Monthly Archives: January 2013

Found Poetry

In my Composition II class, we’ve been discussing writing. We’ve read bits from Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and Georgia Heard’s Writing Toward Home, and we’ve practiced writing using exercise from or inspired by those books. Today we used Georgia Heard’s “Found Poetry” prompt — “Gather books, newspapers, magazines, old journals, and first write down interesting words and sentences, then weave them together to make a found piece of writing.”

There are ten students in the class so we decided to make this a collaborative effort. First we took five minutes to find materials — our own daybooks, textbooks, sheet music plus stuff lying around like newspapers, flyers, discussion question handouts, pamphlets, Bibles. One student even took the Honor Code off the wall and added it to the mix.

Next, we sorted through the materials and found two lines each — some people used lines as they found them and others mashed lines together to make new ones. As each student found lines, he/she wrote them on the board. Finally, we read it and sorted it. They told me how to order the lines. One student typed it, then we added white space.

Here’s the result:

Imperative Act of Vandalism

There was so much energy in the room as we compiled, edited, laughed, negotiated. It was an amazing experience. We talked about where our words had come from and we discussed intellectual property rights. The questions that we work so hard for them to care about in Comp II came to them as natural implications of what we had done. Whose is this? Did we plagiarize? What if we are making art — is it plagiarism then? Do you make a Works Cited page for a found poem?

By the end of class, they wanted to set it up as an art installation — the poem, the materials, the questions about intellectual property — and they wanted to submit the poem to a journal. I left class with my heart thumping. This is why we teach. This is why we slog through grad school and pay student loans. When we throw something at them and they gleefully catch it and run with it — that’s a good day.





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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Uncategorized



This semester I’m teaching an iPad pilot course. My Composition I students were each given an iPad for use during the semester. I received a Macbook Air for use during the semester, and I created an iBook for the course with it. The course has fifteen students — some passed Critical Literacy last semester (our remediated remedial comp course) and some had failed 101 in the fall. So this is an experiment — how does this first-year population use mobile learning technology? What can we do with iPads in comp that we can’t do otherwise?

Until today, the class just hasn’t been going well. It felt disjointed — here’s how we use this technology and here’s our comp activity today. I was rather flustered and out of my usual comp zone, and they just weren’t talking. So today I opened class by asking them to brainstorm about ways we could improve group discussion and class participation. They suggested several things, but one students said, “Let’s use Twitter for class discussion. Like for the whole class time.”  We immediately liked that idea and tried it out.

Having finished excerpts from Walden, the students are about to begin a simplicity experiment in which they give up something that complicates their lives for a week and journal the experience. (Yes, a bit ironic in an iPad pilot course. Funnily enough, not a single student picked a tech oriented thing to give up for the week.) I had planned to use a wiki to coordinate their ideas, but the Twitter class idea seemed even better. So we all got on Twitter (we had already set up accounts during the first week of class) and began tweeting our ideas using #simplicityexp as our hashtag.

Here’s the Storify of our class tweets:

They talked more on Twitter today than they have in four classes. They interacted with each other and with me in productive and playful ways. In our separateness, we were more together than we have been all semester.

I’m not sure what to make of that yet. Twitter is the social media that I personally love; I do feel connected to the people from around the country and the world that I only know via Twitter. I’ve made friends on Twitter. And I believe they are real friends, not just people I tweet with. One student said that it’s easier for shy students to connect via computer than face to face, and as a shy student, I understand that. What will be interesting is to see how they interact on Thursday — will they be more talkative and confident because they go to know each other via Twitter?

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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Uncategorized