Posts Tagged: common reading

Posts Tagged ‘common reading’

Apr 09 2008

Assignment Showcase: Common Reading Assignment (Jean Schwind)

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Rhetorical Writing Practicum

Your last two papers focused on writing in the disciplines. The analysis of Bad Haircut emphasized the rhetorical structure (interpretation thesis and supporting arguments) and style required for writing in the humanities. Your gender socialization study used the structure (hypothesis, collection/presentation of data, analysis of data/conclusion) and style of social science research.

This assignment requires you to define the rhetorical context of your writing and to make decisions about how to communicate most effectively within that context.  Because much of the writing that you’ll do after college will be a joint enterprise, this assignment is also designed to give you practice in collaborative writing.  In business, law, teaching, medicine, and other fields, you’ll frequently be writing as part of a team. It’s important to get early practice in the human relations skills (especially negotiating differences, equitably sharing tasks, and synthesizing diverse viewpoints into a coherent whole) that you’ll need in professional writing.

Assignment: Work with your team to develop a user’s guide for one target audience of the 2008 Common Reading, Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation.


1) Begin by defining your audience and purpose. Examine the Common Reading website to explore the possibilities:

List all the different audiences targeted by the Common Reading. Alongside each potential audience, list the various forms or types of assistance with the CR that audience might. Settle on one audience and one purpose.

2) Once you’ve selected an audience, research it. To make appropriate decisions about the rhetorical strategies (use of pathos, ethos, and logos; diction; syntax; example; persona; and structure) that will most appeal to your readers, you must carefully consider who those readers are. If you’re writing for faculty who might use the CR in a first-year core class, examine the course goals and determine how Shame of the Nation is related to those goals.

If you’re writing for students, consider the circumstances in which they’ll be reading the text, how their political beliefs and socioeconomic status might affect their receptivity to Kozol’s argument, and what they’ll want to know about the CR initiative and where they’re likely to discuss it in their first months of campus.

3)  Decide what kind of document your target audience might find most useful. If you’re writing to teachers, consult a professor or two to determine how they use the CR and what kind of supporting material they’d most appreciate. If you’re writing for students, survey classmates about what sort of guidance they’d have found helpful last summer as they read An Inconvenient Truth. The length of your document is a rhetorical choice that should reflect your audience and purpose. For example, a massive study guide may intimidate new students.

Some possibilities:

  • Questions for class discussion for posting on ENG 110 or GST 110 BB sites;
  • Questions to consider while reading that might be posted on the CR website;
  • A classroom activity designed to provoke response to Kozol’s most controversial points. For example, you might write a “how to” guide for organizing a formal debate on questions like: “Is it ethical for a parents to spend $20,000/year sending their three year old to a “Baby Ivy” when there are children in their school district who will enter kindergarten “without even such very modest early-learning skills as knowing how to hold a pencil…or [recognizing] that printed pages go from left to right” (52-53)?
  • A detailed writing assignment. For example, you might design an assignment that asks for a rhetorical analysis of some aspect of Kozol’s argument. Given his ridicule of President Bush’s “flooded engine” metaphor (58-59), it might be fun to examine the rhetorical impact of the most important metaphors that Kozol employs to make his argument.

4) Identify all the parts of your research and writing that you have to do, and distribute them equally among them members of your group. Decide as a group how you will work together to weave your parts into a whole.

5) Drafts of this paper are due on Wednesday, April 9. Revisions are due Wednesday, April 16.  In evaluating these papers, I will consider these questions:

  • Is your choice of an audience and purpose clear and appropriate?
  • Do you use rhetorical strategies designed to appeal to your audience?
  • Does your “user’s guide” focus on key elements of Kozol’s argument in inventive and insightful ways?

Apr 09 2008

University Initiatives and English 110

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Each year, I receive over a dozen requests for English 110 to serve as an instructional site for a new initiative or for data collection. The two initiatives listed below could be implemented in select sections of English 110 while retaining a focus on the English 110 course objectives.

Common Reading

  • 2008-2009 Common Reading: Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
  • Selected by the Common Reading Committee (Jean Schwind is on the committee)
  • See final page of handout for Jean Schwind’s Common Reading assignment; Jean’s students will present their ideas at the 2008 College Writing Showcase.
  • A few ideas that retain a focus on English 110 objectives:
    • Profiles: Politicians responsible for relevant legislation, Schools in ABSS or in students’ hometowns, Kozol
    • Academic Arguments: Supporting or disputing Kozol’s representation of American schools, Proposing alternatives, Examining one of Kozol’s sub-points in more depth
    • Proposals: Calls for change at local, state, or national levels
    • Others?

Environmental Sustainability

  • Initiative to connect campus focus on environmental sustainability to academics
  • Centered in first-year core courses and General Studies
  • Pilot group has been meeting this spring with intention of implementing plans in select sections in the fall
  • Assignment and activity ideas noted in backwards design worksheet examples
  • Interested in participating or learning more? Contact Jessie Moore or Michael Strickland.