February 2010 Archives

Due Today:

Proposal for Unit 3

Upload to Turnitin.com.

Before you write the proposal:
  • Of the units we have not yet studied as a class, choose two that you are interested in exploring for Unit 3.
  • What are the criteria you used in order to determine which of these two possibilities is the superior option?  What makes it superior, in your eyes? (You don't need to convince ME that it's superior, just explain clearly what made you choose A over B.
  • Example: (This paragraph is pretty dry, but it does demonstrate one possible way to organize your reasons for making a choice.)
    My wife and I decided to choose the Toyota Sierra over the Rav4 because the Sierra was less expensive, safer, and more reliable. [A sentence or two about expense; a sentence or two about safety; a sentence or two about reliability.]  While Snowmageddon 2010 did occasionally leave us wishing for the Rav4's four-wheel drive, so long as the Sierra stays off the list of Toyotas recalled for gas pedal flaws, we're satisfied with our choice.
Format for the Proposal
Write a 200-word paragraph (demonstrating your ability to cite brief passages, rather than fill up the space with long quotations and full titles), explaining why your first choice is better than your second choice.

Evaluation Checklist:
  • Is the submission a well-formed, 200-word paragraph?
  • Does it have a meaningful title?
  • Does the paragraph mention two valid choices for Unit 3?
  • Does it contain a thesis that explains why one option is superior to the other?
  • Does the body of the paragraph supply brief quotations to support the thesis?
  • Does the submission emphasize original thought over summary?
  • Does the submission include a Works Cited list?

General Guidelines

  • Be specific (quoting from at least two sources).
  • Use brief quotations from  your sources, cited with efficient use of MLA style, in order to make complex connections between the sources you choose to support your claim.

NoIn the essay "The Full Title of an Essay Fills Lots of Space" by Maxwell Wordsworth Fuller, it talks about how easy it is to bury your own thoughts when you introduce quotes in inefficient ways. In a passage on page 128, Fuller writes, "Keep in mind that your instructor wants to evaluate your own thoughts, not your ability to quote somebody else's thoughts, so quote just the juiciest, most meaning-laden passages from your sources, and use the brief MLA style parenthetic citation, rather than spelling out the full title and the full name of your source."  This quote shows how important it is to cite your sources efficiently.

The author of the above passage uses a formula that includes the full name of the source, the author, an introduction, a long quote, and then an explanation of the quote. The author has managed to churn out about 110 words, but where do you see any evidence of original thought?

NoCiting your sources in proper MLA style can help you focus tightly on making an argument.  Because "your instructor wants to evaluate your own thoughts," you can "quote just the juiciest, most meaning-laden passages from your sources" (Fuller 128).  Efficient citations will let you "spread your intellectual wings a little wider" (Jones 213), because you'll have more room to make "the kind of connections your instructor expects to see in successful academic writing" (Lee 43). While learning the details of MLA style may feel like a pain, the space it saves gives you room to demonstrate your true strengths as a writer.

In about 102 words, the author of the above passage has introduced brief quotes from three different sources, using those brief quotations to help present a claim about MLA style.  The quotations exist in order to support a claim that is related to the readings, but can't be found, in its full form, in any one source. 

The second passage uses sources to support an argument, while the first passage simply cites sources mechanically, as part of a formula that produces a lot of words.

Assigned Text:

Reading 2-6

From the gender on unit, "True Women and Real Men," pick any essay we have not already read in class. 
Assigned Text:

Reading 2-5

Assigned Text:

Reading 2-4

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Reading 2-3

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Reading 2-2

Assigned Text:

Reading 2-1

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Visual Portfolio

Bring a printout to class. Half a page (100-150 words).

Write the usual reflection paper, only this time focus on the "Visual Portfolio" in the chapter the class has chosen to explore for Unit 2.  Follow the same four-step process all the other reflection papers asked you to follow.

For Unit 2, the class chose the unit on gender; you can find the page number of the visual portfolio by looking in the table of contents. 

