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Avoiding Spoilers Gives You a Superficial Appreciation of Art

I very much appreciate that nobody spoiled Star Wars: A New Hope, or Star Trek Beyond. But even after we learn for the first time what happens to Ebeneezer Scrooge, or Bilbo, or Alice, or Jesus, the good stories still retain their cultural power. Stories are much more than plot. [A]rtistic appreciation, which reviewers are tasked with cultivating, should mean more than stoking anticipation for a surprise ending. As reviewer…

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This Is How My Composition & Culture Class Preps an Oral Presentation

Instead of delivering a formal speech for my approval, my students are off in groups, listening to each other. I should note that I don’t let all my students go off like all semester long. They’ve worked hard to get to the point where they know what they need to do, and they are ready to be critical and supportive peer audiences. A healthy democracy is full of people who…

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“What Teachers Make” Sequence of Assignments

Every year I rewatch Taylor Mali’s passionate defense of “What Teachers Make.” As part of a sequence of assignments designed to help students write a more engaging personal literacy narrative, I use Mali’s speech. Yes, it’s my job to teach composition, but composition is a term that applies to music, photography, choreography, athletics, etc. Students already have an intuitive sense of what makes a good Vine, what makes a good…

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How to Disagree

If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages. So here’s an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy: Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at…