Posted in English 1103, Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: Model Literacy Narratives, Part II

As a model for your own literacy narratives, yesterday in class we continued to examine “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” originally published in Esquire magazine and later as the title essay in David Sedaris’s 2000 essay collection.

In groups of three and four, you and your classmates studied Sedaris’s essay with a focus on his use of scene and summary, figurative language, and hyperbole.

You observed at the beginning of the fourth paragraph how Sedaris shifts from the summary of the third paragraph to the first words that the unnamed teacher speaks to her students: “If you have not meimslsxp or lgpmurct by this time, then you should not be in this room Has everyone apzkiubjxow? Everyone? Good, we shall begin” (167).

Sedaris begins his use of figurative language early in the essay with a simile near the end of the second paragraph and a metaphor near the beginning of the third:

  • “[C]ausing me to feel not unlike Pa Kettle trapped backstage after a fashion show” (167).
  • “[E]verybody into the language pool, sink or swim” (167).

In the seventh paragraph, Sedaris uses hyperbole when he describes one of the two Polish Annas as a woman with “front teeth the size of tombstones” (168).

Continue to look for opportunities to use one or more of those elements in your own literacy narratives.

To read more of Sedaris’s essays, see the list of links under the heading Writing and Radio on his website.

In addition to studying Sedaris’s essay, examine Helen Keller’s “The Day Language Came into My Life,” and note her use of figurative lanaguage. Also observe how frequently she uses sensory detail, namely her sense of touch–not sights and sounds, because she was blind and deaf.

You can read more of Helen Keller’s autobiography, the full text in fact, here: The Story of My Life. “The Day Language Came into My Life” is Chapter Four.

Work Cited

Sedaris, David. “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” Me Talk Pretty One Day.” Little, Brown, 2000. pp. 166-73.

Next Up

In class tomorrow, we will look at your blogs on the big screen. Your literacy narrative may not be posted to your blog yet (it may still be in progress), but your blog should be launched and linked to our class page. Afterward, you will compose short reflective essays on your literacy narratives.

Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Theatre

ENG 1103: Another Way with Words

(L-R): Helga (Jane Lucas) and Jozephina (Cass Weston) in the Creative Greensboro production of The Wolves of Ravensbruk (2022)

The following essay is one that I wrote as a sample literacy narrtive for my students last semester.

Another Way with Words

What do a Nazi prison guard, a medieval abbess, a Mexican maid, and a seventy-two-year-old bag lady have in common? They’re all character roles that I’ve played on stage. Though acting is one of my favorite pastimes, each new role is a source of anxiety. I am comfortable on stage, but backstage, as I prepare to enter, is another story.  Preparing for my entrances as María, the Mexican maid, in Glorious! were some of the most nerve-wracking moments of my stage career. I remember vividly standing backstage holding a large tray with a tea pot, two teacups, a slice of cake, napkins, and silverware. As I held the tray, my hands began to sweat, and I worried not only that the tray might slip out of my hands but also that the words I was supposed to speak might slip from my mind.

Robert (David Ingle) and Berthe (Jane Lucas) in The Green Room Community Theare production of Boeing, Boeing (2017) / Ken Burns

Though the fear of forgetting my lines is always with me backstage, that fear was heightened when I played María because her lines were all in Spanish. The challenge inherent in learning lines was compounded by the cognitive shift required of learning them as a non-native speaker. When I say kitchen, in my mind I see a kitchen, but when I say cocina, I do not. As María, for the first time, I wasn’t visualizing my lines. Instead, I was memorizing a series of unfamiliar sounds. I knew their English translation, but I couldn’t link the signs to the signifiers, not the way I could in English.

Marie (Nikkita Gibson) and Abbess Agatha (Jane Lucas) in the Hickory Community Theatre prouction of Incorruptible (2016) / Ken Burns

Preparing to play María meant increasing the hours I devote to my lines, including the practices of writing my lines on note cards, recording my lines and their cues, and writing my lines over and over in my theatre journal. As one of my first steps in the line-learning process, I type my lines and paste them onto three-by-five note cards. On the back of each note card, I write my cues in pencil. I start by memorizing the lines on the first card, usually four or five. And once I’ve learned those, I memorize the ones on the second card, and so on. Learning my cues as well my lines enables me to follow my partner’s words on stage even if he or she jumps ahead by dropping a line.

