Wednesday, December 28, 2011

English 101 Learning Outcomes: Composition as Critical Inquiry

English 101 at Illinois State University teaches under the Rhetorical Genre Studies (RGS) model.  Unlike traditional composition courses, which focus on mastering the specific conventions of academic essays, the RGS model emphasizes recognition of the variety of "genre situations" students will face in their academic, professional, and personal lives.  This recognizes the fact that every writing assignment is governed by its own standards and conventions, and that these in turn shift in accordance with the differing needs and goals of professional and academic disciplines.

Fall 2011, Unit 1: Community, Style, and Syntax in Genre Studies

In Unit 1 of Fall 2011, students worked in groups to share "manufactured documents" on their blogs.  Through these blogs, they imagined stories of shark attacks and murder mysteries, September 11th and the Potato Famine, weddings and college admissions.  Their research focused on both the specific events surrounding these situations and the genre conventions used to report these situations.  From police reports to wedding vows, the students revealed a great deal of creativity in revealing just how we learn about the stories we "know."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

ENG 101 Final Portfolio

The final portfolio represents all the work you've written over the course of the semester.  You should be sure to proofread for grammar and spelling, and then add in notes to let me know which of your pieces stand out as your favorites as well as which ones you felt didn't work as well as you wanted.  Think of this as an opportunity to show what you've learned over the course of the semester

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Uploading PowerPoint Presentations to Facebook

For your Project 4 Proposals, you'll need to upload your slides to Facebook in order to share them with your classmates.

Project 4 Proposal Guidelines - Uploading PowerPoint to Facebook

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Project Proposals: Slides and Text

Next week, you'll be presenting your project proposals to your classmates.  To give you a better idea of what these proposals should look like, I'm putting together a slideshow of what your proposals should include.  Please don't feel limited to PowerPoint - you can certainly create slides, videos, text, or Prezis to propose your project.  However, do make sure to provide information on all the Major Proposal Requirements.

Unit 4 / Project 4 Proposal Guidelines - Uploading PowerPoint to Facebook

Monday, October 31, 2011

Revised Schedule - Unit 4

Here's the revised schedule for the rest of the Fall 2011 Semester.  This schedule includes both our in-class activities and your homework assignments, so please refer back to it as needed.

Unit 4 / Project 4 Overview - Updated Schedule

Project 4: Selling to a Hostile and/or Indifferent Audience

Here it is, our last project of the semester.  For this project, you'll be integrating everything we've worked on so far to create individual projects, and then you'll use Facebook Fan Pages to share your progress and solicit suggestions from other members of your discussion groups.

Final Draft Essay with MLA Citation Due with Final Portfolio on Thursday, 12/8/2011

Unit 4 / Project 4 Overview - Updated Schedule

Thursday, October 27, 2011

CHAT Maps: Who Am I? And Where Am I Writing From?

On Tuesday, we mapped out how some of the lines of causality and detail within our essays.  Today, we're going to look at how we as fit within the scope of our writing - not just as writers, but as people located at a particular time and place in our lives.

Unit 3 / Mapping Writing - Mapping Yourself

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mapping Your Writing: Causality and Details

In writing an article, you want to make sure that you convey your central points in ways which are logical and relatively straightforward.  You want each of your main assertions to prepare the reader for what comes next, and then you want your selected details to support those assertions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Choosing Groups and Topics for Your Grassroots Articles

This week, we're going to use the perspectives gained in your portfolios to go ahead and write articles for the Grassroots Writing Research Journal (GWRJ).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Midterm Assessment: Negotiating Grades

Today we're going to go over midterm assessments (a continuation of Student-Centered Grading).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What is Plagiarism? (and how do we avoid it?)

Plagiarism is one of those "heavy" words in an English course - or in any humanities course.  We are constantly told that we must avoid it, and yet we are using a genre studies model which calls for collaboration and research.  This is why today we're going to talk a bit about what plagiarism is (and what it isn't).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alternative Assessment: Student-Centered Grading

Today we'll look at how we assess our progress as individuals, as group members, and as students within the larger context of the classroom and university.  Much of the "changes" we'll be looking at involve how to enter this discussion with our colleagues about personal performance.

