Composition Pedagogy

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Speech Class Exercise

In the speech class I teach, the first presentation the students do is an "X>Y presentation," in which they compare one person, place, or thing to another and take a qualitative stand favoring one over the other. Since this is a very short speech (3-4 minutes), the content needs to be light and fluffy--something that everyone in the audience can recognize. Therefore, we turn to mainstream popular culture. I've assigned some reading in the textbook on planning speeches and transforming ideas into speech points, which entails some brainstorming, idea mapping, and outlining. Tomorrow in class I'm going to try out this exercise, which I thought of sometime during The Apprentice. I'm going to put the students into their peer groups and give them a selection of five topics. They will have to use the planning techniques in the reading to compose an X>Y speech on the topic, present the speech, and describe their planning process.

Warm Fuzzies

Love those simple are two in particular that have happened to me recently:

1. Several of the students who are taking my first-year composition class this semester want to take my speech class next semester. I'm honored. :-)

2. I just weighed myself, and I lost four pounds, probably from my recent trips to the gym. Excellent. That makes a total of eleven pounds lost since I started this weight-loss plan in early October. I'm telling you, cutting out caloric beverages and not eating late at night, combined with a little exercise, WORKS.

Grading and Preparing! S.O.S.

I'm so very busy grading. I don't have that many more to go, but it's tiring nonetheless. Plus, I'm getting my annual observation by a faculty member tomorrow. We'll be talking about writing abstracts. I'm not just lecturing about writing abstracts; I do have an activity for them, but I don't know if it will be one of those sizzling and swinging activities. Hopefully, they will learn something about writing abstracts from it, though. Anyone got any colorful, fabulous ideas for making abstract writing fun?

Edited to add that they're writing abstracts of their own research papers, not just a summary of something I'm assigning them to read...if that helps.

Thomas R. Watson Conference

Submissions are due 15 February 2004 for the Thomas R. Watson Conference. More info:

The University of Louisville announces the fifth biennial Thomas R. Watson Conference in Rhetoric and Composition. “Writing at the Center” will be held October 7-9, 2004, at the University of Louisville. Under this theme, we encourage composition scholars to address the administration and institutionalization of programs designed to foster, support, and enhance students’ abilities to write. The conference seeks to examine writing program administration, with a particular interest in writing centers, and requests proposals in the following areas:

Promoting student agency

Cooperative relationships among Writing Program Administrators

The relation of writing programs to academic departments

Perceptions of upper administrators, accrediting agencies, and funding sources toward the work of composition professionals

Writing program research, history, and theory (One facet of the conference will highlight the Writing Centers Research Project archives at the University of Louisville.)

Efforts to change public attitudes and politics surrounding the teaching of writing

I hope people will consider going to a small southern conference! :-) I've heard from plenty of people that the Watson conference is worth the trip.

New Course on Weblogs Has Wiki Syllabus

Nick Olejniczak of is teaching a class on weblogs in the spring at the University of Wisconsin. I'm guessing it's in his home department, Family and Consumer Communications. His syllabus is a wiki on which he would like feedback and suggestions for reading assignments. Olejniczak writes, "In the spirit of the medium that inspired the class, let's see if we can build a syllabus that will itself demonstrate the collaborative power of the blogosphere." Open design for open design. Very cool--I would love to teach a similar course.

Link via Blog de Halavais.

Monday gloom

I have so much work to do today. I dread teaching. I think class will go well today because of what I have planned (workshopping annotations from their annotated bibliographies), but I just don't want to do it today, you know? I am reminded of a time in my life when I was considerably depressed, and the only thing that would cheer me up was listening to my Television's Greatest Hits TV theme song CDs. So many of those songs showed such bravery in the face of sitcom hardships. Consider the theme song from One Day at a Time, my favorite when I'm sad.

This is it. This is it.

This is life, the one you get

So go and have a ball.

This is it. This is it

Straight ahead and rest assured

You can't be sure at all.

So while you're here enjoy the view

Keep on doing what you do

So hold on tight we'll muddle through

One day at a time, One day at a time.

So up on your feet. Up on your feet

Somewhere there's music playing.

Don't you worry none

We'll just take it like it comes.

One day at a time, one day at a time.

One day at a time, one day at a time.

One day at a time, one day at a time.

One day at a time, one day at a time.

Remember the opening sequence to that show? The opening chord of the song struck just as we were in a car, going down what looks to be I-94, headed into Indianapolis. There was that big sign above us. I forgot, why exactly are we supposed to be so exuberant that we're going to Indianapolis?

Finally, 100 Things About Me

I know I'm kind of late to this party, but what the heck:

  1. Every time I see a bottle of calamine lotion, the song "Poison Ivy" gets stuck in my mind.
  2. Every time I fly, during takeoff the song "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" gets stuck in my mind. (In the video, they steal a plane.)
  3. I love the show Everybody Loves Raymond.
  4. I am the biggest misocapnist you know. I guarantee it.
  5. Sometimes, when my feet feel really good and I feel good all over (my feet have to feel good in order for this to happen), I think that if other people could experience how good it feels to be me, they'd never want to be themselves again.
  6. I drive a 1998 Honda Civic with the following stickers: Keep Abortion Legal, a Lucinda Williams World Without Tears sticker, and a Kasey Chambers The Captain sticker.
  7. I lived with my parents until I was 24 years old.
  8. The biggest regret of my life is caving in to family pressure and going to college in my hometown rather than going away.

Writing Conclusions

I'm trying to think of some techniques for writing essay conclusions (to give to my students), other than just the "summarize what you've already said" method, which harks back to the 5-paragraph essay model: tell us what you're going to tell us, tell us, then tell us what you told us. Here's what I've come up with so far:

  • Call for awareness: Several students are writing about new issues, so ending with a call for awareness seems fitting.
  • Unanswered questions/Implications for further study: What issues can be resolved in this essay, and what questions remain about the issue?
  • Rationale: Why is this an important thing to study? (This is mainly for people doing comparison papers.)
  • Call for action/What you can do: Kind of like a call for awareness, but with specific directions for the audience on how they can get involved and combat this problem.

Can anyone think of any more?

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