In class today you will plan and draft your analysis, which will focus on one of the articles or essays that we have studied in class: “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “The Day that Language Came into My Life,” “Back Story” (from The Blind Side), “The Falling Man,” “Skim Reading is the New Normal,” or the essay that I will distribute today, “Scrabble is a Lousy Game.”
Many students find the transition from expressive writing, such as a literacy narrative, to analysis to be a difficult one, but as the authors of your textbook note, “[i]n practice though, the best versions of analysis and expressive writing can overlap a lot” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 7). They go on to observe that “[v]irtually all forms of description are implicitly analytical” (7).
“When you choose to take what you take to be the three most telling details about your subject, you have selected significant parts and used them as a means of getting at what you take to be the character as a whole. This is what analysis does: it goes after an understandingof what something means, its nature, by zeroing in on the function of significant detail.” (7)
As a starting point, you will read some of the passages in Writing Analytically devoted to analysis, including “Analysis Does More than Break a Subject into Its Parts,” 4-5; and “Distinguishing Analysis from Summary, Expressive Writing, and Argument,” 5-8.
After you read the pages in Writing Analytically devoted to analysis, you will review the articles and essays you’ve read, and read “Scrabble is a Lousy Game.” Determine which article or essay appeals to you most as a subject of analysis. Reread that article or essay and identify three or more elements that contribute to its effectiveness. Develop your analysis through a close examination of those elements.
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019.
In class today we will examine two additional models for your literacy narrative. Unlike Keller’s and Sedaris’ essays, “The Falling Man” and The Blind Side aren’t literacy narratives but Tom Junod‘s and Michel Lewis‘ writing serve as excellent examples for anyone engaged in the craft of writing nonfiction.
Unless you subscribe to Esquire, the magazine’s paywall will deny you access to the full text of “The Falling Man”; but if you’re interested in reading it in full, you can access it through the HPU Library site by following these steps:
Under the heading “Search HPU Libraries . . . ,” click on the “Articles” tab.
Under the “Articles” tab, type Tom Junod “Falling Man” Esquire in the search box and click “search.”
On the next screen, you will see a brief summary of the article. Click “Access Online” to view the full article.
Some of you have asked about paragraphing. As a rule, you should begin a new paragraph whenyou present a new idea or point. If you have an extended idea that spans multiple paragraphs, each new point within that idea should have its own paragraph. But there are exceptions to this. Although the first paragraph of “The Falling Man” could be divided into two or more paragraphs, Lewis chooses to present it as one paragraph of more than four hundred words, more than the minimum length of your entire literacy narrative. Consider why Lewis may have chosen to present the beginning of his essay as one long paragraph rather than two or more shorter ones.
Among the elements of the first paragraph of The Blind Side that I asked you to examine was Michael Lewis’ use of appositives.
The Chaos Machine, the new book by New York Times journalist Max Fisher explores how social media has altered our lives. Because Fisher’s books focuses on our class theme, our lives in the digital world, it’s an ideal text for us to examine, and the High Point Univeristy Library has agreed to buy a copy for our use. We will study an excerpt from Fisher’s book in class, and you will have the opportunity to use it as one of the sources for your final essay and annotated bibliography.
At the beginning of class on Monday, I will collect your completed worksheets for Lesson Three in the Check, Please! course. If you are absent from class today, Friday, September 9, when I distribute the worksheet, you can download a copy from Blackboard.
Also, in class on Monday, we will examine two additional models for your literacy narrative, and you will collaboratively explore the writers’ use of description and development.
As a model for your own literacy narratives, today in class we will examine “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” originally published in Esquire magazine and later as the title essay in David Sedaris’ 2000 essay collection.
After we read Sedaris’ essay, you will collaborate in groups of four to complete an exercise that involves exploring these aspects of his writing:
Shifts from summary to scene and vice versa
I will also ask you to consider what elements are the strongest aspects of the essay and whether “Me Talk Pretty One Day” has given you any ideas for developing your own narrative. Time permitting, we will also read Helen Keller’s essay “The Day Language Came into My Life.”
To read more of Sedaris’ essays, see the list of links under the heading Writing and Radio on his website. 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.
For Wednesday you should read Keller’s essay (if you don’t have time to read it in class today), and compose a short summary of both her essay and Sedaris.’ Aim for a minimum of fifty words each.
Keep Keller’s and Sedaris’ essays in your pocket portfolio and continue to look to them as models as you revise your literacy narrative. You will receive your draft with my notes at the beginning of Wednesday’s class, and you will have the class period to continue to revise. You will have an additional week to devote to your essay before you post it. It is due (on Blackboard and on your WordPress blog) before class the morning of Wednesday, September 14; the hard deadline is the morning of Friday, September 16.
Am I the person who will teach your English 1103 class? I posed that question this morning as a starting point for analysis, one of the key features of the course.
