Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interview Inquiry Assignment (to help with that thing called research)

As we discussed in our meeting today, I provided this information in the form of a handout to my students and am having them respond in their writer's notebooks. I can give you an update on how it actually plays out once I read these entries, but one of my students is already extremely excited about the 25-page Princess Diana interview he's analyzing...and that makes me excited too. Here's the assignment:

Notebook Assignment: Interview Inquiry

1. Find an article of an interview with a person who you have an interest in, such as your favourite author, artist, musician, athlete, actor, etc. You may find an article in a newspaper, magazine, online publication, or another source.

2. After carefully reading the interview, consider whether the questions asked by the interviewer were as effective and interesting as possible, given the interviewee and subject matter. Consider answers to the following questions in your notebook:

Ø What were the most effective and engaging questions and strategies used by the interviewer?

Ø What strategies could the interviewer have used to make the interview and interview questions more effective and interesting to the reader?

Ø What questions would you have asked differently or not have asked at all?

Ø Did the interviewer leave any holes or gaps in the interview?

Ø Did the interview provoke you to think of further questions that were neither asked nor answered?

3. After writing your response to the above questions in your notebook, answer the following question in your notebook: How may an activity such as critically reading and critiquing an interview assist you in your own research process? (Remember: An interview is a form of research, so in the interview that you read, the interviewer is conducting research and presenting his/her findings to you, the reader.)

4. Be sure to attach the interview to your notebook along with your response to the questions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yeah, I finally made it to the blog! Somebody hug me.
Ok, so getting down to activity that works well for me in memoir is when students trace their hand on a piece of paper and then they write (around the hand) about the following:

1) What scars do you have on your hand? What are those scars from?
2) Who made these hands?
3) What are the best thing these hands have touched?
4) What is the most harm these hands have done?
5) What hidden talents do these hands have?

Then I take up these answers as a class in order to get the students to start thinking about the narratives that already exist in their lives. It works and they love it. Also, playing some music while this happens makes it all the more enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Group Activity - Identifying Trends (and their causes and effects)!

I borrowed the following group activity from page 473 of Writing in the Works (appearing in Chapter 13 - The Research Article), and I received really good feedback from my students about it. I did tweak it a little so thought I would share how I implemented it in the classroom. The students said that it really helped them understand the concept of not only a trend, but also cause and effect, and that discussing it with each other was helpful. Here it goes:

Break the students into groups of 3-4. Each group must produce four examples of contemporary trends, and each group member should contribute at least one trend idea. Then, each group must come up with two causes and two effects for each trend. I think that encouraging them to list more trends or more than two causes and effects per trend would be useful, but due to lack of time today (was I talking too much in class before this activity?), they only had ten minutes to come up with ideas. I then asked each group to share their ideas with the rest of the class, and they had chosen a spokesperson without me prompting them to do so, which seemed to work out well. The results were great: overlapping trends, trends within trends, creative and interesting trends, conflicting trends (which I pointed out would certainly need more research for proof). It was Trend City it my class today, and with all of the students contributing their own ideas as well as hearing each other's, it certainly seemed to clear up any confusion about trends and their causes and effects.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Social Phenomena Exercise (for lack of a better title)

I'm not sure this will be useful, but it is a composition writing exercise that I will be experimenting with tomorrow when I begin teaching my students about trends and researching. First, divide the class into four groups, and have each group represent a newly found island. Their task is to produce a concise report to their elders about a current social phenomenon (another way of looking at trends-- which in this case, they will come up with, such as blogging, flash mobs, cyber-affairs, suicide etc...) taking place as a result of some sort of epidemic (or anything for that matter). So, they must first identify a social phenomenon that is currently taking place in their island.
-To do so, they must investigate what has propelled such a phenomenon to occur, in other words, what are the causes. It could be the environment, an event, an individual, technological invention etc...

-Secondly, what are the effects of such a “trend,” or social phenomenon on the populace?
Who is being affected by it? For instance, is it a specific ethnicity, class, gender, age group etc...
How are they being affected?

-Thirdly, what are the implications of such a trend? Should something be done to reverse this trend if it is having a negative impact on society, or if it is a positive trend, what can be done to further it.

-Finally, have them report their findings to the other students.

This exercise should hopefully mimic the steps that they will consider when writing their research paper, that they are not merely proving that the trend exists but moving beyond that and analyzing the implications of such a trend, and to realize that research always takes place in conversation.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Authority Lists

The authority lists were really Dale's suggestion but I just wanted to say that they worked really well with my class. I had the students identify 5 areas where they felt like they were an authority as well as 5 areas where they wished to be an authority. After this, I had eveyone go through the top choice on their list and identify where they could find more information about the subject. For example, one student felt like she was an authority on guitars and she identified that she could learn more about her subject from interviewing musicians or looking at subject-specific books. This was a good way to help the students start thinking about research (for their exposition papers) as well as getting to know them and their interests.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Writing Exercise: Alphabet

In this exercise, first choose a topic (either choose one yourself--I used "writing"--or come up with one with the class). Next, on a loose piece of paper, ask students to write each letter of the alphabet along the left-hand side of the paper:

Only giving them a brief period of time (1-2 minutes), ask students to write a word beginning with each letter on the topic you have chosen (ie. for writing, P for "pen", R for "research" etc.). When time is up, most students will have incomplete alphabets. Next, ask them to group up with 2-3 other people to share answers—together, as the members of each group exchange their answers, each individual's alphabet will become more complete. When everyone's alphabet is mostly complete, ask students to read their alphabets aloud for even more idea exchange.

This emphasizes the value of others to contribute new ideas and perspectives to their writing and reinforces the value of group work.

Writing Exercise: Group Narrative

In this exercise, you will all participate in writing a portion of a story. To begin, each of you will write a paragraph describing, in as much vivid detail as possible, any setting you can imagine. Then you will pass this onto someone else who will then write a paragraph in the next section. At the end of this exercise, we will have many complete stories with all four sections:

1. Setting

2. Character

3. Problem/Conflict

4. Solution

This writing exercise was always a big success in my class; a great ice breaker (especially if you ask the students to introduce themselves as they exchange sheets) and a great way to start discussing the narrative arc. Plus, it's always a lot of fun to get volunteers to read the final products, which are always hilarious.