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Writing 121

Paper Three

 

 

In addition to analysis and argument, instructors choose a third unit that they believe will contribute to the course.  You can design your own or choose one of the options below.  Click for descriptions and (in some cases) lessons.

 

 

  Explaining an Idea

  Rhetorical Situations

  Personal Narrative

  Visual Interpretation

 

 

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explaining an Idea

 

Description: The point of this unit is not for students to write a "report," but rather for them to explain and reflect meaningfully on an idea that intrigues them.  As you'll see from the sample assignment sheets, different instructors approach this in different ways.  Some even use it as a basis for the argument or analysis paper, if they make Paper Three the first unit of the quarter.

 

Paper Assignment: Here are examples of assignment descriptions past GTAs have used.  This one asks students to problematize the idea, persuading others in how they conceptualize the idea in question.  This one is more of an investigation, requiring a lot of student research; this one requires research as well, but is slightly more free-flowing/exploratory.  Finally, this one explores the causes of an event or a cultural phenomenon.

 

Supporting Materials for Explaining an Idea: Few for now, but if you develop some, please let Chris know so it can be posted to the website.  Here's a process memo for students to fill out when they turn in the first draft of this paper.  Here's an explanation of a way to conduct the peer review for this essay.  And here's a form for students to fill out for the peer review--it contains both an in-class and at-home component.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rhetorical Situations

 

Description: The name is fancier than it needs to be.  The point of this unit is basically to make students think about how they make decisions in their writing.  It considers subjects like tone, audience, word choice, etc.  It can be drawn upon later on the course; for this reason, some people who use rhetorical situations make it the first unit.  It can be kept at a basic level, or it can be expanded to include students' own interests; some of the supporting materials for this unit give students a chance to learn about writing in their own discipline.

 

Paper Assignment: The paper for rhetorical situations has two parts: (1.) Students choose a "rhetorical situation" that interests them--basically, what they want to say, and who they want to say it to.  Then they create an online web log (blog) at www.blogger.com that does this.  (Don't worry--no technical skills necessary for you, or for the students!)  Past examples include, "What it Means to be Muslim at OSU," "A Week-long Journal of an Art Major: Why it's Harder Than it Looks," and "Computer Science Insights for Computer Science Majors."  Depending on how you decide to teach it, you can have students make an "academic" site or a really informal one based on their other interests (both have worked well for GTAs in the past).  (2.) The second part of the assignment is that students write a short paper about their blog--analyzing the decisions they made in terms of audience, word choice, tone, style, graphics, etc.

 

Supporting Materials for Rhetorical Situations--Basic: These are materials that can be used without any real research from students.  Stick to these if you want to keep Paper Three short, and make it a two-week unit.  Before starting this unit, it can help to have students reflect on their writing experiences.  One prompt that has been used in the past is, "Think about your writing experiences in the past.  Have you always known what's expected of you?  What do you do when you don't know?  Here's one student's response.  Next, here's an abridged version of an essay by David Bartholome called "Inventing the University."  Have students read it and reflect on what they agree and disagree with.  Generally, they tend to agree, and it works as an opening to get them to discuss their college writing experiences, why people write, what's expected of them in college as far as writing and research, etc.  Finally, as a segue into the meat of the unit, divide students into groups and give them this handout, which gives writing samples from different disciplines.  Have them list as many differences in the writing (not the topics) that they can come up with.  What seems to make each unique?  When they're done, have each group say what they wrote.  List these all on the board.  When there are 20 or 30 things up there (tone, use of humor, citation style, level of formality, assumptions about audience, etc.--you'll get a ton), you can have a discussion about how these are all things that writers negotiate each time they sit down to write, and that this unit will concentrate on identifying these choices in their own writing and making good ones.

 

Supporting Materials for Rhetorical Situations--Advanced: Many students come into 121 with assumptions such as, "Science writing is really technical.  English writing is really flowery."  These are materials to use if you want students to explore writing in their major, and to research the similarities and differences between writing in different disciplines.  (Note: See Lisa Ede's Work in Progress for a great supporting chapter on Rhetorical Situations.)  It doesn't have to be a part of the main paper for the course, but it can be.  Use these however you want.  As a starting point for all of these, have students identify two academic majors that interest them (not too close together, either--chemistry and history would be acceptable; chemistry and biology, possibly too close):

 

Finding Departmental Writing Guides: Have students look at departmental writing guides in the subjects that interest them.  Some of these are available through OSU; others are online from other universities.  One activity is to have students write a brief compare/contrast between them and share their findings in class.

 

Interviewing Professors: Have students interview a professor about writing in a particular discipline.  (Make sure they have ample time to schedule this in advance, as some professors won't be interested.)  Here's a sample interview write-up to show students.  Many students will be nervous about this, so it can help to have them brainstorm interview questions.  Here are some samples.

 

Journal Excerpt Comparison Chart: In this activity, students find a journal article in each of their two areas.  Then they photocopy a few pages of each, bring it in, and see what they can discover by using this chart to analyze them.  You can have students write about their findings, or even divide students into groups by subject and compare their findings.

 

Essay Assignment: This can be used as an informal in-class writing activity, or even substituted for the blogger assignment and used as the main required paper for the unit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Personal Narrative

 

Description: In this unit, a student gets a chance to explore an event that was meaningful to him or her.  Many of the essays in 50 Essays are examples of this and can be used as models.  It's also a good chance to explore language and meaning.

 

Paper Assignment: This can be changed or adapted depending on students' interests and experiences.  Here is an example of an assignment sheet that's been used successfully in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Visual Interpretation

 

Description: This unit, which can also be used as a component of the analysis unit, focuses on analyzing the meaning of a visual image.  Some GTAs choose to focus on a media image, such as a magazine advertisement, while others use paintings, sculpture, or photographs. 

 

Paper Assignment: As mentioned above, visual interpretation can work as the central paper of a unit, or as a component of a larger unit.  Here's an assignment sheet for an Explaining an Image paper, in which students find an image that has been published somewhere in society and use outside sources to analyze the messages within the image.  This can be especially successful when students present their findings to the class.  Here's a presentation evaluation sheet for other students to use while listening to the presenter.

 

Supporting Materials for Visual Interpretation: Here's an assignment that asks students to do a visual analysis of a piece of art.  It can be lengthened or shortened, depending on the amount of time you'd like to spend.  Here's a great group activity that asks students to see images as "visual rhetoric," analyzing an image in terms of ethos, pathos, logos, claims, warrants, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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