Brainstormed Teaching Activities

Out of either laziness or incredible wisdom, I’m posting notes on things I taught in the past. Really this is just a collection for me to pull from as I’m working on the chapter. It’s likely that none of it will make sense to you. So move along if you’re easily confused.

First, it’s always fun to go through a folder and find things you’ve written and don’t remember, especially when you also didn’t post them online or publish them anywhere.

  • Making Decentered Discussions More Comfortable for ESL Students
  • Using Active Techniques in Online Discussions
  • Some unnamed draft of tips on using online discussion tools.

Now on to the various notes from my FYC teaching folder:

  • Writer Analogy (already a RWT lesson)
  • CSI/Detective Questionnaire (for descriptive paper I think)
  • College education analogy
  • Library Description (peer review)
  • Argument Analysis (peer review, editing review)
  • Orientation Library Tour Assignment
  • Ritual writing assignment
  • Reflection on school experience
  • Childhood memories (special place)
  • Golden Shovel assignment
  • Folk/Fairy Tale comparison
  • TV influence on dreams
  • Fairy Tales, culture, stereotypes
  • Classification of Full-page Ads
  • Atwood’s "you fit into me"
  • Pastan’s "Marks"
  • Future Dream and definition of dream
  • Mood in a place
  • Celebrity endorsement (editing checklist)
  • Letter to an author
  • Recent self-discovery paper
  • Audience Analysis paper (tied to ISearch)
  • Newspaper column introduction
  • New York essay
  • Writing from another perspective (e.g., a dog)
  • Insignificant personal experience (perhaps with large consequences)
  • Who is the speaker?
  • Literal versus Figurative
  • Opening Paragraph workshop (also titles)
  • Fable behind a poem
  • Your Own Myth
  • Doublespeak
  • Jargon and nursery rhymes
  • Nursery rhyme from another perspective (e.g., accident report)

The list of teaching/writing stories

I’ve decided to try to go through Williams Hall mentally, stopping in each room that I taught in and seeing if there are any memories related to the classes in that space. I should also go through my folder of handouts and whatnot, but they’re in Champaign, and I’m in Blacksburg. So here goes.

  • Godzilla stamp
    I was teaching business writing with a behavioral method where you got P/F on all papers, and you had to compile a certain number of Passes to get various grades. The idea, which I had some article to support at the time, was that in business world you don’t get A’s and B’s. You either get a pass and you send the piece out, OR you get told to redo the work. I don’t like to mistrust students, but well, they are students. I realized that it would be easy for someone to fake a check mark or some such handwritten thing on their papers; so I used some stamps and an ink pad to indicate the P/F. Because I had this silly Godzilla stamp, I told them that if they made really stupid mistakes (like failed to spellcheck), they’d get the Godzilla. Oddly, the Godzilla stamp became a POSITIVE thing. It was the one and only time that giving criticism was taken as positive feedback. They laughed and carried on about the Godzillas that they got. And when someone typically got a Godzilla on every paper and then got a Godzilla-free paper, there was much pride. I’m not sure I could ever repeat the way that this worked, but it was fun while it lasted.

  • Space Shuttle
    Not really a writing/teaching story, but when Challenger exploded, I threw out my class plans and we just watched and talked about the news coverage that day. A number of people were sort of shocked, and it seemed like the best thing to do. [and yes, it feels freaky to write this down on the day of a space shuttle launch]

  • Guitar
    A failed experiment, but in the first class that I taught, I brought in my guitar. Someone in GTA training brought in a guitar to talk about the importance of practice and trial and error. I’m not a good guitar player, so this really failed miserably.

  • Tennyson article
    Also in my first class, I brought in all the drafts that I had gone through for a Tennyson paper that I wrote, and which was going to be published in The Explicator. I think they thought I was crazy to have so many drafts, but I did try to demonstrate what a complete writing process looked like. Might be interesting to digitize all that stuff actually.

  • Nikki Giovanni
    I was lucky enough to teach in the same department as Nikki, and I had her come talk to my students in American Lit. They were so entertained and asked loads of questions. The most memorable of which was about her use of lowercase letters.

To be continued…

The list of teaching/writing stories, Part 2

Okay, the continuation. I know that blog entries are supposed to be in reverse order, but it seems odd to have the continuation of a list above the beginning of that list. So while it’s the next day, I’m faking the time on this one so that the list falls in the original order that I was brainstorming in.

  • Own Criteria
    This is one of those experiences where the students amazed me. I was teaching second semester American Lit (roughly Mark Twain to present) for the second time, using the same basic assignments that I had used the previous term. I had students sign up for and present various handouts on the pieces of literature that we covered (e.g., biographies, general lit criticism, summary). I had lots of examples from that previous class, which I removed the names from and passed out to the students. I asked them to use those examples to help them define the requirements for the work that they were to do. They came up with incredibly harsh guidelines, more strict than I would have designed for them. And of course because they had ownership of the guidelines, they accepted them more than anything that I would have brought in from outside.

  • Modeling, not just models
    I remember a successful class where I worked through the process of gathering details for an analysis paper. I was asking students to compare a song’s lyrics (their choice) to any poem in their text (also their choice). To demonstrate the process, I remember doing an elaborate demonstration that compared the lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends/Bookends” to some poem that I can’t recall right now. I asked students to help point out similarities and differences. The whole thing worked as if it had been choreographed, and the students “got” the process that was needed for their papers. (I also had the best success when I had models of the essays that students were to compose. The BSM book Student Writers at Work was my favorite.)

  • Student Authority
    In another assignment that focused on song lyrics, I asked students to do a simple explication of a song (their choice). The assignment resulted in great engagement, as the students focused on explaining their favorite songs (some very complex). The whole activity put them in the position of the authority—they knew the songs and the bands, and typically I didn’t. Making them authorities led to stronger work too.

And some more general listing w/o notes:

  • outside; focused circle writing
  • demoing pc use in conferences
  • “New York is a City of Things Unnoticed” activity
  • Grammar Rules writing assignments (off Math Rules)
  • computers
  • Rhetoric of War class
  • What is American Lit? class

I also need to check the Lists and the lesson plans that I’ve written. They may well bring some stories to mind.