Posts Tagged ‘class discussion’

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Cross-Dressing and Identity in Understanding Rhetoric

posted: 9.30.13 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

Recently I was honored to be invited by media scholar Henry Jenkins to speak to his graduate class on Public Intellectuals: Theory and Practice about Understanding Rhetoric.

Jenkins wanted his students to hear both about making rhetorical theory more accessible to a broader public and also about using visual arguments—specifically comics—as a means for scholarly communication.  [read more]

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Categories: Elizabeth Losh
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Summer Reading

posted: 6.21.11 by Steve Bernhardt

UntitledI’ve often thought we should endorse reading across the curriculum in addition to writing, communication, and computers. What if each class across the university required students to read at least one non-textbook title each term? Our science or education or anthropology colleagues could each choose an appealing and important title. The goal would be to create in students a strong appetite for extended reading of a wide variety of books. That would be an outcome I could endorse enthusiastically: all students who take a degree will have well developed tastes and habits for reading a wide range of non-fiction and fiction.

At UD, as at many schools, we ask all incoming students to have read a book during the summer prior to arrival. We use this shared reading as part of our first year experience seminars. We hold a big event, bringing the author to campus and filling the auditorium for the talk . Students submit questions in advance and then those chosen stand and ask their questions. Most recently, we had Tracy Kidder discuss Strength in What Remains (about the genocide in Burundi) and before that Greg Morensen discuss Three Cups of Tea (which we thought was a non-fictional account of his building schools in Afganistan). This summer, the required book is Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I like this choice because it moves toward science, but with important racial themes. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching Advice
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Twitter Me This

posted: 5.11.11 by Barclay Barrios

As I indicated in my last post, my assistant Mike Shier has developed what I think is a genius use of cell phones in the classroom. He has the entire class establish Twitter accounts and then follow everyone else in the class. What he ends up with is a super-mobile, super-light virtual classroom.

Mike will ask students to Tweet questions about the new reading, offering a starting place for class discussion.  He’ll have them Tweet the arguments of their papers for quick, mass-class peer feedback.  He’ll have them Tweet the most persistent error students found while reading peer’s papers in peer review.

I have to admit I’m envious that he thought this all up. Twitter is perfect: you don’t need a computer, just a cell phone that can text. The 140-character limit encourages conciseness. The whole system is simple to use. And students actually enjoy it.

I’m going to be adopting this system for my class this summer. I find other systems, like Blackboard, clumsy, clunky, and cluttered. I’m ready for something lighter, smaller, easier. I’m ready for Twitter.

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Categories: Barclay Barrios
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Using Facebook Questions with Students

posted: 5.3.11 by Traci Gardner

Let me ask you a few questions:

All of those polls were created with the Questions feature on Facebook but they just begin to touch on the potential this feature has for use with students.

Facebook has offered the Questions feature for users for over a year, but in March, they expanded the service so it could also be used on Pages. The result has renewed users’ interest in the feature.

At first glance, many of the polls seem frivolous, asking about favorite bands, odd foods, and reality TV shows. Recent media coverage for Questions focused on the unexpected popularity of Heather Marie Hollingsworth’s simple poll, Cleaning out my friends list in the next few days…Do you wanna stay? The question went viral, spreading through Facebook from friend to friend, and Heather has received over than 4.8 million responses to date. It’s a funny demonstration of modern society’s need to be liked, but probably not useful for the classroom unless you are discussing social networks.

When I started looking more closely at Facebook Questions, however, I began to see questions such as these, which do have potential for classroom use:

[read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Teaching with Technology
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Tips for New Teachers #1: Classroom Ethos

posted: 4.28.11 by Andrea Lunsford

In the next several weeks, I will be blogging about issues that are important to all writing teachers but perhaps especially key for beginning instructors.  So if you are a new teacher of writing, stay tuned!

Every year, I get to visit classes taught by graduate students, most of whom are teaching on their own for the first time ever. And before I visit, I get to spend a term with them in a seminar as they design their classes and develop their syllabi. One of the things we talk a lot about is what kind of “ethos” they want their classes to have—that is to say, what sort of atmosphere they want to establish and what relationship they hope to create with and among the students in the class.

How would you describe the “ethos” of classes you have been in?  I think of Walker Gibson’s delightful categorization of discourse into three types: “tough,” “sweet,” and “stuffy”—and I can easily think of classes that fall into each category.  The really tough classroom ethos is one where everyone is on the attack, trying to vie for the best grade or for the teacher’s attention.  The “sweet” classroom might be just the opposite, with all the students loving each other and all their writing. And we all know the “stuffy” classroom—the teacher lecturing or handing out notes, the students trying to stay awake. But most of us don’t want to inhabit such classrooms, and our students definitely don’t want to. [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues
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Teaching the Disaster in Japan

posted: 4.6.11 by Barclay Barrios

I’ve been thinking a lot about Japan.  (Haven’t we all?)

There are a few essays in Emerging that might help students think about what’s happening there and how it effects all of us:

  • Thomas Friedman’s “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention” is largely about the crucial role that global supply chains play in the world today. NPR recently reported on the effects the disaster has had on the auto supply chain.  While Friedman tends to focus on how robust these chains are, students might use what’s happening now to think about how fragile they can be, too.
  • Helen Epstein’s “AIDS, Inc.” focuses on HIV infection rates in Africa, but she does so by looking at specific prevention campaigns funded by large donations. Part of what she learns is that large donations don’t always make the best change. Given the flood of relief resources pouring into Japan, how might these take into account local cultures in order to be more effective and sustainable?
  • Joan Didion’s “After Life” is a very personal reflection on death and mourning, but I am always drawn to her concept of the “ordinary instant”—that perfectly normal moment when your entire life can change. I’d love for students to think about the “ordinary instant” in Japan as well as the processes of grief that are occurring and must continue to occur.