This lesson is based largely on Cathy N. Davidson's article Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Examples of Visual Projects

Here are a few examples of visual projects that I've put together over the past year.  These are mostly just to give an idea of what a project might look like.  You'll naturally want to choose your own direction for your project, but I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have on how to use related techniques.

Bear in mind that the way you describe your project is more important than the final product.  I'm looking for your writing process, for how you think about presenting information.

Unit 2 / Genre Conventions - Visual Projects

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Write About Conventions - Some Examples

Here are some examples to help show how to write about genre conventions.  Their taken from a science fiction course I taught in January 2011.

Unit 2 / Genre Conventions - Visual Projects

Monday, September 19, 2011

Narrative from Chaos: Learning to Tell (and Retell...) the Story

Writers create meaning from disparate sources, bringing together ideas from across vast swaths of human experience.  For this unit, we'll be looking at how this process occurs and how you can use it to deepen your writing.

Unit 2 / Music Videos - Parody Videos
Intro to Chaos and Narrative

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Music Videos: Image, Lyrics, and Tone as Visual Literature

Whether you're crafting a documentary or sharing a funny moment from your childhood, photos and videos can significantly affect the audience's experience.  One of the best places to observe this effect is in music video covers, where a single song can be transformed using changes in visual imagery and themes.  In your writing, you can apply these same considerations as you compose the visual scenes within your stories and poems.  By drawing the reader's eye to certain images as opposed to others, you can adjust the way your writing is seen and understood.

Unit 2 / Music Videos - Parody Videos
Intro to Chaos and Narrative
Of Related Interest: Parody and Satire

Video Parody: Bending Visual Genres

The accepted conventions of a given genre are often best seen in parody.  By looking at trailers and "spoof" trailers for Mary Poppins and The Shining, we can see how choices in scene selection and music can drastically change the tone and message of a piece.

Please Note: A few of the video trailers featured here are a bit disturbing.

Unit 2 / Music Videos - Parody Videos
Intro to Chaos and Narrative
Of Related Interest: Parody and Satire

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Workshop Group Rotations

Earlier, we discussed the role of peer review in helping us improve as writers, and then we used the methods of progressive feedback to give constructive help to our fellow writers.  Today we'll use these techniques as we prepare written feedback for our classmates in different groups.

**Note: Since you'll be responding to feedback and completing revisions, tonight's homework assignment is cancelled.  We'll  wait until next week to transition from Blackboard to Moodle.**

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Progressive Workshop Feedback: Four Rules

The success of any writing workshop depends upon the quality of the feedback.  The way we present this feedback is often just as important as the feedback itself.  Here are four "Rules to Live By" when providing feedback to your peers.

Workshop Peer Review - Four Rules of Progressive Feedback

Monday, September 12, 2011

Workshop Peer Review: Helping Writers Improve through Directed Feedback

Today we're going to look at how we provide feedback to help our peers improve their writing.  Receiving feedback can help you better understand how your audience perceives what you've written - giving feedback will help you attune your senses as to what's important in written work.

Workshop Peer Review - Four Rules of Progressive Feedback

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Create Your Blog in Blogger

Creating a blog can be challenging.  To help you, I've set up a "how-to" blog which illustrates how to create a blog to share your research and your writings.  Simply visit and follow the directions starting from the About tab at the top.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sharing Information Online with Blogger

Research isn't helpful unless we're able to effectively discuss and share our findings.  For today's project, you'll assemble a basic framework for sharing research using Blogger.

Conducting Multifaceted Research

As writers, one of our primary tasks is to bring together disparate types of information, analyze them, and then present them to our readers as a coherent (and complete) narrative.  To do this, we first need research our subjects from several different angles.

Multifaceted Research - Sharing Information Online

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Parody, Satire, and Genre

Often, true mastery of genre is best seen in our ability to mimic the genre forms while breaking our expectations in terms of the message.

Of Related Interest: Music Videos - Parody Videos

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Oral Tradition: Writing Evolves from Speech

It's no accident that written alphabets are adapted to serve the needs of spoken speech.  As humans, our language first evolved as an oral tradition.  It's only been recently (in the past five to six thousand years or so - yes, recently) that language has come to be shared through visual media.