In your reflection paper, you are welcome to refer to the captions, but go beyond quoting from the captions, and explore specific details -- a facial expression, a shadow, a bit of background detail -- that you feel makes a significant comment on the unit theme.
Upload to Turnitin.com.

The different steps in this assignment are designed to help you move from a very general first impression of as subject, to an exploration/discovery phase, to the choice of materials you feel are suitable for further study. This preparatory work will help you make an informed decision about what selections to propose for the Unit 2 reading list.

First, skim through all the essays in section 4, "True Woman and Real Men: Myths of Gender," which the class chose for our focus during Unit 2.

  1. Choose four selections (other than the "Visual Portfolio").
    For each selection:
    1. Quote a brief passage that interests you (and provide the proper in-text parenthetical citation).
    2. Respond to each quotation, demonstrating your ability to focus on the words the author has written (rather than demonstrating your ability to express your feelings/opinions on the general topic, or to share stories from your personal experience).
  2. Of the four you chose above, select two that you recommend the class read. Write a single paragraph (about 200 words), explaining why the class should vote for your selections. Demonstrate your ability to integrate brief quotations.
Complete this exercise in Turnitin.com. Although class does not meet today, this assignment is due online.
Class will not meet. I will instead use class time, and additional office hours, to schedule 10-minute one-on-one consultations, during which I will give you feedback on Paper 1 (Draft).
Skim through the other chapters in Rereading America, and review the introduction (which we read earlier in the term).

Of the themes we have not yet studied, choose two (represented by different units in the book) that you want the class to explore during Unit 2.  Write a brief paragraph (100 words) that gives your best argument for each choice, and also explain why your top choice beats out your second choice. Upload to Turnitin.com.
Now that we've had two opportunities to get feedback on your thesis for Essay 1, the time has come for us to see what kind of a paper you can get out of the thesis you've chosen.  During the peer-review process, I'm going to ask you to focus on whether your partner's paper 1) arises from a careful study of at least one of our assigned readings, and 2) supports a non-obvious, debatable claim that a rational person could possibly disagree with.

How can you zero in on a small slice of your topic, and really look at the reasons why there is a conflict? People don't conflict because they are evil, they conflict with each other because one person has access to certain facts and interprets them according to certain values, and comes to a certain conclusion that seems rational. Another person, with access to a slightly different set of facts, and a slightly (or greatly) different set of methods for interpreting those facts comes to a different conclusion.

  • Do we listen to what activist supermodels say about the environment, or do we listen to what objective scientists say? 
  • What if the supermodel is paid millions of dollars to endorse incandescent light bulbs or gas-hungry SUVs? And what if the scientist is paid millions of dollars by an environmental special-interest group?
  • Do we listen to what life-long dairy farmers say about cows, or do we listen to what life-long vegans say about cows?

There are good reasons for answering those questions in different ways, and the process of creating and supporting an intellectual argument includes seeking out for yourself the best reasons why a person might disagree with you, and explaining your own opinions in terms that don't make it sound like only an idiot would disagree with you.
Due Today:

Paper 1 Draft (3pg)

If you have not submitted Unit 1 Proposal to Turnitin.com, do so ASAP (for class participation credit).

In class: Review 2 or 3 peer drafts
Fill out and submit to me (by the end of the period) 2 "Essay 1 Draft Peer Review" sheets. (Share your feedback with your classmate first.)

I will distribute copies of the rubric I will use when I evaluate your REVISION, which is due Feb 22.

Last 10 minutes: Unit 2 Voting. (What book section will we choose for Unit 2?)