To begin the collaboration and inquiry that will figure prominently this semester—along with analysis—you worked together in groups to find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the course. Continue to review the syllabus, which is posted in the Content section of Blackboard. An additional copy of the syllabus is included at the end of this blog entry. If you have any questions about the assignments, the course policies, or the calendar, please let me know.
All of you in sections 23 and 24 of English 1103 are required to have the paperback edition of the textbook, Writing Analytically, 8th edition, by David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen. Bring your copy to class on the days when the title, Writing Analytically, appears in bold on the course calendar. On those days, we will examine portions of the chapters in class and complete some of the exercises related to the reading.
Your first reading assignment in the textbook will be scheduled for mid-September, which will give you ample time to order and receive your copy before you are required to have it in class. (Unlike my copy, pictured at the top of this blog entry, your textbook will not be in a binder.)
Other Required Materials
Writer’s notebook/journal, bring to every class.
Loose leaf paper (for drafts and short in-class assignments), bring to every Monday and Wednesday class
Pen with dark ink, bring to every class
Pocket portfolio (for class handouts), bring to every class
As practice in developing your web literacy and writing for a broader online audience, you will maintain a free WordPress blog for the class. As soon as possible, create a free blog at wordpress.com. After you create your blog, email the address, or URL, to me, and I will link your blog to our class page, English at High Point. If you encounter technical difficulties creating your blog or publishing a post, email email@example.com or contact the HPU Help Desk: firstname.lastname@example.org, 336-841-HELP (3457).
You will post the revisions of all of your major writing assignments both to your blog and to Blackboard. The posts that you publish for class will be public. You are welcome to create additional posts on your own. If you prefer for some of those posts to be private, keep them in draft form or choose the private visibility option.
You may also be asked to post comments to your classmates’ blogs and to mine.
For class on Wednesday, August 24, complete the Habits of Mind exercise, Part I, distributed in class. If you missed today’s class, you can download a copy from the link below.
Syllabus and Habits of Mind Exercise, Parts I and II
In class this morning we returned to the sample student reflections that we examined before spring break, and we also read and discussed the model midterm reflection that I wrote for my students last fall. The revision of that reflection, which I published on my blog in October, appears below.
Tiles, Pens, and Laptops: Reflections on Word Building
Although I have read Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” many times, this semester marked the first time I had studied it as an exercise in analysis. Ordinarily, I include Richtel’s article on the syllabus as a prologue to my students’ own blogging. The article served that purpose in August as well. But as I found myself teaching a different composition curriculum that features an analysis as the first major paper assignment, Richtel’s article served a dual purpose: It not only oriented my students to the role that blogs would play in the class, it also provided them with the opportunity to study the way a writer—in this case, Matt Richtel—presents the ideas of the experts he interviews. By reading Richtel’s article, the students learned about changes in writing practices in college classrooms; by rereading Richtel, they began to see how his writing takes shape. The same was true for me.
The process of crafting a study of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” prompted me to meditate on the similarities between analysis and Scrabble, another feature of the course. The more I examined Richtel’s words, the more details I noticed. Similarly, the more closely I study the words on a Scrabble board and the tiles on a rack, the more opportunities for word building become apparent to me. This semester, the processes of writing an analysis of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” and playing Scrabble have deepened my understanding of how those two activities cultivate the focus that leads to the discoveries intrinsic to learning.
One of those moments of discovery occurred for me as I was rereading the paragraph in Richtel’s article where he addresses an argument put forth by experts who frown on replacing the term paper with the blog. Richtel reports their claim that if teachers want to reduce term papers to blog posts, why not bypass blogs altogether and ask nothing more of their students than tweets? In my previous readings of the paragraph, I was drawn primarily to the clever mimicry at the end. There Richtel omits letters from the words “Sherman’s March,” spelling it as “Shermn’s Mrch” to imitate the word-shortening technique characteristic of the Twitter platform.
As I studied the paragraph more closely, I saw beyond the intentional misspellings at the conclusion. Subsequently, what preceded the imitation of Twitterese became far more revealing. I noticed that the paragraph consisted of only one sentence—one of only two one-sentence paragraphs in the article—and that Richtel’s presentation of the claim demonstrates a flaw in the experts’ logic: “Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?” Realizing that Richtel presented one of their assertions as a logical fallacy, led me to this point:
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.
Additionally, I considered the effect of choosing to present the fallacy as a one-sentence paragraph, noting that “[b]y 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.”
Reflecting on the effect of the one-sentence paragraph, with its emphasis on a single idea, led me to reexamine the other one-sentence paragraph in the article. That paragraph, a sentence spoken by Professor Cathy Davidson of the City University of New York, underscores the prominence of her words and ideas in Richtel’s article, an observation of mine that led me to the thesis, that “[a]lthough 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.”
