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Directions: Respond to the following prompts to create your writing territories. Perhaps you want to copy and paste these prompts into your blog and post your responses. If you use this activity for your writing, I invite you to leave your blog address via a comment to this post.
- Make a list of topics you know a lot about, or if that puts too much pressure on you, make a list of things you know something about.
- List the main parts and/or roles in your life. For example, I’m a professor, a novelist, a husband, a father, a runner, and much more.
- Make a list of places you know well.
- What are you working on right now? What projects/work do you have going that might make for good writing topics?
- Make a list of topics that you wish you knew more about, or list some things you’d like to be trained in. You could go out and learn (maybe interview others) and bring the news of your learning back to your audience.
- Do a sample schedule of your life. Try out a weekday, a weekend, summertime, or a holiday. At 8:00 a.m. you…. And then you… The idea is that there are topics buried everywhere in each minute of your life. You just need to be on the lookout for them.
- List some political/social issues relevant to your life.
So You Created the Territories, Now What?
- Look over the words and phrases you’ve listed and use them to come up with projects for writing. You might see something that reminds you of a story or you might find a word or phrase that triggers an idea for what you can tell your readers about. If it’s something you want to know (Why do I keep ending up in these relationships or how do I enter a film in a festival?) then you can take your readers on a journey with you.
- Do you want to post your writing territories? You could explain that you are going to write along with us and that you are posting your writing territories as a blog post. You could also probably post them as a comment to this post.
- After completing the territories, I’d love it if you would post a reflection as comment here about how the activity went for you.
- You might want to just jump right to the writing. I suggest that you tell us a story or tell us about one of the words or phrases that you have listed while responding to the prompts.
- If you’ve already got a project underway, (as I do) then post an excerpt from that work on your blog and show how it comes out of your territories. I plan to post something that comes from my writing territories next Monday, November 21, 2011.
…all your facts are probably slightly polluted by your theories.
Peter Elbow in The Teacherless Writing Class
My student Eileen Gill writes about her hometown of Hollis:
It’s funny, because I see the Hollis that I moved to when I was six as Hollis in its purest form. And I’m terrified that this friend of mine will one day be unrecognizable. But to people like Dick Walker, this travesty has already occurred. I guess it’s an endless cycle–the world continues to change and there’s no way we can stop it or go back to the way things were in the past. I don’t know what to think about it, but it sort of makes me sad.
from the Hollis, NH website
Nicholas Carr describes what the internet is doing to our brains and writes…
When a ditch digger trades his shovel for a backhoe, his arm muscles weaken as his efficiency increases. A similar trade off may well take place as we automate the work of the mind.
Hope you’ll check out my post next Wednesday whenI invite you to respond to a list of prompts in order to create your writing territories.
Here’s the plan: for an undetermined stretch of Wednesdays (how long can I keep it going and do any of you care?) I’m going to try and share some element of my teaching that invites some writing on your part. I’m going to start with a listing activity I call writing territories. From those territories you’ll tell me ABOUT one of the words or phrases you’ve listed, or you’ll tell a STORY that comes from the territories. From there we’ll work into some experiments trying all sorts of strategies for writing first sentences. It’s an activity connected to the idea that some of our best teachers can be the texts that surround us. I call these mentor texts.
Below you’ll find the video version of this blog post, and once I get to a spot where it makes sense to post a handout (perhaps to be used by a teacher in a classroom) I’ll make that available to you on my website at TheTorg.Com.
Next Wednesday Nov. 16th, I’ll post the writing territories and invite you to post your responses to the prompts on your own blog. Once you have that up, you can leave a comment to my blog post and link us up to your answers, perhaps with a brief summary or reflection of how the activity worked. If don’t have a blog and want to set one up, I have a tutorial video here. Of course all you have to do is ask Google, “How do I set up a WordPress blog?” and you’ll have more help than you know what to do with.
These Write With Me Wednesdays won’t be just me telling you how I teach. I hope you’ll critique or otherwise add to how these activities might work for a variety of purposes. I suspect those who might be willing to give this a try will be those who want to write, perhaps some bloggers I’ve met in the past year attending two Blogworld New Media Expo Conferences, and also teachers who teach writing and those who are looking to collaborate with other writers and teachers on the craft of their work.
What do you think? Are you up for this? Suggestions for my plan?
Lesson Plans / Jan. 20, 2010 / First Day
Prof. Bill Torgerson
- Don’t know what to write
- Gap between speaker and audience
- The notion of a larger conversation, also the professional conversation
Take everybody through the big idea as written on the syllabus
Emphasize: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO INVESTIGATE?
We will build on what has been done before. My expectations for your work will have evolved from the work that was done before. What I’m asking you to do this semester will be at least slightly different from what I asked of the students last semester.
Scholarly Personal Narrative:
Watch some student films on my computer
For Mon. 1/24:
- Buy a composition journal for daily note taking. We’ll call this a Daybook because Prof. Torg really admired this guy named Donald Murray who used that term.
- Click here to be taken to the course website: http://stjohns.campusguides.com/content.php?pid=175144
- Go to the “Click Here for Student Blogs” tab. Click on Prof. Torg’s blog (it’s first) and read his “Dear Swimmers in Language” letter that explains this course. Once you get your blog set up, write us a note to launch your blog and introduce yourself to us.
- On the course website, click on the “Sample Work/Tutorial Videos” tab and watch Prof. Torgerson’s video titled “Getting Started with a WordPress Blog.”