Of course, Appiah’s discussion of cosmopolitanism (our basic need to get along in a crowded and interconnected world) is always useful for thinking about global events, but consider also “Ethics and the New Genetics” by the Dalai Lama.  Even though it’s all about the need for ethics to keep pace with science, his notion of a moral compass and his call for compassion are useful concepts for students to consider in the light of this tragedy.

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Categories: Emerging
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Assignment: Naming and the Rhetoric of War

posted: 3.29.11 by Traci Gardner

110319-N-7293M-003Twelve years ago, we were reading and watching news stories about “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo. Overwhelmed with the need to do something in response, I turned to writing and came up with Ten Rhetoric of War Writing Projects.

Those writing prompts came to mind recently when the United States launched Operation: Odyssey Dawn. It wasn’t that the United States was involved in yet another military action. It was the name. Where do they get these names, and what on earth are they thinking when they choose them?

A couple of days later I got my answer in Wired’sWhat’s in a Name? ‘Odyssey Dawn’ Is Pentagon-Crafted Nonsense.” Despite conjecture to the contrary, military officials say the name is meaningless. It’s just a code name created according to a formula that was developed in response to public relations problems caused by mission names in the past (like “Operation Killer” in Korea and “Operation Masher” in Vietnam).

The name Operation: Odyssey Dawn is not without controversy, however. Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s The Last Word criticized the name and launched “Rewrite Operation: Odyssey Dawn,” asking viewers to suggest alternatives. The video segment below explains the military’s system for naming missions, and touches on the difficulty of choosing names for anything:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Teaching with Technology, Uncategorized
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Using Pop Culture to Hook Students on Poetry

posted: 3.15.11 by Traci Gardner

3418717701_d2276363e8_mNational Poetry Month is still a few weeks off, but I feel like talking poetry. Recently, Holly Pappas asked about strategies for discussing poetry with general education students. The answer I’ve stumbled upon is to use pop culture to hook students on reading and discussing poetry.

Like many teachers, I’ve struggled when helping students to analyze poetry. I think the problem is fear. I’m afraid I won’t be able to convince them of the beauty and delight a poem can hold, and they’re terrified they will never be able to find the secrets hidden in those poems.

I address those fears directly by having us read and discuss Billy Collins’s “Introduction to Poetry” together. The juxtaposition of the speaker’s playful intentions and the students’ torturous interrogation perfectly mirrors our situation. With a little luck, students see themselves (and me) in the poem, and we’re off to a great start.

The pop culture connections come next. I share a favorite Dr. Seuss book with the class, asking them whether the book qualifies as poetry. A rousing discussion follows, touching on nursery rhymes, rhyming jingles, and song lyrics. We return to the Collins poem. None of them feels like beating a confession out of Dr. Seuss or the latest pop diva, and they can make observations about themes, images, and rhythm and rhyme easily in this context. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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Talking in Class

posted: 3.11.11 by archived

I started blogging seven or eight years ago as a way to engage in professional conversation. I was new to teaching, twenty years out of graduate school and eager to find someone to talk to—but I soon realized how difficult that would be with the hectic and conflicting schedules of the 5-5 teaching loads of full-time faculty and the multiple teaching gigs of my fellow adjuncts. Though blogging does help me to feel connected professionally, there’s nothing quite so invigorating as sitting down at a table of colleagues to talk teaching. That’s what I had a chance to do yesterday, at a Reflective Practice session with five other teachers where I raised one of the issues I’ve been struggling with lately: how do I get my Writing about Literature students to talk to each other?

My colleagues offered these suggestions for use in the classroom:

  • Try a fishbowl, where a group of 5–7 students sit in the middle and carry on a discussion while the rest of the class watches, taking notes as they await their turn to “sub in.” (I had heard about this method for use in high school classrooms, but hadn’t thought to apply it to my own class; note to myself to read up on active learning strategies!)
  • Throw out an offbeat question that connects characters to students’ real lives (which character would make the best friend?), or try what-if or what-next questions.
  • Ask students to prepare a visual that connects to a story or poem; a colleague reported that in a unit on suspense she asks students to construct a representation of their Evil Twin.
  • Many teachers said that they’d had the most success with small-group discussions (centered on a group of questions provided by the instructor or a poem to present to the class; several mentioned using groups to generate questions for whole-class discussion or writing assignments). Students seem more relaxed in groups, leading to greater participation overall, but teachers stressed the importance of either formally assigned roles within the group process or the requirement that everyone participate in the report-back-to-class portion (if that happens orally). [read more]

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Categories: Community College issues, Holly Pappas
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What Do You Want To Know?

posted: 2.22.11 by Traci Gardner

389796434_9e31a6d90c_mThis month I’ve shared the ways I’ve incorporated Black History Month into the classes I teach. My last strategy is a simple one, in that it works for any topic. When introducing a topic, I ask students one question: “What do you want to know?”

If you click on the image that accompanies this post, you’ll see how asking students what they wanted structured the curriculum for a podcasting workshop. The photo shows a KWL chart. You may recall such charts from your K–12 school days or may have seen them in your children’s classroom. These charts are more frequently presented as a three-column table, like this printable worksheet.

A KWL chart focuses on three questions, each one providing a letter for the chart’s name:

  • What do you Know?
  • What do you Want to know?
  • What you have Learned?

That middle question is key. By asking students what they want to know about a black history topic like the civil rights movement, the course focuses directly on student-centered activities. Simply ask students what they want to learn and fill a board in the classroom, or type the questions into a Google document projected on a screen. You can also use an online board like Wallwisher. [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea
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