Finding Your Hidden Intellectualism: Writing Assignment for Composition

Writing Assignment: Finding Your Hidden Intellectualism

Instructor Ronald B. Richardson


In this unit, we will look at hobbies and interests through which participants demonstrate “hidden intellectualism,” a term Gerald Graff coined to describe academic skills that participants utilize in traditionally non-academic pursuits, such as sports, cheerleading, comic books, video games, television, music, fashion, dancing, shopping, cooking, and so on. It’s not enough, however, to simply write about interests, student-scholars need to see their hobbies or interests through “academic eyes,” or as Ned Laff puts it, in “a reflective, analytical way, one that sees [their hobbies] as microcosms of what is going on in the wider culture” (qtd. in Graff 64). In other words, students need to show how the hobby relates to larger worlds of academics and culture.

Your Task

Drawing on the in-class essay on Graff’s essay, reading forums, class discussions, and prewriting activities, write a four to six page double-spaced, typed essay in MLA format, describing a hobby or interest through which you or others develop academic skills, such as persuading others, making arguments, supporting an opinion with evidence, responding to the views of others, challenging one’s mind, preparing for college or career, developing important life skills, building morality, strengthening community, and so on. The thesis for this paper should answer the question “How does the hobby or non-academic interest develop a specific academic, career, or life skill?”

Note: “Hobby,” “sports,” “academic skills,” “career skills,” “life skills,” “cognitive skills,” “learning,” and “knowledge” are all too general.

Due Dates

    • Brainstorming of 20-30 hobbies or interests


  • Clustergraph of hobby with 20-30 bubbles naming skills the hobby develops


    • 3-4 pages of freewriting on hobby and the skills that it develops
    • Worksheet and introduction to the Hidden Intellectualism paper to turn in for feedback


  • Worksheet and first body paragraph
  • 1st complete draft of the Hidden Intellectualism paper
  • 3 copies of 2nd draft, revised according to feedback on intro and body paragraph and revision checklist
  • Polished draft, in a folder with drafts, worksheets, checklists, and reflection paper

Assessment Rubric for the “Hidden Intellectualism” Paper

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
The introduction has a catchy hook, introduces Graff’s essay, ties it into the student’s hobby, and presents the thesis.
The thesis, which is one arguable idea, names a specific hobby or non-academic interest and explains what academic, career, or life skill it develops.
Topic sentences connect to the thesis with keywords or synonyms but are more specific and cover all points in the paragraphs.
Every claim is backed up with substantial evidence: examples, facts, anecdotes, and quotes in quotation sandwiches with correct MLA citations.
The paper contains original research from credible sources from the library, library databases, college-affiliated website, or respected news source.
Evidence and quotes are analyzed and their relevance explained, tying evidence back to topic sentences and the thesis.
The writing is clear, specific, detailed, and relatively free of grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes

A superior paper will:

  • include substantial outside research, beyond the requirement.
  • integrate multiple perspectives.
  • give a complex, balanced argument, offering concessions to the other side.
  • analyze quotes for assumptions and implications.
  • demonstrate high levels of critical thinking.
  • have a works cited page in MLA format.

Suggested Structure of the essay

Students don’t have to follow this structure for your essay–good writing does not have to follow a formula–but the format below may help them to present a convincing argument.

Introduction: The introduction should get the attention of the reader with a catchy hook (a surprising fact, a provocative statement, an interesting quote, a rhetorical question, or an anecdote), which leads to an introduction of the issue of your paper, for example, “According to the Literacy Project Foundation, 50% of adult Americans cannot read at an eighth grade level. This fact is shocking, of course, but maybe Americans aren’t reading as well as they should because they haven’t found books that interest them.”

Next, writers should introduce Gerald Graff and one version of his essay “Hidden Intellectualism by telling readers who the writer is and giving a brief summary of the article (one or two detailed lines), then tying this article into the writer’s chosen hobby, “In the article, ‘Hidden Intellectualism,’ Gerald Graff, a professor of . . ., argues . . . Similarly, comics can also help readers develop academic skills.”

Introductions generally end with a thesis, which announces the central argument, a debatable idea, preferably in a “They Say / I Say” format that puts main ideas in conversation with those of others. The thesis for this paper should answer the question “How do participants in the hobby or interest you have selected demonstrate academic skills?” Students could write, “Although some educators think comic books are a waste of time, comics help develop reading ability.”

Body Paragraphs: For each body paragraph, begin with a topic sentence, which addresses only one narrow aspect of the hobby or interest, such as vocabulary development and explains how it involves specific academic skills. An example would be “Reading comics can help readers develop imagination and creativity.” The paragraph should only be about that one idea. If you switch to another idea, change paragraphs. If the paragraph is going on too long, find a way to split it up.

Support topic sentence by giving quotes, summaries, paraphrases, examples, descriptions, and anecdotes about yourself or others. Wrap up the paragraphs with concluding sentences, which tie the supporting statements back into your central thesis.

Conclusion: In the conclusion, reinforce the target audience and purpose of the essay, give a call to action, or suggest areas for further thought or research.

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