The End of a 350-Mile Journey
I have walked all around the San Francisco Bay at every accessible point, including islands, bridges, piers, and docks. You can see me below, jumping over the yellow line, marking the spot the walkway on the Golden Gate Bridge reaches land, the end of what was at least a 350 mile journey. Do you think I look pleased?
(Photo by Omar Rodriguez Rodriguez. To my left, Deb Garfinkel, Gary Boren and Katie Fox)
Today, June 20, 2015, a group of friends–Omar Rodriguez Rodriguez, Gary Boren, Katie Fox, Deb Garfinkel, Erik Kessell–and I walked the last leg. We took a ferry to the Sausalito Ferry Landing, then walked along the beautiful waterfront to Fort Baker, on the north side of the bridge, where we had drinks at The Presidio Yacht Club Bar, sometimes known as Mike’s place. (“No,” the bartender said to one of my friends, “we don’t have iced tea. This is a bar.”) After beers and shots of tequila (and a diet coke), we climbed to the bridge and crossed the Golden Gate, and my walk was completed!
Continue reading “Ronosaurus Rex’s Walk Around the San Francisco Bay”
As a writing teacher, you have piles of papers to read, and sometimes, believe me I know, it gets overwhelming. It’s a beautiful day outside, but you are stuck in your office. Your back is aching, your hand is cramping, and your mind is reeling.
Do you have a pile of papers to read? Take a walk!
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I’d just like to mention that student writers love to use the verb “mention.” This writer mentions this and that writer mentions that.
But Herman Melville did not mention a white whale in his novel; he wrote a 704 page book about it. William Shakespeare did not mention the prince of Denmark; he wrote his longest play about this conflicted gentleman. Homer did not mention the Trojan war; he wrote a 15,693 line poem exploring only the later part of the conflict. Edward Gibbon did not mention the fall of the Roman Empire; he penned a six volume work on the subject. Obviously, these are extreme examples, but students do tend to use the verb a lot!
Continue reading ““Mention,” a Favorite Verb of Student Writers”
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.
Continue reading “Diversity: The Fountain of Life, a Source of Education”
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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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.
Continue reading “Writing Assignment: Reading as a Detective”
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, 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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At the beginning of each semester, I give my students a questionnaire, asking them, among other things, what they like and dislike about writing. About 70% respond that they like writing because they can express themselves, their ideas, their opinions, and their feelings. About 40%, however, say that they don’t like writing about topics that don’t interest them. One student wrote, “I like writing when it’s not boring or on a boring topic. I don’t like writing long essays on a random book or a topic not interesting. I have to be interested in my writing and reading.”
Continue reading “Express Yourself . . . in a Composition Class?”
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.
Continue reading “Collaborative and Integrated Composition Classes (with New Media Support)”