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Process and Post-Process Writing in The Composition Classroom

This post does not seek to discredit teachers using older editions of Writing and Rhetoric textbooks. I will offer an alternative model that can...
office hours

Advice: Revamping Office Hours

Are your office hours dragging? Do they feel like a waste of time? Or maybe they're just lagging this semester? Take a look at...
student engagement

Student Engagement Articles

Maintaining student engagement can be difficult, especially as we near midterms where students' minds are preoccupied with any number of papers, exams, or presentations....
concision handout

Handout: Concision for Creative Writers

If you're looking for a way to encourage your creative writing students to be more concise, try this simple concision handout.       Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash    
how to avoid thing words

Handout: Avoiding ‘Thing’ Words

I'll admit right off the bat that my major pet peeve is 'thing' words. Something. Nothing. Anything. Everything. And just plain old thing. In...
writing anxiety

Activity: Exploring the Output of Writers

A great piece of advice for any writer is to read as much as possible. If one wants to write novels, reading great novels...
office challenge

Activity: The Office Challenge

Office hours can feel long, laborious, and lonely when no one shows up, especially in the beginning of a semester. One way I've found to increase my students' use of office hours is to challenge them to meet with me. 

Handout: Peer Review Forms

These handouts were developed to help students provide productive and specific feedback during peer review. They support students in giving constructive criticism based on specific generic expectations, such as the strength of thesis statements, organization, and use of sources. 
usable syllabi under construction

Creating Usable Syllabi

We're all familiar with the frustrations that come from students not reading the syllabus. But I've come to realize the problem isn't one of whether or not the syllabus is read, but one of if and how it's used.
classroom hacks

Advice: “Classroom Hacks” a Podcast for Educators 

The goal of the “Classroom Hacks” podcast is twofold: we are trying to provide an avenue for perspective and advice on teaching and we try to incorporate a little bit of lightheartedness and humor to help remind each other that we can relate to our interconnected, educational plight.
Syllabus syllabuses syllabi

Three Ways to Visualize Your Syllabus

While the syllabus forms the foundation of a course, it doesn't always reach it's full potential. By nature, the syllabus is linear. The daily plans...
argumentative essay outline

Handout: Outlining Argumentative Essays

A useful handout that explains how to outline an essay. It draws on similar examples from my handout on Common Thesis Complaints.         Feature image by Andrew...
critical thinking activity for college students

Activity: Zombie Apocalypse & Critical Thinking

It can be difficult to engage students in critical thinking, but this activity helps students think outside the box and anticipate problems. I've found...

Handout: Common Thesis Complaints

This handout I made in sheer frustration after hearing the same complaints about thesis formulation over and over again from my students. I've learned in my...

Handout: The Bad Boyfriend Counterargument

This handout is a counterargument explanation sheet using the example of trying to persuade your loved ones that your bad boyfriend is not so bad....
grammar as meaning

Activity: Grammar as Meaning in ‘Dear John’ Letters

Students are often intimidated by grammar because they're led to believe it's a case of 'right' or 'wrong.' Some students get so caught up...

Advice: Engaging Your Class in Peer-Listening During Presentations

Being teachers and instructors, we frequently include oral presentations into our syllabi. Unlike other group or individual activities, Power Point presentations on a particular...
office hours

Advice: Student Centered Office Hours

Those of us who teach Creative Writing usually have the luxury that our students actively choose to be in the class. When they come...
creative writing activities for college students

Activity: Characters, Conflict, and Goals

It can be difficult to reveal connections between key elements of craft in fiction writing classes, but this activity is designed to do just that.

Activity: Concrete Imagery in Poetry Scattegories

To begin: I have students call out a list of abstractions. Usually we end up with some variation on the following: fear sadness joy depression ...
touchstone moments

Activity: I Was Wearing Them the Day–Touchstone Moments and Details for the Fiction Writer

I’ve always been interested in the question of where the fiction writer finds material. I’ve always been particularly interested in how the autobiographical gets...
Group project assignment

Advice: Raising the Stakes: Group Projects as Competitive Contests

Group projects regularly cause trepidation but structuring them as competitive contests leads students away from generic and predictable outcomes.
unruly class

Advice: Engaging the Unruly Class

An unruly class can leave us feeling flustered, frustrated, and downright helpless. Try these strategies to help refocus your students' attention.

Assignment: The Advice Column Two Ways–Part Two: First-Year Writing

My FYW classes include lessons on the rhetorical appeals, and Sugar offered me a concrete, easily-digested way of introducing these concepts in class.
advice column assignment

Assignment: The Advice Column Two Ways–Part One: Creative Nonfiction

Writing advice columns with the skills of the essayist allows CNF writers to focus on the shared, often abstract, subjects of disparate experiences.
grade reflection for students

Activity: Four Ways to Enhance Grading

Sometimes grading seems like a mystery to students so helping them understand how we reach our conclusions is a beneficial step in their learning process.
workshop creative writing feedback

Handout: Ethics Self-Quiz

Discussing ethics in Creative Nonfiction can feel like a static list of do's and don'ts but I start my unit by giving them this Ethics Self-Quiz
Quote integration

Lesson Plan: The Perks of the Quote Integration

The ability to properly quote integrate shows readers that you fully understand the quote and you want them to understand and appreciate it as well.

Activity: Ransom Notes

If you're looking for a different type of in-class activity to get students thinking about word choice, you'll find it with this fun but challenging task.

Activity: Sidewalk Chalk

An activity designed to help students understand the vulnerability that comes with public photographs, particularly in the context of war images.

Activity: Evaluative Scavenger Hunt

One of the areas of writing I teach is evaluation.  Students learn that we make assessments based on quality, opposition, rankings or comparisons, and...

