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9 Posts authored by: Michelle Clark Employee

Composition Jeopardy, a homemade game board circa 2018Ok, it's the end of the semester. We're wiped out, students are wiped out, and we're either slogging or sprinting to the due date for the final essay in Comp I. The other night at dinner, I got the nutty idea that we should do something fun in our second-to-last class of the semester. "A game!" suggested my high schooler, and I went seeking out markers, cardboard, and my copy of A Writer's Reference to try my hand at inventing a version of Jeopardy. I saw the game as a fun opportunity to reinforce the common vocabulary of the course and review key rhet/comp concepts.


I'm sharing my Composition Jeopardy clues in hopes that you might improve them, add to them, borrow them if you're so inclined, or just smirk at them, confident in your own way to end a semester. The class this past Wednesday--at 8 am, mind you--was surprisingly spirited and worthwhile. Students collaborated, negotiated, checked their notes, checked their handbooks, cheered for one another. The winning team, in a thrilling move, beat the runner-up by a single point (!!) on a final-Jeopardy wager of 1,401 points. The prize was chocolate.


Students were engaged and even acknowledged the value of the game in thinking through their final revisions. When one finance major in control of the board said "I'll take Parts of an Essay for 600 points," I read the clue (a statement that represents an objection to your position), and a criminal justice major across the room grabbed his head and shouted, "That's what my draft is missing! A counterargument!"


So much of what we do in a semester is heavy and hard. This day in class was light and quite lively.


Best of luck as you wrap up your semester and move on--to the solstice, to the sofa, to the ski slopes, or wherever your December takes you.

Truth be told, we really did make a movie about a handbook this year. But the way I see it, it's more a movie about a community--a community of writing teachers who believe in a particular handbook and the power it's given them to transform their program, unify their classroom vocabulary, and instill in their students habits of mind and habits of practice that make academic writers. If you have 6 minutes, I invite you to view A Writer's Reference: The Movie. I'll buy the popcorn.


"Most of my better students do come back to me and say A Writer's Reference is the book they've hung on to and turned to over the course of the last few years. They see it not as a text for a course but a text for their college education."    --Andrea McCrary, Queens University of Charlotte


"My students become better writers, they become more comfortable writers. They see models of good sentence style and structure, and they apply that to their own writing. And a lot of that is owed to the handbook."  --Timothy Regetz, Blinn College


"I'm very excited about the ninth edition."   --Anna Hall-Zieger, Blinn College


A very big and grateful shout out to University of Alabama, Blinn College, UC San Diego, Norwich University, Queens University of Charlotte, SUNY Buffalo State, and Eastern Oregon University.

In 2005, Bedford/St. Martin's partnered with the Two Year College Association to sponsor the Diana Hacker TYCA Awards for Outstanding Programs in English as a way to honor a brilliant teacher and provide recognition for superior programs that enhance language learning and student success. We are privileged to continue to sponsor these awards and to recognize excellence in teaching and learning at two-year colleges. Past winners have enjoyed the opportunity to create a higher profile for their program within their college and the TYCA community.


Please consider nominating your program or a colleague's program by November 10, 2017. The nomination process is easy, and winners are granted travel stipends to the 2018 CCCC annual convention in Kansas City. The awards will be given at the annual TYCA breakfast on March 17, 2018. I hope to see you there!

I came across Barbara Fister's post "Beyond Ignorance" last week. Fister, an academic librarian*, crime novelist, and frequent blogger, writes provocatively about the mission of the college library in times of cultural stress and in the wake of events such as those that happened in Charlottesville last month. She argues that a college or university library should, of course, foster certain values in student researchers and writers: that knowledge making is based on reasoned debate and open mindedness and curiosity, for example, and that critical inquiry can be taught and modeled.


But Fister blew my mind a little with her idea that reason isn't enough of a response to hate. We in the academy have to teach caring--the idea "that caring for one another matters, too."


And as I'm in planning mode for the upcoming semester--assembling activities, writing syllabi and assignments, grouping readings, and designing classroom scenarios that will make writing groups successful--I'm wondering how best to teach students to care. I do spend a good deal of time early in the semester building community. I make sure everyone in the class knows every other classmate's first name by the end of week 3. I absolutely insist, and it drives my students crazy. I emphasize collaboration. I ask students to respond to one another's ideas with respect, both in writing and in speaking, with language that I model (I can see why you would think that way. What about this idea...?). I assign students to present their final projects, but I also assign several responders for each presenter so that each presenter can count on a few people who listen well enough to ask thoughtful questions at the end of the presentation. It's a little artificial, I get it. But it's something.


How much attention to you pay to this element of the social curriculum? How do you teach students to care for one another? Is anyone familiar with Harvard's Making Caring Common Project? At any rate, this is something I'll be working on and thinking about throughout the semester. And I have Barbara Fister to thank for the reminder.


*Barbara Fister is co-author of Research and Documentation in the Digital Age, Sixth Edition (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2016).

Teacher, scholar, and author Nancy Sommers pairs her voice with student voices in a brief video that reminds us, just as we begin the academic year, that disagreement is at the foundation of intellectual inquiry and academic growth. You might ask students to view and respond to Nancy Sommers on Argument early in the semester.


