Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Constant Consonants, Hmm

Playable all-consonant words include these:

  • brr: used to indicate that one is cold
  • crwth: an ancient stringed instrument (pl. -s)
  • cwm: a cirque (a deep, steepwalled basin on a mountain, pl. -s, prounounced to rhyme with “boom”)
  • hm: used to express thoughtful consideration (also “hmm“)
  • mm: used to express assent or satisfaction
  • nth: describing an unspecified number in a series
  • phpht: used as an expression of mild anger or annoyance (also “pht“)
  • psst: used to attract someone’s attention
  • sh: used to urge silence (also “shh” and “sha“)
  • tsk: to utter an exclamation of annoyance (-ed, -ing, -s)
  • tsktsk: to “tsk” (-ed, -ing, -s)

Learning these words will enable you to continue the game when you’re faced with a rack without vowels.

Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: Writing Do’s and Don’ts and Integrating Sources

Yesterday in class we examined two sample midterm reflection essays in conjunction with the do’s and don’ts of writing featured in Chapter 5 of Writing Analytically, including these:

  • Cut all cliched expressions
  • Cut cliched ideas
  • Quote in order to analyze; don’t leave quotes to speak for themselves
  • Substitute telling detail for broad and bland generalizations
  • Share you thought process with your readers
  • Make that first sentence count; start fast; no say-nothing introductions
  • Focus on the words

After we read the sample student reflections along with the do’s and dont’s, you collaboratively composed a one-paragraph response to each essay, a paragraph in which you incorporated a quotation from or paraphrase of a pertinent do or don’t.

As you continue to work on your reflection, return to the do’s and don’t as a guide for revision. In your journal, practice integrating quotations gracefully, and keep in mind the textbook authors’ observation that quotations “enhance the precision and accuracy and depth of your thinking on the reading” (145). Simply put, effectively quoting sources in your writing strengthens it.

Also, keep in mind that recreating moments on the page makes your writing more vivid and draws the reader into your reflection, so look for opportunities to present your experience through scene rather than summary.

And lastly, as Chapter 5 advises us, keep “Thinking Like a Writer.”

Work Cited

Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. “Some Do’s and Don’ts of Good Writing.” Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. pp. 144-45.

Posted in English 1103, Reading, Teaching

ENG 1103: Investigation and Further Investigation

Mike Caulfield, author of the Check, Please! course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University

In the second lesson of the Check, Please! Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, introduces the second step in four-step SIFT approach to determining the reliability of a source. Lesson two offers instruction in “move” (“Investigate the Source”) and one of the web search techniques associated with it (“[J]ust add Wikipedia”).

Lesson three continues Caulfield’s instruction on the second step in the four-step SIFT approach to determining the reliability of a source. Lesson three, “Further Investigation,” covers these topics: (1) Just add Wikipedia for names and organizations, (2) Google Scholar searches for verifying expertise, (3) Google News searches for information about organizations and individuals, (4) the nature of state media and how to identify it, and (5) the difference between bias and agenda.

One of the most instructive parts of lesson three focuses on two news stories about MH17, Malyasia Airlines Flight 17, a passenger flight scheduled to land in Kuala Lumpur that was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. While the second story, a television news segment, appears to present detailed investigative reporting challenging the conclusion of the Dutch Safety Board and Dutch-led joint investigation team–the conclusion that Russia was to blame–a quick just-add-Wikipedia check reveals that RT (formerly Russia Today) is a Russian state-controlled international TV network, a government propaganda tool rather than a source of fair and balanced news. The first video, the one produced by Business Insider, a financial and business news site, delivers accurate coverage of MH17.

Another notable segment addresses the important distinction between bias and agenda. There, Caulfield observes that “[p]ersonal bias has real impacts. But bias isn’t agenda, and its agenda that should be your primary concern for quick checks,” adding that “[b]ias is about how people see things; agenda is about what a news or research organization is set up to do.”

Work Cited

Caulfield, Mike. Check, Please! Starter Course, 2021,   

Next Up

Friday, February 18, marks our sixth Wordplay Day of the semester. To up your game, review the Tips and Tools page on the Scrabble site. Also browse my blog posts devoted to Scrabble. To view those posts, click the Scrabble link in the yellow categories square (below the pink pages square) on the right side of the screen.

Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: Responding to Your Classmate’s Analysis

Today in class you read one of your classmate’s analyses and composed a short response of fifty words or more that addressed at least one of these elements of the essay:

  • the title
  • the introduction
  • the thesis
  • the textual evidence (the details the writer includes to support his or her claims)
  • the conclusion

After you completed your response to your classmate’s blog and posted it as a comment, you submitted your handwritten copy to me and devoted the remainder of the period to your assignment for Lessons Two and Three in the Check, Please! series. If you were absent from class, you can download a copy of the worksheet below and on Blackboard.

Remember that your worksheet is due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, February 16.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, F-L

Learning these two-letter words, as well as the others in the alphabet, will enable you to see more options for play and increase the number of points you earn in a single turn.

  • fa: a tone on the diatonic scale
  • fe: a Hebrew letter
  • go: a Japanese board game
  • ha: used to express surprise
  • he: a pronoun signifying a male
  • hi: an expression of greeting
  • hm: used to express consideration
  • ho: used to express surprise
  • id: the least censored part of the three-part psyche
  • if: a possibility
  • in: to harvest (a verb, takes -s, -ed, -ing)
  • is: the third-person singular present form of “to be”
  • it: a neuter oronoun
  • jo: a sweetheart
  • ka: the spiritual self in ancient Egyptian spirituality
  • ki: the vital life force in Chinese spirituality (also qi)
  • la: a tone of the diatonic scale
  • li: a Chinese unit of distance
  • lo: an expression of surprise
Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: Revising and Reflecting on Your Analysis

Yesterday in class you composed a short reflection essay about the process of planning, drafting, and revising your analysis. Among the questions you considered in your reflection were these:

  • What aspect of the writing seemed the most challenging? Determining the focus? Developing the thesis? Organizing textual evidence for support? Crafting the conclusion? Why did that aspect of the writing seem the most challenging?
  • What do you consider the strongest element of your analysis?
  • At what point in the process did you decide upon a title? Did you change the title during the writing process? If so, what was the original title?
  • What image that documents part of your writing process away from the screen did you include in your blog post? Why did you choose that particular image?
  • What additional images, if any, did you include?

Remember that you have the opportunity to earn five extra credit points for your analysis if you meet with a Writing Center tutor to review your essay. In order to earn the extra credit, you must meet with a tutor before the assignment’s hard deadline, tomorrow before class. If you have already submitted your analysis, you can still earn extra credit for meeting with a tutor. If you meet with a tutor and decide that you want to make additioanl revisions, you can repost your analysis to Blackboard (the second file will override the first one), and you can edit your published blog post.

Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: Crafting Thesis Statements and Integrating Sources

Today in class you read the pages of Writing Analytically devoted to identifying weak thesis statements, including these types:

  1. A  thesis that makes no claim. (“This paper explores the pros and cons of”).
  2. A thesis that is obviously true or a statement of fact (“Exercise is good for you”).
  3. A thesis that restates conventional wisdom (“Love conquers all”).
  4. A thesis that offers personal conviction as the basis for the claim (“Shopping malls are wonderful places”).
  5. A thesis that makes an overly broad claim (“Individualism is good”).

Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. “Five Kind of Weak Thesis Statements.” Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. p. 208.

After you read those pages, you completed an exercise in identifying effective thesis statements, and you also completed an exercise on integrating sources, which included these elements:

  • Introducing sources with signal phrases.
  • Using parenthetical citations.
  • Including an ellipsis in a shortened quotation.
  • Inserting brackets when adding or altering information.

For more details on thesis statements and integrating sources, see Writing Analytically (208-12, 231-33).

Next Up

In Wednesday’s class you will compose a short, handwritten reflective essay focusing on the process of planning, drafting, and revising your analysis

Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: “On Its Face, Who Could Disgree with the Transformation?” Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question

Yesterday in class, we read and discussed the sample analysis of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” that I wrote as a model for you. Afterward in groups of three and four, you collaboratively reviewed the thesis statement and wrote about the strategies I used to develop the essay’s conclusion. An additional copy of my model essay appears below. On Blackboard, I have posted a double-spaced MLA-style Word version of the essay, which you can use as a template for your own analysis. And another copy, a PDF, is included at the end of this blog post.