Milner Library Resources

Research is a critical component of writing.  Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or even poetry, you want your words to reflect reality - doing this effectively sometimes requires the kind of specialized knowledge best found through the library.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Online Collaboration: Bridging Time and Geography

This Post is Under Construction.  To learn more about online resources, see Establishing Your Online Presence.

Blog Platforms for Building Your Online Presence

As writers, we depend upon our audience to provide feedback and support for our work.  Fortunately for us, we live in the era of personalized mass communication.  Through blogs, social media, and e-mail, we are able to reach out to our readers in new and exciting ways.  Here are resources and tips to get you started.

Your Online Presence: Blogging

One of the critical components of writing is sharing that writing with an audience.  For English 101, you'll be using online resources to share your work with other members of the class and audiences from beyond Illinois State.  The first part of this involves your "base of operations," so-to-speak: the blog.

Setting Up Your Blog 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shifting Grammar and Syntax to Meet Genre and Cultural Conventions

Today, we're going to examine the role of grammar, style, and syntax in understanding the conventions of genre.  This post complements Haley Stouffer's article "How i Lrnd 2 Txt: An Adventure in Genre."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fall 2011 Pre-Course Survey

Here's a quick survey to see where each of you are in your writing.  Please be sincere in your answers - in genre studies, there are no wrong answers.  Every writer is somewhere on the writing continuum - our goal is to help you progress both as a writer and a thinker.  Go to Form-->

English 101: Composition as Critical Inquiry

Today we'll go over the course syllabus and several the electronic resources we'll be using over the semester.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Teaching Meter in Poetry

Now that you've seen what meter is, let's take a look at how we learn to use it.  This article is useful both for teachers of poetry and for those who would like more practice with hearing meter.

Meter in Poetry

Meter is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line of a poem.  In a stressed-syllabic language like English, meter is the way we identify and understand the overall rhythm of the piece. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Metrical Poetry - Rhyme, Meter, and Rhythm

Our focus in poetry so far has been centered on themes, images, and figurative language.  This week, we turn our attention to the "rhythm" of a poems - the rhyme, meter, and structure of formalist (closed-form) poetry.

<--Week 11 - Week 12 - Metrical Poems
Meter - Rhyme (coming soon!) - Sonnets

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hopkins Review Essays - Winter 2011

Though the literary essay may not feel as "creative" as a story or a poem, it does provide some very useful tools to help us progress as creative writers.  For this semester, we'll be writing five-page essays to be turned in with the final portfolio on the last day of class.  For your essay, please choose either a story or poem(s) from the Winter 2011 Hopkins Review.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Participation Grades - The 100-Point Scale

Participation is a critical component of any creative writing course.  We learn from each other by sharing our thoughts on the readings and workshop pieces.

Course Grading - Participation

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mining Poetry from Emotions, Memory, and Sensation

What is the source of poetry?  How do we develop the carefully measured lines of poetry from the nebulous memories and emotions of our lives?  In these exercises, we look at what makes a poem "good," and then practice using these concepts in developing our own poetry.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Figures of Speech in Poetry

Figures of Speech are used to relate one term or concept using ideas or emotions which wouldn't naturally be used for the original term.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Structure and Nuance in Fiction: Long Story Workshops

A "short" story is typically less than 7,500 words (around 25 or fewer double-spaced pages.)  With out long story workshops, we pass well beyond flash fiction and the short-short story into fully-developed short stories and the early chapters of novels.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Revision and Unity: Crafting Your Long Story

The idea of "unity" is rather nebulous in fiction.  It can refer to unity of time and place (as in all the events occur in the same scene), or to unity of theme (the story has a tightly-focused symbolism), or to unity of character (the protagonist is developed and consistent).  By examining the focus of your story, you can develop and sharpen the implied meaning of the work as a whole.