Rereading Richtel’s article through a writer’s lens showed me details I had scarcely noticed before, ones that now in plain view lead me to ask repeatedly, How could I have missed that? It’s a question I have also found myself asking when a word emerges from a seemingly hopeless combination of Scrabble tiles. Sometimes my students chide themselves for what they didn’t see on the board or the rack, but those realizations are almost always part of the composing process, whether we’re building words with tiles, or pens, or laptops. The closer we look, the more we discover, which is learning in its purest form.
Lucas, Jane. “ENG 1103: On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question,” Jane Lucas, 9 Sept. 2021, https://janelucas.com/2021/09/20/ eng-1103-on-its-face-who-could-disagree-with-the-transformation-revisiting-richtels-report-on-the-blog-term-paper-question/.
In class on Wednesday, we will review the citation worksheet that I distributed in class today. Afterward, you will have the remainder of the class period to devote to composing your short reflective essay on your midterm reflection.
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.”
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.
Yesterday in class, I demonstrated a variety of starting points for your research, including these:
The English 1103 Research Guide, which is linked to my blog (see the list of links on the right).
The HPU Library home page, which is also linked to my blog. At the library’s home page, you can conduct searches by source type (articles, books, etc.), you can search for articles in particular publications, such as newspapers of record–including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post—and you can search by keywords or by an author’s name.
An article you have read may offer a starting point. For example: If you’re interested in writing about the harmful effects of Instagram reported in September 14 Wall Street Journal article, you might look for research by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego Sate University, who is quoted in the article.
Though you will plan and draft longhand in class tomorrow, you will have the opportunity to use your laptop to conduct research. Your revised essay will include a minimum of three relevant sources, but the notes and any draft work that you produce in class tomorrow, November 3, does not need to incorporate three sources. You may devote a significant portion of class time tomorrow to research itself.
Stephen King’s “Strawberry Spring”
To earn an extra-credit course work assignment, read Stephen King’s short story, and publish a response to it of seventy-five words or more on your blog no later than Wednesday, November 10. Questions to consider include, but are not limited to, the following:
What, if anything, in Stephen King’s story prepared you for its ending? (What, if anything, would you point to as foreshadowing?)
Where in the story did you encounter references to war? Why might King have included so many references to Vietnam and the U.S. Civil War?
How is “Strawberry Spring” similar to or different from another horror story of Stephen King’s? How is the story similar to or different from a horror story by another writer?
At the beginning of class today, you submitted your worksheet for the fifth and final lesson in the Check, Please! series. My version of the assignment, which I wrote along with you, follows.
Check, Please! Assignment for Lesson Five
In the fifth lesson of the Check, Please!, Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, covers the final step in the five-step SIFT approach: “Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to Their Original Context.” Caulfield outlines the process of locating the original context as an antidote to the issues of accuracy that occur when information passes through intermediaries.
One of the most instructive portions of lesson five features a passage in which Caulfield cites a study of how stories evolve as gossip through the processes of leveling (stripping details), sharpening (adding or emphasizing details), and assimilating, which combines the two. In the process of assimilation “the details that were omitted and the details that were added or emphasized are chosen because they either fit what the speaker thinks is the main theme of the story, or what the speaker thinks the listener will be most interested in.” Similarly, leveling, sharpening, and assimilating all figure in the altered photographs and memes in lesson four. The abbreviated speech of the NRA’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, which omits commentary, inaccurately indicates a contradiction in his stance on the presence of guns in schools.
The image of photographer Kawika Singson with flames at his feet serves as an example of leveling. Although the flames are real, they were not caused by the heat of the lava flow where Singson stands with his tripod. Instead, to create the image, a friend of his poured accelerant on the lava before Singson stepped into the frame. The deception wasn’t intentional; Singson simply wanted the image for his Facebook cover photo.
Unlike Singson’s photograph, the altered photograph of the Notorious B.I.G. with Kurt Cobain was created with the intent to deceive. Cropping and merging the two photographs illustrates the assimilation process adopted by photoshop users to appeal to music fans eager to think that such fictional meetings of icons took place. Krist Novoselic, who founded Nirvana with Cobain, replied to the is-it-real question with his own fake photo, making the claim that the hand holding the cigarettes was Shakur’s, that he had been cropped from the right.
Today in class you freewrote on seven prompts to generate ideas for the creative project that you will produce this week. The project is a variation on a literacy narrative, which the authors of our text book refer to as “an acount of how you came to think about writing in the ways that you do” (118).
Your project is a variation on the literacy narrative; it’s a piece of imaginative writing–in prose, verse, or a combination of the two–that recreates a memory of one of your reading or writing experiences and conveys the significance of that experience in your development as writer, a reader, and/or a critical thinker.
At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will receive the assignment, and you will have the class period to continue planning and begin drafting. Your project is due on your blog Friday morning; the hard deadline is Monday before class. You will not post your project to Blackboard.
Consider asking family members about their memories of your early reading or writing experiences. What they remember may lead you to additional ideas for your project. You might also browse the children’s collection at the Stout School of Education Resource Center.
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Chapter “Thinking Like a Writer.”Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. pp. 1116-4