Feb 15 No Class.
Feb 15 Online Peer Review due (complete it in Turnitin.com)
Feb 15/16: Meet with me for conferences, during which I will give you feedback on your draft.
Feb 17: Unit 2 Pre-reading Assignment (we will use this when we vote on what essays to pick for Unit 2)
Feb 22: Revision of Essay 1 Due (submit to Turnitin.com)

In class today, we will sign up for 10-minute conferences to discuss Paper 1.  The conferences will take place Monday and Tuesday.  During the conferences I will give you feedback on your rough draft.
Update:  E-mail your thesis to me today (Wednesday) if you'd like feedback before Friday. The rough draft of Essay 1 is still due Friday.
Which do you think sounds like a more promising start to an academic essay that makes a specific, non-obvious, debatable claim that arises from our readings? (Recall that Essay 1 does not ask you to work in every reading. Stringing together a bunch of mini-papers that refer to a large number of essays is a quick way to produce length, but it's hard to generate depth if you keep starting over after every few sentences.  Focus instead on a small number of readings.)

Option 1:
In his essay, "Idiot Nation," Michael Moore discusses the importance of literacy in the education of youth.  Mike Rose discusses the same topic in "I Just Wanna be Average," and Malcolm X also discusses his experiences learning to read in prison, in "Learning to Read."  The different authors all have important things to say about reading, and they offer different solutions to the problem of illiteracy among our youth.
Option 2:
If the federal government does not reverse an anti-library trend that began during the Nixon administration (Moore 141), fewer students will experience what Rose called membership in a "fledgling literati" (171) of book lovers, and more students will end up like Malcolm X, who had to land in prison before he encountered "the very first set of books that really impressed [him]" (312).
Note that Option 1 simply identifies the topic of each of the three essays. The claim "The different authors all offer different solutions" is so general that nobody could possibly disagree with it, so there is no reason to write a whole paper in support of it.

Because the snow day has canceled classes, I'm asking you to e-mail your thesis statements to me today (Feb 10).  I will offer feedback on the following criteria:

1) Is the TOPIC a specific issue that arises from the readings?
"Education" is too vague; "Bullying" is not something our set of readings addresses, so it's off-topic.  "Student Motivation" or "Teacher Expectations" or "Freedom and Order" are all something that several readings address, so they are probably good topics.

2) Does the TOPIC meaningfully engage with the assigned readings?
One way to make sure you are engaging with the readings is to mention one or two of the authors in your thesis.
  • Education is important, because it is the key to a society's future.
    (We don't need to read any of the essays in Rereading America to argue that claim.)
  • Humor is an effective way to get your point across, especially if the facts are dry.
    (Again, while you might conceivably use Moore as an example of someone who successfully uses humor, and Anyon or Tannen as examples of a person with a lot of dry facts to communicate, the assignment is to write a paper about education, not a paper about how to keep people's attention in an essay.)
3) Is the SPECIFIC CLAIM non-obvious and debatable?
  • "Education is important" or "Motivated students succeed" are both obvious claims; nobody would argue against them, and it's not necessary to read any of the essays in our textbook to hold that opinion. 
  • "Michael Moore uses humor" is not debatable, because it's a factual observation.
  • "Because Michael Moore relies so heavily upon humor, [make your debatable claim here]. YES!  That's a good example of using an observation to set up a claim, rather than delivering an observation in the place where a claim should go.
  • "I agree/disagree with Gattto" is an opinion; your job is not to prove the fact that you have an opinion, but rather to explain the reasons for your opinions.
  • "Gatto's use of educational theory and his own personal history creates a convincing argument against school" includes a hint of opinion -- you say his argument is "convincing" -- but this thesis mostly just summarizes Gatto's opinion.
    (In high school, you got points for summarizing and agreeing with the textbooks you were supposed to read; in this class, I've assigned essays whose authors disagree with each other; you can't simply summarize them all and say they're all right.) 
Below, I'll repeat here the models that were part of the Pre-writing Portfolio 1 directions.

First -- I've Posted Feedback on Ex 1 to Turnitin.com

I really enjoyed reading your goals for STW, and have posted my feedback (grades and comments) to the site.   You can find my feedback by clicking on the red apple next to your submission.

Recall that I said I would evaluate Ex 1 based on your ability to write a 200-word paragraph, to cite the sources, and to focus on telling me something I didn't already know.  But my feedback also includes additional notes. 

Comments I left on individual student papers included a reference to the US Government's Plain Language initiative, the difference between "close minded" and "closed-minded," how analytical writing can be creative (and vice-versa), and the value of grabbing the reader's attention with a catchy title.

