decorated it with the tools of his trade. P.S.: He didn’t light the candles.” Ca. May 1942. Fred Morgan. 111-SC-150930-B.

That’s right. The cake is decorated with ammunition that’s been arranged to mimic the candles on a birthday cake. So much to talk about in that image! [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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