Making Vague Words Specific: Activity

Which is Better?

In small groups of two or three students, examine the sets of sentences below and decide which version you like better under each number. Explain why.

1. 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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Diversity: The Fountain of Life, a Source of Education

Diversity is the fountain of life. Without it, eubacteria would still stain the oceans a uniform rust color. Diversity makes change, experimentation, adaptation and evolution possible. When ecosystems are diverse, life thrives. When human populations are diverse, culture flourishes.

Few places on earth are as diverse as the bay area. Residents brush shoulders with Ethiopians and drag queens, Muslims and hippies, quadriplegics and republicans. The bay area shows the world that diverse peoples can live together peacefully, mixing yet maintaining distinct identities. Of course, tensions arise, and communities do not interact as much as they could. Chinatown, the Mission, the Marina, and the Castro are too often separate worlds.

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Writing Assignment: Research Project

Background: This semester, the class has explored forms of “hidden intellectualism,” which are academic skills demonstrated in non-academic pursuits, then examined issues of language, education and identity. Now it is time to research an issue of your own choosing.

Writing Assignment: Select a hotly contested issue from politics, business, science, medicine, literature, film, sports, music, fashion, popular culture, or another field and frame the issue as a question. For example, your central issue could be one of the following: Should the government strengthen gun control laws? Should the courts change the legal status of corporations, so that they are not treated as persons with the rights of individuals? Should stem-cell research continue? What influence on the Hunger Games did the Japanese book and film Battle Royale have? Can rap music be classified as poetry? Should the government regulate the marketing of the fashion industry, so they cannot manipulate consumers’ tastes?

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Revision Checklist for Research Paper

1. Is your title engaging? Does it suggest the approach you are taking in your paper?

2. Does your first paragraph introduce the main issue, name the writer and the work you are responding to, and end with your thesis statement? Will it get the reader interested in your topic?

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Worksheet for a Research Paper

I. Thesis:

A. State your central issue as a question, for example, “Should smoking in certain bars be legal?”

 

B. Answer that question; be as specific as possible: “Smoking should be allowed in certain clearly designated smoking bars.”

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The Right Word Activity

The Goal: To learn the importance of exact wording. The team with the longest list of correct names for things in the classroom after five minutes wins.

When the teacher says “Go,” groups of three or four students will right down the names of things in the classroom for five minutes. The groups may organize themselves anyway they wish, but each group must have only one list of words when the timer goes off. Students are encouraged to use computers and other electronic devices to find the right word for an item. The team with the most words at the end of the activity will get 25 points extra credit each.

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Writing Assignment: Reading as a Detective

Background: After an introduction to literature, poetry, and the evolving genre of romance, we began following the development of mystery from the folktale “Three Princes of Seredip” and Voltaire’s Zadig, or the Book of Fate through Edgar Allan Poe’s crystallization of the detective story in his tales of rationcination, exemplified by “The Purloined Letter.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle further developed and popularized detective fiction in his Sherlock Holmes stories, such as “A Scandal in Bohemia.” We saw the gentleman detective turn into tough, morally complex character in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, then lost ourselves in the many twists of Ira Levin’s play Deathtrap. Throughout this unit, we have explored the connection between detective work and close reading, namely looking for clues and constructing meaning from those clues. Now it’s your turn to practice a bit of detective work on the mystery of your choice.

Goal: To interpret a mystery using techniques of close reading, exploring social issues of morality, class, gender, sexuality, and so on.

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Writing Assignment: The Changing Genre of Romance

Background: After an introduction to writing, literature and poetry, we turned to the genre of romance, whose definition has morphed from chivalric romance (such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) through Gothic romance (as in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte) to modern romance (as represented by the short stories we have read). In “The History of Genre,” Ralph Cohen explains that genres are open categories, which change over time as new texts are added to the set. Genre set up expectations, which individual texts may satisfy or alter. Knowing the conventions of a genre aids readers in understanding and interpreting the work.

Goal: The purpose of the paper is to explore the relationships between individual works of literature and the changing genre of romance.

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“You’re Sick!” Says the Diagnostic Essay

“You’re sick!” says the diagnostic essay, and students hear the message plainly enough. In classes on connotation, I ask students what the associations of “diagnostic” are. Normally, I don’t need to prod students, but if I do two questions will suffice: “What is a diagnosis?” “Who gives a diagnosis?” A doctor diagnoses a patient with an illness, so a “diagnostic” essay turns students into unhealthy patients and teachers into medical practitioners whose primary job it is to determine what is wrong with the student.

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Collaborative and Integrated Composition Classes (with New Media Support)

Introduction

Scholastic writing used to be disconnected. From research: reading and writing took place in different spaces at different times. From other writers: writing was a solitary activity. From previous steps of the process: each piece of writing produced along the way was discarded. From a real audience: students wrote to prove something to a professor who claimed they were engaged in an imaginary “academic discourse.” From authentic purpose: writing ended up in the garbage can and all the student’s hard work, knowledge, insights and craftsmanship were wasted.

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