How do you encourage students to argue in ways that promote inquiry, empathy, and respect?

When I teach annotated bibliography, I have the class do a "talk show" activity. I ask students to imagine that they are producers of a morning talk show, and I give each small group their topic for the day. To one group, I say your show is going to be on whether to continue music instruction as part of the public school curriculum, to another group I say, your show is going to tackle how to protect the American drinking water supply, and so forth.


The job of the producers is to think about who they're going to invite to be a guest on their show. What experts do they need? What angles should they explore? What statistics would be helpful? We talk about how dull it would be to have 7 different guests who all say that music ed is a waste of taxpayer money or how people would turn the show off if they heard only a bunch of data about water quality. We also talk about the value of having leading thinkers on our talk show. While an occasional regular consumer or parent is fine, audiences generally respond better to scientists, researchers, doctors, and psychologists. The class activity is for each group of producers to compose and present a proposal to the class (acting as the talk show executives). They have to present a guest list and rationale for each guest.


The activity gets students to think actively about gathering sources and thinking through the roles that they need their sources to play in a project. Too often students hunt for sources that are all in "the same lane," as I say in class; they all sort of line up with the student's own thesis. The activity also goes along nicely with our reading, sections R1 and R3 in A Writer's Referenceespecially the subsections on search strategy and thinking about the variety of ways in which sources contribute to a project (as support, as counterargument, as data, as definition, and so on). 


Are there activities that you find useful as you prepare to teach annotated bibliography?

Here at Macmillan, we've been blessed with several excellent summer interns in our Boston office, and it's been a pleasure to get to know them and their habits as writers and as young professionals. Paola Garcia-Muniz, a recent Fairfield University grad, recalls that when she was in high school, she wrote in MLA style using "the basic formula: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion." She discovered that the rules are looser in college, the expectations less formulaic. She learned how to be agile with style systems, too. According to Paola: "[My] handbook helped me adjust to the new expectations that came with the freedom of college writing. My freshman year, I didn’t just have to learn about APA style for my first psychology course, I also had to learn how to use Chicago style for my History 10 course while writing my English composition papers in MLA style format. The handbook helped make sure that I wouldn’t mix and match style rules." 


This summer Paola is strengthening her writing and editorial chops by helping us to understand the changes in the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition. We'll use her analysis to help us adapt our humanities handbooks and textbooks with the new guidelines. Lucky us! 


  < I'm Paola. Ask me about Chicago style.

Since 2005, Bedford/St. Martin’s has sponsored a series of awards in the name of Diana Hacker, beloved handbook author and dedicated teacher for more than three decades at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, MD. We partner with the Two-Year College Association to award the Diana Hacker/TYCA Awards for Outstanding Programs in English. We gave this year’s awards at the TYCA breakfast on March 18, 2017, during the CCCC in Portland.


Our sincerest congratulations to the winners: Cerritos College (Norwalk, CA) for a global literature program aimed at building intercultural competence and drawing graduate students to teach in two-year colleges; Hudson County Community College (Jersey City, NJ) for an academic foundations program of integrated reading and writing designed to help developmental English students succeed and thrive; and Evergreen Valley College (San Jose, CA) for its innovative writing center co-requisite. Two Honorable Mention awards were given: Columbus State Community College (Columbus, OH) for an English department initiative to connect adjunct faculty and full-time faculty in committee meetings centered on curriculum development and student success; and University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College (Cincinnati, OH) for its emporium model accelerated learning program that helps students progress to college level writing.


Diana Hacker was a brilliant teacher, always laser-focused on students’ challenges and committed to coming up with creative ways to meet those challenges. We are honored to give these awards in her name. Welcome to the community!


Find out more about this awards series, and nominate a program for next year’s awards.


Assignment design can be rough. It's one of those talents teachers of writing develop over time with coffee, a sense of humor, and reflection. Too few of us get the mentoring we need to build successful writing assignments--the kind that are scaffolded enough to provide authentic learning moments and to produce writing aligned with course goals, but also the kind that engage and inspire writers.


I admire the tenacity of Bri Lafond, who teaches at Riverside City College and CSU San Bernardino. In her 2017 CCCC presentation "Thinking Outside the 'Box Logic': Curating Context in the FYC Classroom," she described multiple attempts at a single assignment and semester after semester of reflecting and tweaking. Courageous work. She asks her students to pick a year in history, locate primary sources (a song, a news story, a work of art), juxtapose the sources, and produce a multimodal composition in which they analyze patterns and make an argument. She admits it hasn't gone well. She's changed up the requirements now four times to account for students' lack of knowledge of 20th century history, struggles with information literacy, and lack of experience with analytical writing.


What I loved about Lafond's presentation is that she didn't end with a "Ta-da!" moment. She didn't present a perfect assignment for the taking. She presented a process-- a messy, head-scratching, sometimes-head-banging process. She presented a case study in reflection. And she presented, I think, an argument for more attention to assignment design and development in teacher training and mentoring programs.