Monday, January 23, 2012

Unit 1 Rationale - CHAT and Pop Culture Presentations

The PowerPoint presentations you create for Unit 1 are designed to thoroughly familiarize you with Cultural-Historical Activity Theory and to help you apply CHAT to understanding the writing which surrounds us every day.  This in-depth description of the project is meant primarily as a reference - I recommend skimming it, and then returning to it as you consider your projects.


Unit Rationale and Description


The first unit of a course establishes the expectations and habits of discourse for the course while introducing students to the critical material of the course. For this reason, I see the first unit as the most important element for scaffolding the entire course. My goal in this first unit is to introduce students to all the themes, topics, and technologies of the course, and then they will be able to work toward mastery of the modes of collaboration and discourse in Units 2 and 3.

For Composition as Critical Inquiry, this first unit will use “pop” genres of each student’s choice as a way to illustrate how to create a CHAT map, and then they’ll use their CHAT maps and research in order to create PowerPoint presentations and brief reports about their chosen movie/book/song. During this larger project, they’ll be working on shorter assignments mean to reinforce how to use CHAT and in response to the readings.

To share their presentations online, students will create mini-website “hubs” on HubPages.com, and they’ll share the links to their hubs using the Facebook group for the class. The presentations will then be workshopped in-class using the methods of “progressive feedback” as developed on my teaching blog.

One advantage of using HubPages is that there’s a good likelihood that other members of the HubPages community will interact with the hubs posted by my students. This way, students will have a more complete online experience in terms of understanding how and why people respond to websites, and students will write about this experience in documenting their projects.

Unit I – Welcome to Kansas, Toto: CHAT and Popular Culture (copied from Course Plan)


To introduce students to CHAT, they’ll apply CHAT maps to their own selections of popular literature. Each student will choose his or her favorite book, TV show, website, etc., and then develop a PowerPoint presentation and genre description to share during an in-class workshop. The goal of this unit is to introduce students to the interplay of textual and visual forms while illustrating the genre-specific standards for citation, workshops, and online group projects.

The handout for students will consist of a checklist for topics to cover during their presentation such as genre identification, conventions, citation methods. Each student will draw a CHAT map for the chosen work which situates the work within the context of popular culture while revealing where the student pictures him- or herself within the context of audience. This handout will be adapted in order to guide students as they provide feedback to their classmates.

In order to facilitate the sharing of material, students will post their presentations either to a combined course blog or a classroom wiki. They will work together to make the website navigable and interesting to outside visitors. Given the nature of the project, this website will be expandable to other sections or future semesters as a general resource for popular genre identification.

Students will continue this project through the first half of the semester in order to facilitate more in-depth assessment and encourage deeper understanding of CHAT.

Learning Oucomes


Identifying Genres: Students will identify the broad genres of movies/books/music, and then examine the subgenres in terms of finding related works. (e.g. if a student presents on a James Bond movie, there would be natural comparisons with other “one man saves the day” movies like Die Hard. I would also encourage finding contrasts with movies with strong heroines like V.I. Warshowski.


Technology/Media: Students will be creating PowerPoint presentations and then sharing them online for group workshops.

Trajectories of Literate Activity: In putting together the CHAT maps for their selected genres, students will be considering the audiences, budgets, and other considerations of the ecology of writing.

Cultural and Social Contexts: Since the project will be working with popular culture, students will be asked to consider what makes a work “good” or “preferred” within the context of culture. Students will also be asked to comment on the ethical concerns of the movies they’ve selected. For example, looking at how Schindler’s List might have a different audience and impact than Saving Private Ryan.

Grading and Assessment


In this unit, students will be graded based on their reading quizzes, completion of the small assignments and workshop comments, and their workshop pieces. Because writing participation is extremely important and negative grades can hurt the willingness of students to contribute, they will be given 100% for completion-credit assignments (weekly assignments). In general, this is also designed to offset the quiz grades, which tend to be lower (usually 70-80% average). The workshop itself will have three components: the written presentation, the visual presentation (slides), and the workshop response (which is a description of their production process and what they learned through the workshop – due one week after the workshop). Students will be graded based on how well these three aspects of the presentation illustrate their understanding of the learning outcomes.