Arthur Przybyszewski (Peter Bost) and Lady Boyle (Jane Lucas) in the Hickory Community Theater production of Superior Donuts (2016) / Ken Burns

In addition to putting my lines and cues on notecards, I record them with a voice recorder app on my phone. Listening to myself as I drive to rehearsal further helps me to learn the words. Along with studying my notecards and listening to my recorded lines, I write my lines over and over in my theatre notebook, the same way that as a student I would recopy my class notes as a way of studying for a test.

Now as I find myself studying lines for yet another play, one staged by Goodly Frame theatre company, I am reminded of the importance of trusting the process. I will not learn my lines as quickly as I would like to, and waiting backstage to say them will always be nerve-wracking, but becoming another person on stage remains pure joy. For me as a writer, acting is another way of working with words, a process of transporting them from the page to the stage and transforming the language into the utterances of a living, breathing character—someone who isn’t me but in whom I can “live truthfully,” as the acting teacher Sanford Meisner would say, “under the given imaginary circumstances.”

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, F-L

In the past two weeks, I published one blog post featuring the playable two-letter words that begin with a and a second blog post featuring the playable two-letter words that start with b, c, d, and e. Today’ s blog post features the playable two-letter words beginning with f, g, h, i, j, k, and 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 pronoun
  • 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

Coming Soon

At the beginning of class on Monday, January 30, I will collect the worksheets for your third Check, Please! assignment. If you were absent last Wednesday or misplaced the copy you recieved in class, you can download a copy from Blackboard.

Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: The Writing Center

At the beginning of today’s class you will receive your handwritten drafts with my comments, and you will have the class period to devote to revising on your laptops–or you may continue to write longhand, if you wish. Your revision is due on Blackboard and your blog next Wednesday, February 1. The hard deadline is Friday, February 3.

As you continue to revise your literacy narrative, consider visiting The Writing Center. If you do so, you will earn five bonus points.

To schedule an appointment, visit, email the Writing Center’s director, Justin Cook, at, or scan the QR code below. To earn bonus points for your literacy narrative, consult with a Writing Center tutor no later than Thursday, February 2.

Posted in English 1103, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: Model Literacy Narratives

As a model for your own literacy narratives, Monday in class we began to examine “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” originally published in Esquire magazine and later as the title essay in David Sedaris’s 2000 essay collection.

As you continue to work on your literacy narratives, study Sedaris’s essay as a model, and consider how he uses the following:

  • Shifts from summary to scene and vice versa
  • Figurative language
  • Hyperbole
  • Vivid detail

Look for opportunities to use one or more of those elements in your own literacy narratives.

To read more of Sedaris’s essays, see the list of links under the heading Writing and Radio on his website.

Next Up

Friday marks our third Wordplay Day of the semester. Review my blog posts devoted to Scrabble and review the tips and tools on the on the Scrabble site to strengthen your word power and up your game.

Coming Soon

Next Monday, we will continue our study of “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” and we will examine additional literacy narratives, including Helen Keller’s essay “The Day Language Came into My Life.” You can read more of Helen Keller’s autobiography, the full text in fact, here: The Story of My Life. “The Day Language Came into My Life” is Chapter Four.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Playable Names

Last Tuesday, January 17, I published a blog post with your pictures and a list of playable first names. At the end of the post, I offered a bonus-point opportunity in the form of questions: How many of your classmates have playable first or last names, and who are they? Three students posted their answers as comments on the post, and those three students will receive a bonus point for their literacy narratives

Here are the answers to the questions:

  • brock: a badger (Brock West)
  • charlie: a fool (Charlie Milch)
  • conner: one who cons or deceives (Conner Horn)
  • horn: hard permanent growths on the heads of cattle, sheep, goats, etc. (Conner Horn)
  • milch: giving milk (Charlie Milch)
  • nick: to cut (Nick Ewing)
  • rice: swamp grass cultivated as a type of food (Nicole Rice)
  • spencer: a short jacket worn in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Spencer Lawe)
  • west: the direction to the point of the horizon where the sun sets at the equinoxes, on the left side of a person facing north, or the part of the horizon lying in that direction (Brock West)

Continue to review the January 17 blog post as a way of putting names with faces, and continue to review all of the Scrabble posts to increase your word power and up your game.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, B-E

The January 12 Scrabble blog post featured the sixteen playable two-letter words beginning with “a.” Learning those two-letter words, as well as the others that follow in the alphabet, will enable you to see more options for play and increase the number of points you earn in a single turn.