Dialogue Grammar and Syntax in Fiction

Dialogue is one of the most important aspects of fiction.  It reveals the true voices of the individual characters while also foreshadowing to much of the actionBut to use it correctly, you'll need to be familiar with how dialogue works as part of the sentence and in constructing paragraphs.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Character Who Steals Your Life - Voice Sketch for Week 5

Here's a quick description of how to approach this weeks assignment.  Your focus in this work of fiction is capturing specific details with with you're intimately familiar, but then changing the perspective of the main character to reveal these details in a different light.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Place and Setting: The Habitat for Our Fictional Characters

Setting plays a crucial element in establishing the tone and context of the story.  As you write, choose setting details which reflect the nature of your protagonist and the world he or she inhabits

<--Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5-->
Blocking - Setting

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blocking Details: The Action of Scene

Blocking Details represent one of the most delicate aspects of writing in scene.  If we focus too much attention on facial expression and body language, then the story seems forced.  Yet if we don't include enough, then the characters seem like talking paste-board cut-outs.

<--Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5-->
Blocking Details

Friday, February 18, 2011

Poetry Workshops: The Fifty-Point Scale

The poetry workshops will use a fifty-point scale similar to the Fiction Grading Scale.  However, the scale will be customized for poetry - come back soon to see how the specific needs of poetry are incorporated into the numbering system.

Fiction Workshops: The Fifty-Point Scale

Here's the 50-pt scale I use for your fiction workshops.  Before worrying too much about the numbers, make sure to read How I Use the Scale.

Workshop Grades: The Fifty-Point Scale

For this semester's workshop assignments, I grade in 5-pt intervals based on a fifty-point scale.  Before worrying too much about how the scale will affect your grade, I'd like you to consider how I use the scale to tell you about your writing.

Creative Writing: Workshop Grades

I wanted to let you all know how I see workshop grades in terms of your overall grades for IFP.  Writing is a subjective field, and so it is difficult to assign objective grades.  This is why I use workshop grades as indicators of your writing progress rather than the balance of your total grade.  In all, your writing ability counts toward 30% of the final grade, with a possible 10% adjustment added to the final grade for progress.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dialogue Reveals Character Motivation and Social Manipulation

When we speak, our words carry not only meaning, but purpose.  In fiction, each word of dialogue should not only reveal the facts of the situation, but the motives of the speaker.

Human Nature: Deception, Manipulation, and the Constellation of Cultural Icons

Why do we need conflict in fiction?  Why are we gluttons for sad/tragic/scary/romantic/mysterious stories?  Quite simply, it's because we're human.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Balancing Dialogue and Action in Scenes

Dialogue is a critical component of stories.  Today we look at how to use dialogue without overusing it or - worse still - using incorrect attribution.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing in Scene: Clawing Your Way Up the Mountain

Today's lesson is focused on using conflict within each individual scene to drive the plot forward.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing Conflict: Freytag's Pyramid and the Shape of Narrative

In discussing Freytag's Pyramid, so far we've only touched on the basic structure of the story.  In this lesson, we address how each individual components of the story contributes to the development and eventual resolution of the story's central conflict.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Narrative: The Muscular Form of Stories

In fiction, narrative forms the bulk of the text.  It is the text of the action, setting, and character reflections.

Viewing and Printing PDF Comments

As I comment on your pieces from this past week, I'll be e-mailing them back to you as PDF documents.  Some of you have already received flattened PDF documents.  However, I've decided to send the full-scale annotated PDF documents instead.  If you have any trouble viewing these files, please read here for assistance.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Plot Diagrams: Emotion and Causality in Narrative

One of our main authorial decisions in writing is where and when to "start" a story.  Building tension requires us to choose a starting point which is close enough to the conflict to hold the reader's interest, and yet still distant enough from the climax that the story can be be driven continuously forward.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Narrative - The Perspective Behind Stories

Narrative is a carefully defined term with many applications.  At it's core, narrative is about telling a story - and mastering this art is essential for success in fiction.

Welcome - Perspective in Narrative - Plot Diagrams

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Welcome to IFP 2

Welcome to Introduction to Fiction and Poetry II, Writing it Slant.  We have a busy semester ahead of us, so we'll take this first day to go over course policies and activities.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sonnets and Villanelles - The Closed Forms

Although the closed poetic forms (e.g. sonnets, villanelles, and ballads) are less common today than they have been traditionally, they provide important insights into the effects of meter, rhyme, and language on the overall tone and rhythm of a poem.  The Fu Jen University Department of English provides a very helpful Description of the Sonnet and Villanelle Forms, revealing the key differences between these forms and the open forms of free verse.