|Return to Unit One:TR|
|Class Plan -- Unit One, Day 3|
Finish Discussion/Cluster from Last Class. Take a few minutes to complete the discussion you began last class, if necessary.
Focus Activity: Looping - Remind students of the two major grading criteria for the assignment (focus on a particular event/memory and use of descriptive detail). Explain to them that the following collecting strategy, called looping, is ONE way of working on both focus and description. Get them started on the looping exercise by putting up the following prompt and asking them to write in response to it.
Prompt: Look over the informal writings you did for last class. Choose one that you are particularly interested in, then underline one sentence of it which seems to point to a specific event or memory which seems particularly important, an event which could become an interesting story in itself. Then take about 10 minutes to write that specific story, showing as many interesting and relevant details as possible.
When students have completed this loop, start them on another one, asking them to (again) underline the most important point they have written, and to write about this new point for another 5-10 minutes. At the end of this exercise, explain to students why this is an important strategy for focusing an essay: It weeds out extraneous points and focuses on those points which are most vital and central to the main idea they have in mind. Also note, though, that students don't necessarily have to get rid of what they have written just because it isn't one of the points they underlined. This is simply a method by which they can narrow a topic and enrich it with greater detail.
Daily - I use this daily to get across the idea that details help make sure everyone is "on the same page"--that the reader has as close as possible the same image in mind as the writer or is understanding a particular concept as the writer intended them to.
Daily Prompt: Ask students to describe a fairly common object. I always say, "Think of a dog. Now describe it." Of course, they'll all usually be thinking of a different breed of dog and their descriptions will as a result not match at all. This shows why it's important to use specific details--not just "a dog" but what kind of dog.
Discussion of Daily - Ask several students to share their descriptions. Arrive at the above points about detail by asking them why using detail is important (based on the writing they've just done.) Remind them that the major goal of this essay assignment is to "tell a good story." Are there different types of detail that can be used? Is all detail good detail? Does all detail draw us into a story, or is there such a thing as boring detail? [AT THIS POINT, I LIKE TO HAVE STUDENTS READ ALOUD FROM PHG, P. 48, THE SECTION WHERE A DISTINCTION IS MADE BETWEEN "SUBJECTIVE" AND "OBJECTIVE" DESCRIPTION. OBJECTIVE DETAIL IS NOT "BAD" BY ANY MEANS, BUT IT CAN BE RATHER CLINICAL, DRY, AND LIST-LIKE SOMETIMES. PERSONAL ESSAYS OFTEN BENEFIT FROM THE USE OF BOTH TYPES OF DETAIL.]
Activity: Practice Using Descriptive Detail - Move into this exercise by telling students that they are going to practice using descriptive detail in an attempt to "tell a good story." Prepare for this activity by finding a prose passage that is full of sensory detail. (See Appendix 3 for an excerpt from Cormac McCarthy's Suttree, but feel free to search out a vivid passage of your own.) Once you have found your passage, rewrite it, removing all the detail, or paraphrasing it in a very simplified way. Put the "detailless" passage on an OH or hand it out to your students. Then ask them to add in the details.
Have students read the details they've added. Discuss how the details are effective, how they paint a clearer picture, create a mood, or work towards giving a particular impression to the reader. Then read the original passage with its details included and compare.
[THIS CAN ALSO OPEN DISCUSSION OF WHY DIFFERENT PEOPLE CHOSE DIFFERENT DETAILS--COMES OUT OF THEIR BACKGROUNDS, PERSONALITIES, INTERESTS, ETC.]
Discussion of Lockett Essay in terms of Focus and Descriptive Detail. Be sure to set aside at least 15 minutes of class so that you can spend some time discussing the Lockett Essay students read for today ("How I Started Writing Poetry"). Spend about five minutes getting students to discuss the way Lockett focuses the essay, and the main idea he is imparting to his readers. Then ask them to look over the essay again and to select one or two particularly descriptive and memorable passages they noticed on first reading this essay. What makes those passages particularly effective and descriptive? Link this back to your discussion earlier in the class about what constitutes effective description in a piece of writing.
Explain assignment for next class, particularly the Web Forum "Workshop" - Note that the Web Forum assignment for next class will push them to develop their own essays in terms of descriptive detail. Also note that they might revise their own essays on the forum in light of today's focus (looping) activity. Explain the homework assignment to your students, going over how to respond to others' essays and how to revise their own. (Be sure to refer them back to the original Web Forum Instructions handout you gave them.) Explain that this is a great opportunity to read some of their classmates' essays and to get some helpful ideas on how to revise their own.