Archive | November, 2011


30 Nov

We’ve had nearly a whole semester now of talking about the craft of writing, what makes something “good” writing, and the styles of different writers. Today, I ask you to consider what these terms mean to you. In a blog post of at least 250 words, write a mini-essay that addresses the following.

What is writing?

Why do we write?

What makes someone a writer?

I want you to go back to the texts that we have used to provide examples or evidence for your claims. You may also pull from outside sources. Of course, that doesn’t mean to base your blog entry on those pieces. I want to know your thoughts. The texts are simply sources to help you explain them.

You may want to freewrite about each of these topics first before you organize and polish your thoughts for an audience.

You should post these entries to your blogs.

You should take the time to respond to at least one of your classmate’s posts by tomorrow.


The Final Portfolio

17 Nov

What Makes Up a Final Portfolio?

Title: Your final portfolio must have a creative title. My/The Final Portfolio is not an acceptable title. Think about what you want readers to focus on in your work or something that describes the work that you are presenting in your portfolio to help you come up with one.

Table of Contents: This may be done differently depending on the form your final portfolio takes, but there must be some way for readers to figure out what piece went where.

Reflection: This is one of the most important pieces of your portfolio. It is the place where you tell readers about your work and about who you are as a writer. It also gives me insight into the ways that you have revised your pieces, since I cannot tell by simply looking at a piece. In fact, often times, an outstanding analytical reflection paper can help bolster weaker writing. You should use this as a place to talk about why you included specific pieces, how these pieces and your writing in general evolved (if you think it did), and your writing strengths and weaknesses at this stage in the game. Closer to the end of the semester, I will give you a list of questions to help prompt your thinking.

However, the reflection letter is not a course evaluation. Don’t mistake talking about your growth as a writer with talking about the awesomeness/awfulness of this class. Saying “Nicole was a terrible teacher” won’t really help an audience understand who you feel you are as a writer or what you think your portfolio offers readers.

And since students always ask, I will tell you in advance that there is no page minimum technically, but I’d find it hard to believe that anyone could do a sufficient job in less than 3 pages. I am willing to read as much as you’d like to write.

You can place the reflection anywhere in your portfolio that you so choose– beginning, end, middle—as long as you’ve given thought to why that place is the right place for it. You might also choose to write a large whole-portfolio reflection and a smaller reflection on each piece of writing.

Contents: The contents of the portfolio should be pieces of writing that reflect your best work and/or the work that means the most to you. It is a display of who you have become as a writer. There are some basic guidelines to follow, however. You must include:

  • 2 revised major assignments (Literacy Narrative, Somewhere I Belong project, Writing as Activism project)
  • 1 revised freewrite
  • 2 revised mini-assignment (modest proposals, PSA, album and reflection, rhetorical analysis, the most boring essays ever, writing center reactions, freewrite blog post, )
  • 2 other revised pieces of your choice
  • optional: anything else that you have written in this course that you want to include

Everything in your portfolio must be significantly revised from the last draft that you turned in, and it should be polished for an audience.


What Does a Final Portfolio Look Like?

There are several ways that you may approach the final portfolio.

You can create a website. For this, I recommend GoogleSites because it’s free and easy to use. LiveBinder is another interesting option, but it does not allow you to paste in Word Documents, only PDFs and websites. This, to me, seems like the most logical option for many of you.

You can use Glogster to create a poster that links to your work.

You can give me a typical Word Document. If you’re including several digital projects (blogs, documentaries, etc.), this may not be the best option. You can, of course, include links, but your ability to personalize a document is limited.

You can choose some other option not listed here, as long as you run it by me and get approval first.


Turning It In

The portfolio will be due at noon on Wednesday, December 14. There will be a discussion board set up on Blackboard where you can submit your work. It is time-stamped, so I will know exactly when you turned it in.

The final portfolio will be worth 30% of your grade.

