Posts Tagged ‘evaluation’

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The Movie Review as a Claim-of-Value Essay

posted: 2.13.15 by Donna Winchell

Because my son Jonathan is a film scholar, I am probably even more aware than most that this is awards season. The Academy Awards ceremony each year is for our household what the Super Bowl is for others. Jonathan recently posted on Facebook that in his lifetime he has seen 2,502 movies. The fact that he knows that speaks volumes about his obsession, along with the fact that he was watching classic silent movies before he could read the subtitles. I came naturally to use the movie review as a means of teaching the claim of value, but my approach can be adapted to other types of evaluative writing as well.  [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Donna Winchell, Genre, Popular Culture, Rhetorical Situation
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Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a Textbook

posted: 8.21.13 by Traci Gardner

I was recently hired to teach first-year composition and technical writing classes in the Department of English at Virginia Tech this fall. I’m completely thrilled. There are challenges to being a last-minute hire, but I am ready to take them on. The first challenge I dealt with was having only a few days to find and adopt a textbook. [read more]

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The Good, The Bad, and Paula Abdul

posted: 11.12.09 by archived

Many of us assign “evaluation” essays in our writing classes.  These can be smaller assignments in which students are asked to evaluate a text or event, or they could be longer more sustained evaluations; we might assign movie reviews, or collaborative policy evaluations.  But even if we don’t assign “evaluations” explicitly, the skills of summarizing, assessing, and critiquing are important for all writers, and so there is usually some form of evaluative writing in any composition class if we look hard enough.  For this post, I want to suggest a research strategy, a teaching tip, and an in-class activity that I have used in the past to introduce and practice evaluation.

Research Strategy: Find The Worst Evaluation

Obviously, students have access to hundreds of evaluations online, just as they have access to hundreds of texts for evaluation.  These resources can be beneficially used in the writing classroom, so long as students don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of opinion that can be found online.  One activity that can reinforce students’ authority to speak, and can help them understand what a good evaluation is, is to ask students to find the worst evaluations that they can online (hint: YouTube video reviews are great place to start).  It is shocking how many online evaluations—found on blogs, but even on reputable sites devoted to reviewing cultural texts—offer very little practical information to the reader.  A great in-class discussion can revolve around enumerating the ways an evaluation can be “bad”—lack of specificity, readily-apparent personal bias, and so on.  These “bad” evaluative qualities can then be contrasted with a list of goals for writing good evaluations.

Teaching Tip: Video Evaluations

As mentioned above, for every YouTube video online, there are several (to several hundred) video responses.  Generally, these aren’t good examples of reasoned, intelligent criticism. But these responses exist because it is increasingly easy to create them.  Any computer with a camera prepares the user to create a quick response and post it.  If you have the technology, you can do so in your classes.  This could be a pre-writing activity, to record a student’s initial, off-the-cuff ideas about a product or text, as YouTube users do (though hopefully with a bit more thought).  Or, the final product of this assignment could be a carefully organized, composed, revised, and polished video evaluation.  This could even be posted to YouTube.

Activity: American Idol Evaluations

One of the reasons that the television show American Idol is so popular (and also, perhaps, one of the reasons it is also disliked) is that the judges on the show fall into predictable roles.  One judge is mean and terse, one judge is generous and emotional, and one judge offers real, constructive, musical feedback.  (Of course, I am referring here to the pre-Kara DioGaurdi Idol judges; it has yet to be seen how the new roles will shake out now that Paula is leaving and Ellen is joining.  You can rest assured that your students will have their own theories about the new roles, and this is good—they can help with this activity, then.)  The three (or four) roles work well together, because they seem to balance one another out.  When pre-writing for an evaluation, students might be asked to write, or deliver an evaluation orally, from each of these three perspectives.  This activity allows students to recognize a range of possible views and values.  It also can help students begin to write when they feel they haven’t yet found an evaluative voice.

Also, consider that of the original three American Idol judges, one speaks with a British accent and a snotty, elevated tone, one speaks in clichés, and one speaks in slang. These could be seen as exaggerated “high,” “middle,” and “low” styles.  Students could experiment with writing reviews in these three different styles as well, before they finally decide on which is best for them, based on their focus and the audience they want to reach.

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Categories: How to Write Anything, Jay Dolmage
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