Favorite exercises/ materials for Freshman Composition classes?
May 20, 2007 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Favorite exercises/ materials for Freshman Composition classes? Help me engage young minds in order to brainwash educate them!

I have been hired as a Teaching Assistant for Fall '07, and I'm going to be putting a syllabus together over the summer. I am going to be teaching my own section, as opposed to working in conjunction with another professor. It's set up to be fairly open in terms of structure-- free reign for me.

The text I am going to use primarily is Perspectives on Contemporary Issues: Readings Across Disciplines, 4th Edition, one of three texts chosen by T.A. consensus (there are two others, but the texts are particular to the "strand" one chooses-- "Life Writing," "Academic Writing," and "Cultural Conversations"; I have chosen the third.)
The content of my class will incorporate aspects of all three, but I can use any resource outside of the text that you can think of-- multimedia, essays, other books, etc.

What were/ are your favorite exercises or readings for Freshman Composition?

Whether you are an educator or just remember something really cool that stood out for you as a student, any ideas you might have are welcome!
posted by exlotuseater to Education (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There's a couple of other posts about this, here and here are two.
posted by jacalata at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2007

Would you rather have the power of telekinesis or invisibility? Defend your answer.

Read this This Modern World cartoon. Explain in plain language what argument the author is making and how he uses images and irony to make it. (This is challenging for first-years).
posted by underwater at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2007

Give people "A Modest Proposal" to read. At least in my Freshman class, most of the kids hadn't even heard of it, so there was a lot of discussion surrounding it, to put it mildly.

(In fact, we had to delay discussion of it for a class because the link the prof provided to "A Modest Proposal" had stopped working at some point -- so 90% of the class hadn't bothered looking for it, thinking it to be a How-To on writing a proposal [i.e. for grants] that is 'modest').

You might want to preface the This Modern World challenge with something easier. Something my prof did was taking a (non-realistic) drawing of a fake crime scene, along with the statement of a witness/potential subject, and getting the class (which had been split into groups) to say why they believe/disbelieve the witness. It's a nice warmup.

And also, maybe include some classic political cartoons (Thomas Nast) or propaganda posters (WWI, WWII especially) along with the This Modern World cartoon, just for kicks.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:17 PM on May 20, 2007

I've been using Writing With Sources for a little over a year in my freshmen comp courses; it deals with both the whys and hows of citation and the question of what makes plagiarism plagiarism better than any other text I've tried in my classes. It's tiny and inexpensive, too.
posted by buriedpaul at 2:29 PM on May 20, 2007

I liked excercises where we had to evaluate a piece of writing (either assigned, or found on our own, but not something a classmate had written), and say what we thought the writer was trying to accomplish and how effective they were--what, specifically, added or detracted from their effectiveness. We also had to take into consideration who their audience was.

We did a couple of those, if I recall correctly: one individual one where we found a piece of writing on our own, and one group one where we used something from the text.

(Peer evaluation isn't at all the same, because it's personal. You're thinking about the person whose writing it is, sympathising, trying not to hurt their feelings, and trying not to be too critical.)

Reading parts of Canterbury Tales was fun, too.

Oh! And picking a character from a story and defending their actions. That's always interesting.

I'd also like to mention that assignments that are about the student (very different from being about the student's opinions)--"Describe one event that shaped you as a person," "Describe yourself in one word and defend your choice," "Describe how your writing has changed" (Seriously? I didn't save my old essays)--are incredibly hateful and intrusive.
posted by Many bubbles at 3:17 PM on May 20, 2007

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