If I do not receive your final portfolio, you will not pass this class. Let me repeat that: if you do not hand in your portfolio on time, you will fail.

The Polishing Process

17 Nov

Editing and Proofreading Tips

As you work towards your final drafts, editing is an important step. Once you have completed the revision process, it’s time to go back through your paper and make sure you have achieved sentence clarity. Here are some solid tips for proofreading and editing:

*Read your paper aloud. Listen for places where things sound wrong and places where you stumble over words. These are usually indicators that something is not quite right with the wording.

*Ask a friend to read it aloud while you read along. A really good friend might even help you proofread.

*Read your paper from the last sentence to the first sentence, looking carefully at the words that you read. Are they spelled right?

*Give yourself at least a day to put the draft aside. If you try to proofread immediately after writing it, you are almost guaranteed to miss errors because your brain automatically fills in what you were thinking instead of what’s on the page.

*Hit Control+F, and then type “their” in the find box. Look at every use of “their,” and make sure you are using the correct version of this homophone. Then, go back and repeat for “there” and “they’re,” as well as “you’re” and “your.” Let’s add “its,” “it’s,” “to,” and “too” while we’re at it.

  • Their = ownership “Their ball is in the street.”
  • There = location “The ball is over there” or existence “There is a ball.”
  • They’re = they are “They’re playing ball.”
  • You’re = you are “You’re really tall.”
  • Your = ownership “Your height is above average.”
  • It’s = it is “It’s a beautiful day”
  • Its = ownership “Its kittens were black.”
  • To = a directive “Give the ball to the cat.”
  • Too = also “I want a kitten too!” or excess “It’s too cute!”

*Make sure that every time  you use “I,” you have capitalized it. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen “i” in your projects, posts, freewrites, tweets, and emails.

*Definitely is spelled d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y NOT d-e-f-i-a-n-t-l-y. Defiantly means disobediently, not certainly.

Some Additional Grammar Tips

These are some common errors that I see in many of your papers. If you have more questions, there are great resources online, such as GrammarGirl and the Purdue OWL, that can help you figure out your specific issues.

*Introductory clauses: Whenever you have an introductory clause or phrase, you need to use a comma.

  • When doing homework, my computer caught on fire.
  • Once upon a time, there was a frog.
  • In 1999, there were a lot of parties.
  • Because I was sick, I could not go to school.

*Semi-colons link two COMPLETE sentences that share very similar ideas or a list where it’s necessary to separate commas. They are a stylistic tool, not a necessity. Limit yourself to one semi-coloned sentence per page (if you feel a need to use them at all).

  • I love my mom’s chocolate chip cookies; they are made with love.
  • I have friends from Atlantic City, New Jersey; Athens, Greece; White Plains, New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida; and Los Angeles, California.

*Which vs. That: There is a difference between “that” and “which.” I recommend that you listen to this podcast from GrammarGirl. It will help clarify the difference.

*Common fragment starters: If your sentence begins with “for example,” “because,” or “which,” make sure it’s actually a complete sentence. “For example, Casper the Friendly Ghost” isn’t a sentence; it’s a fragment or a dependent clause. However, “For example, Casper the Friendly Ghost is a cartoon where the supernatural comes into play” would be considered a complete, independent clause. Casper the Friendly Ghost is the agent. In order for this to be a sentence, that agent has to complete an action. In this case, it’s a simple one. The shows exists, signified by the word “is.”

*Dependent clauses that define or describe something: There are many types of dependent clauses, but one common type of dependent clause that I’d like to point out in particular is dependent clauses that are used to describe something. For example, in “My mom, who is a rockstar baker, likes to enter pie contests,” you must use commas to hook in the extra information. You might also write something such as “The candy apple is hard, which is because it was placed in the refrigerator.”

*Active vs. Passive Voice: Try to use the active voice when possible. For example, “The cat was washed by my mother” is passive, something acts on the object. “My mother washed the cat” is active, something performs an action. You should also avoid using too many helping verbs. It is typically better to say “I learned that cats are fluffy” rather than “I had learned that cats are fluffy,” unless you are purposefully trying to create a sense of distance.