When you view those marginal notes, think of each one as an invitation to a discussion. Feel free to send me an e-mail, or work a response into your next reflection paper or pre-writing assignment, or come by my office for a visit.

Pre-writing Portfolio 1 is a collection of several short assignments, designed to help you get a good start on Paper 1. Include all the assignments in a single word processor file, and upload the submission to the proper slot in Turnitin.com.

More details appear below, but In brief, the components of the pre-writing portfolio are:

  1. A personal essay that demonstrates your ability to connect all the readings we've done so far in Rereading America
  2. A complete Works Cited list for all the sources your paper uses.
  3. A preliminary thesis for Essay 1
  4. Optional: Your blueprint (supporting points and organizational structure you plan to implement) for your rough draft of Essay 1.

Full details on each component of the portfolio follow.  But first, let's talk a bit more about  Paper 1.

Assigned Text:


Assigned Text:


For all assigned readings, please bring the requested four-step response.

Assigned Text:


From now on, the syllabus won't include an extra reminder about the reading response, but it will still be due for every assigned reading.

Assigned Text:

Integrating Quotations

What is your reaction to the differences between sample paragraphs 1 and 2?

Sample 1

In the 1992 book, Cooking Disasters of the 20th Century, by Fred Smith, it explains why an important state dinner celebrating the Treaty of Ulm was ruined, resulting in a social calamity that caused the host, Lord Alfred, to lose nearly all of his social status and prestige: "Lord Alfred's infamous celebration in honor of the Treaty of Ulm was marred when an assistant chef failed to notice that the cheese was was spoiled. The foul taste sparked a squabble at a side table, which led the French ambassador to believe he had narrowly escaped assassination by poison. While the legal matter was quickly put to rest, Lord Alfred's reputation never fully recovered from the scandal, and his future in politics was all but ruined" (Smith 102). As you can see from the example of Lord Alfred, overlooking a small detail might lead to a great disaster.

Work Cited

Smith, Fred. Cooking Disasters of the 20th Century. New York: Half-Baked Press,1992.

Sample 2

At Lord Alfred's infamous Treaty of Ulm Banquet, a junior chef ruined the cheese, and the scandal "all but ruined" Lord Alfred (Smith 102).

Work Cited

Smith, Fred. Cooking Disasters of the 20th Century. New York: Half-Baked Press,1992.

What point is the author making with both passages?  Would you rather have to read through a long passage in Sample 1, or would you rather read the one-sentence version?

Note that Sample 2 does not present the title of the book or the full name of the author.  Sample 2 only quotes three words from the original source, but they are three carefully-chosen words that make a clear point.

Your reading assignment for today is "Integrating Quotations," a handout that goes into more detail about why and how to move from a rookie's citation style, which uses a lot of words but says very little, to a smoother, more advanced style (that leaves more room for you to develop your ideas).


Education 2.0

Assigned Text:

Malcolm X

Remember your half-page printed response paper.

1. Summary
2. Quotation
3. Opinion
4. Question

Assigned Text:


Remember your half-page printed response paper.

1. Summary
2. Quotation
3. Opinion
4. Question

(See the Rose assignment for a review of what I'm looking for in each section.)

What are your goals for this class?

Write a single paragraph, about 200 words, in a form that demonstrates you have mastered the paragraph skills taught in Basic Composition. Submit it by uploading it to Turnitin.com.

Demonstrate your ability to write in-text citations by including brief quotations (several words or phrases, rather than several complete sentences) from at least two different sources (such as the catalog description of your major, the syllabus for this class, or a paper you wrote for another class) that support your main idea.

Use this template to get you started:

MLA Template.docx

I am asking for a personal statement that tells me something I don't already know.

I am asking you to demonstrate your ability to cite two outside sources in MLA style. (This is an important skill that I'd like you to master sooner rather than later.)

Click on the "Help" tab to see a reminder about where to find information about citations, and also to see the Turnitin.com login information.

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