Saturday, August 14, 2010

Slouching Toward English 100A To Be Reborn

I haven't taught English 100 in several moons now, and wanted to revamp it. While it's down as "composition," I think of it as a course in thinking. That's why I usually enjoy teaching it, along with the fact that it includes material not usually found in my classes, like current events. This time around I have an honors section and have decided to focus us like a laser on issues of place. Putting the course together is tricky, because there are different kinds of content: there's the content provided by readings about place (this time I'll include several creative pieces, along with some essays), and there's also the writing I ask the students to do. Sometimes I feel like a sports coach who's trying to teach players to do the weave even as they're conceptualizing what they're doing on the field or court.

(The sudden decrease in font size is not a formal choice here, but something over which I seem to have no control at the moment.)

I want to start fairly small, with sentences. Of course sentences are not small matters at all. They're the building blocks to everything the writer does. If you can't do somersaults, you can't do gymnastics. If you can't write a sentence, the essay, the story, the poem, the non-fiction, will not follow.(And if you have Alzheimer's, you might have sentences in isolation from other sentences, or sentences in which words and phrases are confused.) So I'm trying to figure out how to get students to conceptualize The Sentence through a process of writing a lot of them. The subject, as it must be, is place. So here's assignment one!

Assignment #1: Sentences

Thought problem: What is the purpose of a sentence? What does a sentence do? How does it do it? To what purpose do we employ commas, semi-colons, periods?

Take four or five photographs of the place you live. It can be your house, the street outside your house, shops nearby, anything that is not touristy. I will not ask to see these photographs, at least not yet. Instead, I want you to write off of the photos. Think of a painter who works off photos instead of models or scenes.

Look at the photographs you took and write about them in sentences. You must write at least 12 sentences (total) about these photographs. These sentences may include the first person pronoun, namely the "I." Among your sentences you need to have most of the following; you can do more than one thing at a time. After each sentence, write briefly about what it does. Have some fun with this; you'll find that you can do a lot with sentences!

--A short tactile sentence (using the senses).
--A sentence that sounds spoken.
--A sentence that sounds like it might have been in the newspaper.
--A long, loopy sentence.
--A sentence in which you use cause and effect (because this happened, that happened).
--A descriptive sentence.
–An analytical sentence (one in which you think about why something happened).
--A dramatic sentence.
--A wimpy sentence.
--A sentence about one of your sentences.
--A sentence that pushes your reader away.
--A sentence that invites your reader in.

The step after will be paragraphs. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Adam Aitken said...

Susan, The sentence exercise looks good to me, and if you substitute sentence with paragraph, you go to the next stage. I like your functional approach ie language as making meanings that "do work".