GrammarGirl’s Quick and Dirty Tips

The Purdue OWL

Guide to Grammar and Writing

Workshop # 6 — Sideshadowing

16 Nov

Earlier in the semester, we gave sideshadowing a try. It’s a great way to get significant feedback, and so, we will be doing it again.

Round # 1

Carefully review your draft, leaving questions for an outside reader. You should consider the clarity of your argument, the weight of your examples, the effectiveness of your research, and the formal and conventional aspects (grammar, sentence clarity, MLA formatting, etc.). Post this draft to the Writing as Activism Sideshadowing Discussion Board.

Assigned partners should open each other’s documents, read, and comment on each other’s papers. As you read your partner’s paper, take the time to thoughtfully answer their questions, but also, pose your own. If you aren’t sure that something is working, ask your partner about it. We don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes, we need another perspective to help see things that we didn’t see before.

When you are done, you should save the document and post your commented draft as a reply to your partner’s.


Round # 2

Review your partner’s comments and questions. Respond to them in the comment box. Ask more questions. Post new saved document as a reply.


Round # 3

Select another partner. You should read each other’s newly sideshadowed drafts. Respond to the questions posed initially, ask your own questions, comment (agree/disagree/ask questions) on the first reader’s observations. Save the document. Post as another reply to the original.


Round # 4

Review the newly commented draft.

In your freewrite journals, write a game plan. Some thing you should consider are:

  • What’s working well so far?
  • What do you need to work on?
  • What are the steps you will take to address these issues?
  • If your project isn’t paper-based (letter, editorial, etc.), then how will you translate it from the essay form that you have now to the final project?

Wokrshop # 5 — PSAs

10 Nov

Public service announcements. You’ve heard them before– on the radio, on the television, on Facebook ads. They are a great way to help advocate causes ranging from education reform to disease research to humanitarian philanthropies. These are some examples:

“This is your brain on drugs”

The Trevor Project — It Gets Better Campaign

Art is Education

UK texting and driving PSA

In class today, you will be scripting your own 1 minute PSA, which will be either in video or audio form. For homework tonight, you will record your PSA and post it to your blog.

Here’s a tutorial video on how to upload videos to WordPress: (It’s a similar strategy for audio).

Workshop # 4 — Working with Research

9 Nov

At this point, you should have completed 3 research journals, which means you should have a nice pool of resources from which you may draw information. I want you to pick the most interesting or useful one to work with for this workshop.

From the piece you have chosen, I want you to chose the best line or idea (quote or paraphrase) and write it down.

Now, we’ll follow the basic steps for using outside information in a paper:

Introduce: Where did your quote/paraphrased idea come from? Who said it? A doctor? A lawyer? A love expert? A magazine editor? Your bff? And in what context? What is the conversation surrounding this idea?

Quote/Paraphrase: I think this is self-explanatory. Don’t forget to use proper MLA citations! Even if it’s a letter, you can always edit them out of your real copy, but for class purposes, I will need to know that you know how to do them.

Interpret: What does this quote/paraphrased idea mean to you?

Analyze and Connect the Dots: What does this quote mean to your argument or inquiry? What does it add to your discussion? Why is it important? Why does it matter?


Now for the next part, you will find one additional source for a research journal. This source must be found in the library databases.


When you’re finished, you should begin to incorporate these sources into your next draft (which is due tomorrow).

Workshop # 3: Modest Proposal

3 Nov

from -- This is what happens when you don't pay attention to what you read.


For today, you read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” followed by a current day “Modest Proposal.” Now, it’s your turn to try your hand at satire. Thinking about the strategies Swift uses, create your own “modest proposal” for a resolution to your issue.

Post these to your blogs.


Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”:

Daniel L.’s “A Modest Proposal”: