Don’t Correct Composition Papers; Don’t Grade Them. Read Them!

Correcting Papers

When composition teachers complain they have a pile of papers to correct, they are invoking out-dated assumptions about composition, namely that there is something wrong with our students’ papers, and our primary job is to seek out those errors and eliminate them. Such teachers count fragments like a judge bound by the Three-Strikes-and-You’re-Out Law, condemning a paper that has too many fragments.

Even if the argument is persuasive and the evidence convincing.

Image from Red Ink in the Classroom?

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21 Best Places to Explore Along the San Francisco Bay Trail and Beyond

I saw many beautiful and fascinating places on my 350-500 mile walk around the San Francisco Bay Trail (and beyond) at every accessible point, including islands, bridges, and docks. Here are my twenty-one favorites in a long overdue post. (All photos are my own unless otherwise noted. Check out more pics at #ronosaurusbaywalk on Instagram. I am now walking around the bay again on the Bay Area Ridge Trail, so check out #ronosaurusbayridge too. See also my guest post on Save the Bay Blog.)

#21 Garbage Mountain

“You bring me to the most romantic places,” Omar Rodriguez-Rodriguez told me when I took him to Garbage Mountain to walk the 2.8 mile Wildcat Marsh and the charmingly named Landfill Loop Trail. More of a squarish hill (158 feet high), the mountain was opened as a dump in 1953 and sealed in 2010. Framed on either side by Wildcat and San Pablo creeks, cutting through vegetation-rich tidal marshes popular with water birds and mammals, the dump is returning to nature. The brochure from Republic Services, which now owns the site, explains that poisonous water leached from the site is treated and used in the park, the nearby Chevron refinery, and the Richmond Country Club. Siphoned methane is converted to electricity and sold to PG&E, enough for 1,500 homes. In short, Garbage Mountain is transforming human waste into a natural preserve and a source of water and energy. A great place for a date (if a little stinky on the downwind side).

Garbage Mountain, as seen from Wildcat Marsh

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Making Vague Words Specific: Activity for Composition Classes

Examine the two sentences below and decide which version you like better. Why?

It is a way of managing them and getting them down on paper. There is nothing unusual about this, and you can learn to do it well and feel good about it if you try.

Writing is a way of capturing elusive, half-formed ideas, dragging them into the light of day, and herding them onto paper. This process is not alchemy; it is a craft, which can be learned like any other, such as making a bookshelf. If you invest the time and effort, you can learn to write powerfully.

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The Most Worstest Introduction: A Group Activity for First Year Composition

Instructions: Tell students that you are going to do a fun writing activity that reviews the typical steps of an introduction and gets students to consider what separates strong from poor academic writing.

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Parallelism Matching Exercise

Purpose: To introduce the concept of parallelism.

Preparation: Print out two sets of the sentences below, cutting one up and leaving the other whole as a guide to the sets of sentences.

Activity: Introduce the concept of parallelism by writing on the board: “I like karate, to play tennis, going skiing.” Ask students to discuss what is wrong with the sentence and to find three ways to fix it. (I like karate, tennis, and skiing. / I like to do karate, play tennis, and go skiing. / I like doing karate, playing tennis, and going skiing.) Elicit the concept of parallelism.

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Group Presentations on Student Services for First Year Composition

This activity is a great way for students to learn about and teach each other about the student services your college has to offer, increasing chances of student retention and success, and can lead nicely into a writing assignment on a Successful Transition to College.

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Successful Transition to College: Writing Assignment for First Year Composition

Background

More people are dropping out of college than are graduating, especially in public colleges and universities. A student’s chances of success are affected by motivation, study skills, persistence, learning styles and abilities, social factors, family background, economics, social integration, extracurricular involvement, student services, and governmental support. How can we help more students transition successfully to college?

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Two Sides of the Same Page: Reading is Writing, Writing is Reading

Reading and writing should not be taught separately. A poor reader is rarely a good writer. On the other hand, a careful reader is often an effective writer.

Pink pyramid reading at a Keith Haring exhibit at the De Young Museum

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Top Twenty One Metafictional Works: The Story That Swallows Its Tale

Fiction about fiction is metafiction, which allow writers and readers to examine the trickiness of storytelling. Here are the best works of metafiction in chronological order. For a much longer list, see my post 111 Best Works of Metafiction.

1. Cervantes, Miguel. Don Quixote. 1605.

Parodying chivalric romance by contrasting the lofty story-lines with the hard-edge of reality, Cervantes established two genres: metafiction and realism. Often called the first modern novel, it could also be called the first post-modern novel. It’s a book about books and the effects they have upon our lives, especially when we try to live out our fictions in the real world. Cervantes challenges the notion of objective history and blurs the distinction between fiction and nonfiction. The events are told by a series of authors nested one within the other like Chinese boxes, which draws attention to how stories are told and how each teller alters the tale. In the second volume, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza hear of the publication of the first. They meet a reader and talk to him about their own book. Don Quixote, expecting a heroic romance, is angered by his portrayal as a deluded, old fool, thus becoming a critic of his own book. (Learn more about this funny and insightful novel in my book Narrative Madness and my many posts about it.)

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111 Most Important Works of Metafiction

What is fiction and why does it matter? Metafiction addresses these questions. Metafiction is fiction about fiction, or fiction that is somehow self-reflective. This is a list of the most important metafictional texts and works that contain metafictional elements, including some metapoems and metaplays, with explanations of what makes them metafiction. For those who want to read more about certain selections, I have included links to relevant posts on my blog and outside sources. This list is not meant to be comprehensive but to give readers an idea of the range and richness of metafiction. Delicious! Enjoy! For a more selective list, see my post Top Twenty One Metafictional Works: The Story That Swallows Its Tale.

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