Here’s a list of the playable words beginning with “b,” “d,” and “e.”

  • ba: the soul in ancient Egyptian spirituality
  • bi: a bisexual
  • bo: a pal
  • by: a side issue
  • de: of; from
  • do: a tone on a scale
  • ed: education
  • ef: the letter f (also eff)
  • eh: used to express doubt
  • el: an elevated train
  • em: the letter m
  • en: the letter n
  • er: used to express hesitation
  • es: the letter s
  • et: a past tense of eat
  • ex: the letter x

Next Up

At the beginning of class on Monday, I will collect your completed worksheets for Lesson Two in the Check, Please! course. If you were absent from class on Wednesday, January 18, when I distributed the worksheet, you can download and print a copy from Blackboard.

Also, in class on Monday, we will review your collaborative writing on the habits of mind and examine David Sedaris’s essay “Me Talk Pretty One Day” as a model for your literacy narrative. As we read Sedaris’s essay, consider his use of description and development and think about ways you can employ those strategies in your own narrative.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: “What’s in a Name?”

(L-R): Nicole Rice, Conner Horn, Nick Ewing, Katherine Murray)

  • Al: a type of East Indian tree
  • Alan: a breed of hunting dog (also alandalant)
  • Alec: a herring
  • Ana: a collection of miscellany about a specific topic
  • Anna: a former Indian coin
  • Barbie: a barbecue
  • Belle: a pretty woman
  • Ben: an inner room
  • Benny: an amphetamine pill
  • Bertha: a style of wide collar
  • Beth: a Hebrew letter
  • Biff: to hit
  • Bill: to charge for goods
  • Billy: a short club
  • Bo: a friend
  • Bobby: a policeman
  • Bonnie: pretty (also bonny)
  • Brad: a small nail or tack
  • Brock: a badger
  • Carl: a peasant or manual laborer (also carle)
  • Carol: to sing merrily
  • Celeste: a percussive keyboard instrument (also celesta)
  • Chad: a scrap of paper
  • Charlie: a fool
  • Chevy: to chase (also chivy)
  • Christie: a type of turn in skiing (also christy)
(L-R): Alina Zimavaya, Bella Phillipp, Sam Casey, Isabella Bertini

  • Clarence: an enclosed carriage
  • Conner: one who cons or deceives
  • Dagwood: a large, stuffed sandwich (named after the comic strip character who was fond of them)
  • Daphne: a flowering shrub with poisonous berries
  • Davy: a safety lamp
  • Deb: a debutante
  • Devon: a breed of cattle
  • Dexter: located to the right
  • Dom: a title given to some monks
  • Don: to put on a piece of clothing
  • Donna: an Italian woman of repute
  • Erica: a shrub of the heath family
  • Fay: to join together closely
  • Florence: a former European gold coin
  • Franklin: a nonnoble medieval English landowner
  • Fritz: a nonworking or semi-functioning state
  • Gilbert: a unit of magneto-motive force
  • Gilly: to transport on a type of train car
  • Graham: whole-wheat flour
  • Hank: to secure a sail
  • Hansel: to gift a gift, usually to commence a new year (also handsel)
  • Harry: to harass
  • Henry: a unit of electrical inductance
  • Herby: full of herbs
  • Hunter: a person or animal that hunts
  • Jack: to hoist with a type of lever
  • Jacky: a sailor
  • Jake: okay, satisfactory
  • Jane: a girl or woman
  • Jay: any of various birds, known for their crests and shrill calls
  • Jean: denim
(L-R): Mia Avelino, Carly Thompson, Ryan Hammelman

  • Jenny: a female donkey
  • Jerry: a German soldier
  • Jess: to fasten a strap around the leg of a bird in falconry (also jesse)
  • Jill: a unit of measure equal to to 1/4 of a pint
  • Jimmy: to pry open
  • Joannes: a Portugese coin (also johannes)
  • Joe: a fellow
  • Joey: a young kangaroo
  • John: a toilet
  • Johnny: a hospital gown
  • Jones: a strong desire
  • Josh: to tease
  • Kelly: a bright shade of green
  • Kelvin: a unit of absolute temperature
  • Ken: to know
  • Kent: past tense of ken
  • Kerry: a breed of cattle
  • Kris: a curved dagger
  • Lars: plural of lar: a type of ancient Roman guardian deity (also lares)
  • Lassie: a lass
  • Laura: an aggregation of hermitages used by monks
  • Laurel: to crown one’s head with a wreath
  • Lee: to shelter from the wind
  • Louie: a lieutenant
  • Louis: a former gold coin of France worth twenty francs
  • Mac: a raincoat
  • Mae: more
  • Mamie: a tropical fruit-bearing tree (also mamey and mammee)
  • Marc: the pulpy residue of fruit after it is pressed for wine
(L-R): Massimo Avelino, Ethan Rafferty, Spencer Lawe

  • Marcel: to make waves in the hair using a special iron
  • Marge: a margin
  • Mark: a line, figure, or symbol
  • Martin: any type of the bird also known as a swallow
  • Marvy: marvelous
  • Matilda (a hobo’s bundle (chiefly Australian)
  • Matt: to put a dull finish on (also matte)
  • Maxwell: a unit of magnetic flux
  • Mel: honey
  • Merle: a blackbird
  • Mickey: a drugged drink
  • Mike: a microphone (also mic)
  • Milt: to fertilize with fish sperm
  • Minny: a minnow
  • Mo: a moment
  • Molly: a type of tropical fish
  • Morgan: a unit of frequency in genetics
  • Morris: a type of folk dance from England
  • Morse: describing a type of code made of long and short signals
  • Mort: a note sounded in hunting to announce the death of prey
(L-R): Seth Cauble, Kylie Figueroa, Emma Sheridan, Charlie Milch

  • Nelson: a type of wrestling hold
  • Newton: the unit of force required to accelerate one kilogram of mass on meter per second
  • Nick: to make a shallow cut
  • Norm: a standard
  • Pam: the name of the jack of clubs in some card games
  • Parker: one who parks a motorized vehicle
  • Peter: to lessen gradually
  • Pia: a fine membrane of the brain and spinal cord
  • Randy: sexually excited
  • Regina: a queen
  • Rex: a king
  • Rick: to stack, hay, corn, or straw
  • Roger: the pirate flag
  • Sal: salt
  • Sally: to make a brief trip or a sudden start
  • Sawyer: one who saws wood
  • Shawn: past tense of show
  • Sheila: a girl or young woman
  • Sol: the fifth note on a diatonic scale (also so)
  • Sonny: a boy or young man
  • Sophy: a former Persian ruler
  • Spencer: a type of sail
  • Tad: a young boy
  • Tammie: a fabric used in linings (also tammy)
  • Ted: to spread for drying
  • Teddy: a woman’s one-piece undergarment
  • Terry: a soft, absorbent type of cloth
  • Tiffany: a thin, mesh fabric
  • Timothy: a Eurasian grass used for grazing
  • Toby: a drinking mug in the shape of a man or a man’s face
  • Tod: a British unit of weight for wool equal to twenty-eight pounds
  • Tom: the male of various animals
  • Tommy: a loaf or chunk of bread
  • Tony: very stylish
  • Vera: very
  • Victoria: a light, four-wheeled carriage
  • Warren: an area where rabbits live, or a crowded maze-like place
  • Webster: one who weaves
  • Will: to choose, decree, or induce to happen
  • Willy: to clean fibers with a certain machine

Bonus Point Opportunity!

The first student to correctly respond to the playable first names and last names question below will earn a bonus point for his/her/their first major writing assignment.

How many students in English 1103. 23 have a first or last that is a playable Scrabble word?

Directions for Finding and Submitting Your Answer

  1. Review the list of playable first names, compare it with the students’ first and last names on the class page, and determine which of the students’ first and last names are playable in Scrabble.
  2. Compose a response of one or more complete sentences that includes (1) the number of students with playable names, and (2) the first and last name of each student.
  3. Post your comment as a reply to this blog post.
  4. To post your comment, click the title of the post, “What’s in a Name. . . . ,” then scroll down to the bottom of the post. There you will see the image of an airmail envelope with a white rectangular box for your comment. Type your comment in the box and hit return. Voila! You have submitted your answer. Good luck!
Posted in English 1103, Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

In Wednesday’s class, before you begin drafting your literacy narrative, I will distribute copies of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Although I could ask you to listen to a recording of it, I ask that you to read it instead. King’s gift for oratory is well known, but for students of writing, closely examining his words on the page is a more pertinent exercise than listening to his voice.

What makes King’s letter an effective piece of writing? With that question in mind, consider these words in the eleventh paragraph: “Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’” Here King is addressing his initial audience, the eight white Birmingham-area clergymen who criticized his protest as “unwise and untimely.” He suggests to those men that waiting to act isn’t difficult when you yourself aren’t the victim of injustice, when you haven’t, in King’s words, “felt the stinging darts of segregation.” The sentence is notable not only for the contrast it illustrates between King’s reality and the lives of his readers but also for the words that King uses to show that contrast.

Consider King’s sentence and the paraphrase that follows:

  • Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”
  • Maybe it is simple for people who have not experienced segregation to say, “Wait.”

King’s sentence is stronger than the paraphrase that follows it because of the “stinging darts.” Writing that someone has not “experienced segregation” is abstract. Readers do not feel the general experience in the second sentence, but they feel King’s “stinging darts.” Sensory details strengthen sentences by appealing to readers’ senses, and figurative language invigorates writing by making the unfamiliar familiar. King’s white readers have not been the victims of segregation, but his choice of words makes them feel the sting.

While King’s “stinging darts” sentence—a relatively short one—is laudable, the long, winding sentence that follows is nothing short of staggering.

It starts with these words: “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim.” King presents those atrocities in an introductory dependent clause, one whose full meaning depends on an independent clause that follows. But rather than immediately turning to an independent clause to complete the thought, King expands the sentence with this series of dependent clauses:

  • when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters;
  • when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;
  • when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people;
  • when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you;
  • when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”;
  • when your first name becomes “n—,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”;
  • when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments;
  • when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–

The independent clause that readers have been waiting for, the statement that completes the thought is this: “then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” Those words could have immediately followed the first dependent clause, but instead King offers nine more dependent clauses, ten darts that sting his readers.

Ten dependent clauses connected by semicolons followed by a dash and an independent clause, a total of 316 words: That is not a structure I recommend for the sentences you write in English 111, but it’s a valuable model, nevertheless.

I hope that you, as citizens, will continue to study the words of his letter. As your writing teacher, I hope that you will return to the sentence that I have examined in detail here. Along with showing his readers why his nonviolent protests could not wait, that sentence of King’s demonstrates how to develop a piece of writing through the accumulation of detail—not just the when, but the when and when and when . . . .

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Parallel Play and Two-Letter Words Beginning with A

Parallel play increases your score through the points you earn by spelling more than one word in a single turn. In the first play of the hypothetical game pictured above, the first player or team would score sixteen points by spelling enact with the on the center double word square. With the second turn, the other player or team could take advantage of the opportunity for parallel play. If the team knew that aa is a type of lava, they could earn twenty-four points with four words: whoahe, on, and aa.

Aa is one of sixteen playable two-letter words beginning with a. Learning these two-letter words, as well as the others that follow in the alphabet, will enable you to see more options for play and increase the number of points you earn in a single turn.

  • aa: a type of stony, rough lava
  • ab: an abdominal muscle
  • ad: an advertisement
  • ae: one
  • ag: agriculture
  • ah: an exclamation
  • ai: a three-toed sloth
  • al: a type of East Indian tree
  • am: the first-person singular present form of to be
  • an: an indefinite article
  • ar: the letter r
  • as: similar to
  • at: in the position of
  • aw: an expression of sadness or protest
  • ay: a vote in the affirmative (also aye)

Important Note about Challenges

The game rules inside the Scrabble box top do not specify that a player or team that challenges a playable word will lose a turn, but David Bukszpan’s book Is That a Word? notes that the player or team does lose a turn. According to Bukszpan:

“[I]f a word is challenged and found not to be legal (called a phony in Scrabble parlance), the player that set it down loses a turn. Conversely, if a challenged word is found to be playable, the challenger loses his turn” (19).

Work Cited

Bukszapan, David. Is That a Word?: From AA to ZZZ, the Weird and Wonderful Language of SCRABBLE. Chronicle, 2012. p.19.

Coming Soon

At the beginning of class on Wednesday, January 18, I will collect your completed worksheet for Lesson One of the Check, Please! starter course. If you are absent tomorrow when I distribute worksheets or you misplace your copy, you can download and print one from Blackboard.