Rock Star Battles
Shared by Elizabeth Baldridge
This is a sampling of the prompts I give in a weekly writing challenge called Rock Star Battles. Students are to apply the skills they’re learning in class to fun, challenging writing tasks that are designed to encourage a focus on audience and purpose. Students post their best-attempt pieces to a discussion board, and everyone gets work credit for completing the assignment. Two students (one of my choosing and one of the class’s) earn Rock Star Points (a coupon worth a three-point boost to any assignment’s grade). At the end of the semester, students choose their best two battle pieces to include in the portfolio.
Style Wars Complaint Letter
Shared by Beth Gulley
This assignment was designed to teach students to use a mentor text (from Bob Brannan’s A Writer’s Workshop), to get them to write to an audience from someone else’s perspective, and to demonstrate their understanding of the issues presented in a text (in this case the 1980’s documentary Style Wars).
Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Shared by Sarah Alderfer
I do not recall from where or whom this activity came, but it is not originally mine. In fact, some of my students have done this in their high school English classes. I use this activity to illustrate how important clear and developed directions are in process analysis. Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an excellent process for students to explain because they take many of the small but essential steps needed to complete the process for granted. This activity allows students to see how important it is to consider an audience’s knowledge when describing a process.
Shared by Isabel Quintana Wulf
With inspiration from/credit to UIUC Academic Writing Program orientation
The goal of this activity is to show that context and specificity are crucial parts of an essay; without them, chances are the essay makes no sense. The activity is designed in two parts: first, you ask students to imagine a monster in their heads and to write the most careful physical description of the monster they can come up with (I usually ask them to do so at home and bring the description to class the following day. The downside of this: some students do not bring it for the next class. If this happens, just ask them to share a monster for the next part). The next day you collect the descriptions and you distribute them to different students in the class (preferably those far away from where the description originated—no need for consulting in what follows). Bring paper and crayons and markers and ask the students to read the description in front of them and draw the monster according to it. When they are done, collect the descriptions/ drawings and return them to the student that wrote the description. Ask them to compare their imagined monster to the drawing and see if they look alike (for the most part, they never do). If the drawing looks nothing like the monster they imagined then their description was not specific enough. What was clear in their heads lost their context and specificity on the written description so another person could not understand it like they wanted. If the drawing looks like their monster, good job! They were actually specific enough. Generally speaking, when your students think they are being specific they are probably light years from being so: tell them to overdo it—it’s easier to take specificity out of an essay than to add it in.
Shared by Sarah Tsai
With inspiration from/credit to Arley McNeney
This activity prepares students to look at arguments from multiple perspectives–to “acknowledge the opposition.”
magazine audience activity
Shared by Sarah Tsai
I usually bring a diverse collection of magazines to class for these two activities, but online periodicals would work just as well. The second activity (p. 2) has a surprise buried in it. Each group/pair of students must swap topics with another group/pair. They must find a way to make their new topic appeal to the readers of the periodical they’re using.