Activity: Refurbishing

I recently read a quotation by Janet Finch, who reminds writers, “You’re a writer and you have to invent it from scratch, all by...
activity creative writing workshop

Activity: Class Starters for the Fiction Workshop

For fiction writers, provocation is part of the job description. The same should go for our teaching of fiction, especially with students who are...

Activity: Analyzing Privilege

In our current, cultural landscape there are many divisive topics that individuals associate with while dismissing contrary perspectives.  It is easy to disregard what someone else has to say when there is a gap in empathy and connectivity.  The goal of this exercise, in dismantling, or “checking one’s privilege”, is to allow students to see what kind of advantages they may take for granted while overlooking some of the obstacles others may have to face on a daily basis.

Activity: Drawing, Doodles, and Sketches

Most of the activities and assignments in our classrooms revolve around writing and reading, but having students draw, sketch, or doodle can give them news ways to express and connect their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. In this artical you'll find five ways to help students embrace their visual skills.
Revision activities

Five Revision Activities

Five revision activities you can use either inside or outside the classroom to show the importance and effects of revision. 

Advice: Opening up Office Hours

A common complaint of college instructors is how many of their students don’t come to office hours when they are struggling. As instructors, we...

Assignment: College Writing, Procrastination, and Music

This multi-genre assignment asks students to first explore how much they know their tendencies to procrastinate in a personal essay, then to interview a peer about their respective writing processes, and finally, to compare their own personal essay and an analysis of their interview in a cover letter.
literacy teaching higher education

Assignment: Emailing in Academic Context

An assignment that asks students to compose several short versions of an email for different audiences and perform a brief analysis of the differences between the emails.

Assignment: Write Club

Two opposing writers. Two opposing ideas. This assignment captures the essence of Ian Belknap's Write Club as it has students face off in argument based presentations.
Class discussion

Is it Really All My Fault? Sharing on In-Class Discussions

I’ve become familiar with the resistance to classroom discussions, but, until recently, I always assumed good discussions were lacking because students are, generally speaking, lacking in “critical thinking.” But last week, something happened that made me reconsider.

Assignment: The Hip-Hop Nation

An argumentative essay that requires students to clearly articulate their position on whether rap and hip-hop have a negative or positive effect on its listeners, if there should be control over the content of songs, and to explore the reasons why people are affected by these genres so strongly.

Handout: Literary Magazine Submissions

A handout covering the basics of submitting to literary magazines: where to submit, cover letters, terminology, and mistakes to avoid.

Assignment: The Moth Memoir

An assignment that asks students to create what the Moth's mini-memoirs are known for: true stories, well told. 
international teaching assistants meaning negotiation

Meaning Negotiation in International Teaching Assistant Preparation Classes

For International Teaching Assistants, meaning negotiation plays a vital role when it comes to interactions with native English speaking undergraduate students in the laboratory or in the classroom. In this article, I share a few tips that can help ITA instructors or coaches guide ITAs through their interactions with their (future) undergraduate students.

Lesson Plan: Paraphrasing

A PowerPoint presentation explaining what paraphrasing is, how to paraphrase, and an in-class activity for paraphrasing.

Assignment: Review Beyond the Food

This assignment goes beyond your standard food review as it asks students to research and evaluate all aspects of the restaurant including its history, location, and design. It includes a focus on using sensory descriptions and depictions to entice the reader.

Assignment: Social Justice Proposal

A written group assignment that asks students to create a proposal designed to convince a funding agency to fund their organization’s new social justice project.

Assignment: Public Art Profile

This assignment asks students to familiarize themselves with public art and their city by finding one piece to describe, research and analyze. It encourages students to reveal the connections between artists, locations, and communities.

Handout: MLA & the Annotated Bibliography

A 2-page handout focusing on MLA citations and formatting for an annotated bibliography.
career profile assignment

Assignment: Grammar Lesson Presentation

A grammar presentation assignment for small groups on an assigned topic. Each group is required to provide an explanation, examples, and a way for the class to practice the lesson. This assignment also includes a reflective component.

Lesson Plan: Incorporating Quotations, Claims, & Evidence

A PowerPoint presentation that breaks down different types of evidence and explains how and when to use them.

Handout: Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism is more than just copying and pasting the words of others and this can sometimes be difficult to explain to students. The handout below illustrates the different types of plagiarism and provides examples that can be used for an in-class activity and discussion.
career profile assignment

Assignment Sequence: The World as Seen, Heard, Experienced, Written

An assignment sequence where students explore the world of the arts, beginning with photography and increasing in writing involvement and critical scrutiny through the worlds of music and film before finally concluding in a work of literature. Through these various lenses, students examine both the status of these arts, what goes into evaluating them, and their relation to their campus, its history, and the world at large.
Feedback Creative Writing

Creative Writing Feedback: On Finding Praise

There’s a lot of talk in teaching circles about feedback—how to give an appropriate amount that doesn’t overwhelm the student (or the teacher’s workload) and balances praise and constructive criticism. Finding praise is, of course, characterized by its very verb as the part where you have to strain yourself, what you include to soften the blow your critique.
Current Events Article Activity

Activities: The Current Event Article

I’ve taught multiple sections of composition over the years and without fail a majority (but not all) of my students have little interest in...

Visualizing Class Participation

A diagram that helps students and teachers be on the same page when it comes to understanding expectations for and evaluations of class participation.
call for submissions

Official Call for Submissions

During Office Hours, a website for teachers in higher education, is looking for submissions for practical, usable teaching related content.
in-class activity

Activity: Post-It Notes

This is a great first-day exercise used to create a sense of community as well as clarify questions or misconceptions about the course. It can also be used mid-semester as a check-in for the class.
career profile assignment

Assignment: Critical Etymology

A brief description of a critical etymology writing assignment for a 200-level Introduction to Criticism and Theory course