- Set up a WordPress Blog. Email Professor Torgerson your link. If your blog is to be private, add him as a reader. Use this format: LAST NAME, FIRST NAME (CLASS TIME)
- Return to Prof. Torg’s blog and find the post entitled “Writing Territories.” Copy and paste the prompts into your own new blog post. Respond to the prompts by making lists after each prompt. At the end of your lists, choose something from your list to write about. Tell us a story from that item on your list or tell us about one of those items on your list. The total word count should be 400 words. If you find yourself short, go back to your “writing territories” list and write about something in addition to what you’ve already written.
Music and Movies Book Group at Barnes and Noble: I do a book group the third Monday night of each month. On the night of Monday, Feb. 21st, we’re going to discuss Chuck Klosterman’s book, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.
Time permitting: Form a group of five. Learn each other’s names. What have people in your history said about how to write? In other words, list 5 rules for writing that you’ve heard someone say or that you’ve learned for yourself. Finally, come up with a definition for good writing.
from Bruce Barrett founder of IWAGEPEACE.ORG
When I started to make the mental move from basketball coach to writer (not that a person couldn’t be both) the two writer/teachers I began to read were Donald Murray and Peter Elbow. Many of the professors and teachers around me let me know that these two men were considered to be from the “expressive” school of composition and that if I followed their methods then my classroom would not be a place for political and social change. In the years that have followed, I have not found the warnings about expressivism’s lack of political impact to be true.
In the writing classrooms I inhabit, my students write in what Murray called a daybook (think writer’s journal) and they use Peter Elbow’s guidelines for sharing their work with one another, and what happens after that often takes on political implications for the classroom and beyond.
What follows are my notes for the reading of a text I choose because I’m thinking about technology, multimodal texts, and how those terms relate to the act of writing. The text did its work of giving me more to consider, but it also got me to thinking about the social and political change that occurs when people read and write together, whether this happens passing sheets of paper back and forth, posting on Facebook, or creating websites. If you have any doubt about a blog’s ability to spread any sort of message, take a glance at the map that goes with this blog and check out the location of some of its readers. Whoa.
Here are some “Golden Lines” and some of my thoughts related to Kathleen Blake Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key.” 56:2 CCC. December 2004.
- “Never before has the proliferation of writings outside the academy so counterpointed the compositions inside” (298). My students write regularly on blogs and I have them form groups to investigate an issue within writing studies, write a collaborative research paper, and present it to the class via a multimodal text. While those are activities within the courses I teach, I also talk daily about scholarly sources, signal phrases, parenthetical citations, and an MLA works cited page. I was just walking to class and thinking about how few of my students will use these “skills” (what else to call them?) after college. I was also thinking how rarely I use those skills in my writing. If I were a teacher and writer mostly publishing in scholarly journals, I would use these features of writing a lot, but I think of myself as a novelist, a short story writer, and an essayist. Most of the reading I do does not contain parenthetical citations. I hang onto to teaching that part of writing because my students are mostly just getting started at the university and I imagine that they will have to do this sort of writing to successfully navigate the university. If the latter is true (that students will read scholarly sources and write research papers) then I think the quote from the Yancey article that begins this bullet is an observation worth consideration.
- “How is it that what we teach and what we test can be so different from what our students know as writing?” (298). I want to take my students beyond what they know as writing. I want them to think critically about the texts that bombard them. I want them to equate writing with thinking, to begin to see the phrases that ripple across their mind as revisable thoughts.
- “At best, it could help foster a world peace never known before” (301). We weren’t blogging in my courses yet, but this sentence reminds me of my own classroom, where the Jewish immigrant from Russia became best friends with the Muslim student from Pakistan. These students wrote about the world was set up for them to hate one another but our classroom at St. John’s University became a space where they could work together and become friends.
- “At this moment, we need to focus on three changes: Develop a new curriculum; revisit and revise our writing-across-the-curriculum efforts; and develop a major in composition and rhetoric” (308). Sentences such as this one cause me to wonder my place in Writing Studies, as a professor with an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English Education. Writing Studies sounds like something to which I can belong while an Undergraduate Major in Composition sounds more like something within which I will always be slightly unqualified to teach, at least when it comes to my terminal degree.
- “In composition, we need to learn how to read and write e-texts–synthesizing, questioning, evaluating, and importing from them–databases and catalogues, hyper-texts and archives, Web essays and portfolios” (318). If you are already trying to teach students to be critical–to question information as it comes toward their thinking–then I don’t think this seems like such a big step, at least the first part. Read and write online, perhaps watch various online video including documentaries, and apply Yancey’s “synthesizing, questioning….” As I write this, I hear many of my students telling me how much they hate the “critical lens” assignment. Many of my students are being asked to do something they despise in whatever they mean when they say “critical lens.” I don’t think reading and writing have to be things to be dreaded.
- With regards to technology, especially something such as a set of Power Point Slides, “If we continue to partition it off as just something technical, or outside the parameters governing composing, or limit it to the screen of the course management system, or think of it in terms of the bells and whistles and templates of the PowerPoint screen, students in our classes learn only to fill in those electric boxes–which, in their ability to invite intellectual work, are the moral equivalent of the dots on a multiple choice test” (320). I think the E-Portfolio has the strong potential for becoming the new five paragraph essay, a prefabricated form which limits thinking.