In The New York Times article “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” Matt Richtel reports on the debate in higher education on how best to teach writing in the digital age. While some professors have followed the lead of City University of New York’s Cathy N. Davidson, replacing the traditional term paper with shorter, more frequent blog assignments, their detractors—including Douglas B. Reeves, columnist for the American School Board Journal and William H. Fitzhugh, editor of The Concord Review—argue that blog writing lacks the academic rigor that fosters critical thinking. For Andrea Lunsford, professor of writing at Stanford University, pitting blogs against term papers creates a false opposition. Rather than replacing term papers with blog posts, Lunsford requires students to produce multi-modal assignments: term papers that evolve into blogs, websites, and video presentations. Although Richtel’s article appears to present an objective account of the disagreements among experts, a close examination of the diction and structure of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” reveals a preference for the innovations advocated by Davidson and Lundsford.

The opening paragraph of Richtel’s article focuses on the academic paper as a primary cause of “angst, profanity, and caffeine consumption” among high school and college students. In stark contrast to the images of the term paper-induced misery in his lead, Richtel writes in the second paragraph that students may be “rejoicing” because Cathy Davidson—a professor at Duke when Richtel interviewed her—favors replacing the term paper with the blog. Richtel refers to Davidson as a “champion” for students and outlines her use of a course blog as a practice that has become commonplace in a variety of academic disciplines. Richtel reports that blogs provide students with a “feeling of relevancy” and “instant feedback,” then poses the question: “[W]hy punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?”

From that question Richtel turns to the argument of defenders of the traditional academic paper, namely that the term paper teaches essential components of writing and thinking that may be absent from blog posts. Yet after letting the advocates of old-school writing have their say, Richtel undercuts their claim with this one-sentence paragraph: “Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?” To assert that defenders of traditional academic writing carry their opponents’ argument to an absurd conclusion presents those advocates of old-school writing as purveyors of the same flawed logic that their own traditional rhetoric supposedly teaches students to avoid.

Notably, the one-sentence paragraph, unlike paragraphs with multiple sentences, places heavy emphasis on a single idea. It says to readers, this is important. By introducing an apparent contradiction in the argument of the advocates of old-school writing, Richtel subverts their claim; and by presenting that incongruity as a one-sentence paragraph, he highlights the issue.

Richtel’s reductio ad absurdum paragraph is one of only two one-sentence paragraphs in his article. The other consists entirely of Professor Davidson’s own words. Speaking of the mechanistic quality of the term paper, she says: “As a writer, it offends me deeply.” In addition to devoting that one-sentence paragraph to Davidson’s negative feelings about term papers, Richtel returns to those feelings of hers at the end of his article and lets Davidson have the last word, literally.

In the final paragraphs of the article, Richtel recounts a tutoring session Davidson conducted with a community college student. Though she frowned on his assignment’s rigid guidelines—including prescribed sentence length—she told the student to follow the rules, knowing that teaching him what she deemed the best practice might have led the student to fail. Reflecting on that moment, Davidson said, “I hated teaching him bad writing,” and with those words of hers,  Richtel’s article ends.

Along with giving Davidson the last word, Richtel devotes far more of his article to the new literacies she and Lunsford foster in their students. Arguably, the innovative nature of the work could account for the considerable space that Richtel devotes to it. After all, what readers are familiar with—in this case the traditional term paper—isn’t news. But the preponderance of word choices that place old literacies in a negative light combined with a structure that diminishes the merits of old-school writing reveals Richtel’s implicit preference for Davidson’s and Lundsford’s innovations.

Readers revisiting Richtel’s article now, nearly ten years after he wrote it, may wonder how he would respond to the question he poses about the shift from page to screen: “On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?” Richtel wrote “Blogs vs. Term Papers” in 2012, the year deemed the year of the MOOCs (massive open online courses). Once touted as the key to revolutionizing higher education, their success has been hampered by the same issues linked to the learning losses experienced during the pandemic. For the many students who have had little or no face-to-face instruction—writing or otherwise—in recent memory, more technology may not seem like an answer, much less an innovation.

Work Cited

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012,