Following this unit (Week 8), students will submit Midterm Portfolios. These portfolios will include copies of all the comments they’ve posted for their classmates, their regular assignments, and all their presentation materials. They will also give a self-assessment here regarding what they see as the grade they’ve earned, and they’ll be required to specify the reasons for that grade.

Unit Timeline (Note Overlaps Between Project 1 and Project 2)


Project 1: CHAT and Popular Culture


  • Week 1 - CHAT Maps, Facebook Groups, HubPages, and Moodle
  • Week 2 - PowerPoint, Images, Copyright, and Fair Use
  • Week 3 - begin P1 workshops and assessment - 5 workshops
  • Week 4 - 5 workshops
  • Week 5 - 5 workshops
  • Week 6 - 5 workshops
  • Week 7 - 3 workshops

Bibliography of Readings


Angell, Roger. “Forward.” The Elements of Style by Strunk, William, Ed. White, E.B. New York: Longman, 2000. This article talks about Angell’s experience seeing E.B. White (his stepfather) take up writing on a weekly basis. This will help students see writing as human and challenging activity for writers of all levels.

Doctorow, E.L. “Quick Cuts: The Novel Follows Film into a World of Fewer Words.” Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times, pp. 49-53. New York: Times Books, 2001. Doctorow describes how the culture of movies has led books to grow shorter with time, and he uses this as a way to show why writing is used differently (in particular, why it is that movie reviews are still mostly written, even for movies that aren’t worth writing about…)

Gries, Laurie E. and Brooke, Collin Gifford. “An Inconvenient Tool: Rethinking the Role of Slideware in the Writing Classroom.” The Best of Rhetoric and Composition Journals 2010, pp. 70-91. Anderson, South Carolina: Parlor Press, 2011. This article will set up students to understand the theories behind using PowerPoint in a composition course while also introducing them to important rhetorical aspects of visual presentations.

Johnston, Emily. “Playing Well with Others: Demystifying the Workshop Process.” Grassroots. I see the workshop as a critical element of this course, and I’d like students to read more than just my own take on workshopping.

Lucas, Shane T. “Things that School Couldn’t Teach Me: Writing a Kick-Ass Manga.” Grassroots. This is to introduce students to the notion that most of the important writing they do in their lives takes place outside of school, and that they’re able to select and research their own genre choices.

Walker, Joyce. “Just CHATing.” Grassroots (previous edition). This article provides the critical theoretical basis for why we use CHAT in a the composition classroom.

White, E.B. “Introduction.” The Elements of Style by Strunk, William, Ed. White, E.B. New York: Longman, 2000. In this article, E.B. White (the author of Charlotte’s Web) talks about how his brief semester with Professor Strunk left a lifelong impression on his writing. My hope is that students will see this as an example of how a writing course should have positive (as opposed to “stamped in place forever”) effects on their personal approaches to writing.

Blog Postings


Assessment – Alternative/Participatory: This handout tells students about the Alternative/Participatory Assessment, which they’ll be taking part in during Week 7.

Assessment – Midterm Portfolio: This describes the midterm portfolio to be turned in Week 8.

CHAT Maps – This describes how they should assemble their CHAT maps, including considerations of the seven aspects of CHAT.

Electronic Resources: Facebook, GoogleDocs, Blogger (HubPages to be added): Students will be required to sign up for these websites in order to post their assignments for workshops.

Examples of Visual Projects: These are examples of visual projects I’ve put together myself using relatively limited time and resources, and they’re meant to show students some of the possibilities they have for multimodalities.

Genre – Writing about Genre Conventions: This blog post takes the science fiction genre and illustrates one approach to describing this genre. I’ll expect students to complete similar analyses of their own chosen genres.

Narrative from Chaos: The post describes one approach to the creative process (as essentially an artificial structuring of complex and often disjointed ideas.) I’ll ask students to discuss how well this model applies to their selected genres.

Plagiarism: This describes what plagiarism is and the steps we take to avoid it.
English 101 Resources: A complete list of blog posts from my Fall 2011 Englist 101 course.

Workshop – Peer Review: This post describes how and why we use peer review to help each other.

Workshop – Progressive Feedback: This describes the process of progressive feedback I use in all my workshops. This is a combination of the positive, reinforcing feedback of the Amherst Method coupled with adding specific suggestions for areas students should consider addressing on revision and a question-answer with the authors of each workshopped piece.

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