Allergies, Travel, Paper Analysis

The last week has been rough on my eyes and my nose. There’s usually a week, sometimes two weeks, at the beginning of every spring where I’m absolutely miserable. It’s difficult to work, think, or have fun at all. Allergy pills are a lifesaver – they allow minimal function. Today, April Fool’s, is one of the first days in awhile that I have not woken up with a dry throat, sneezing uncontrollably and feeling low.

On Thursday I fly to Boston for the PCA/ACA conference where I will give my metaphor presentation again. I haven’t finalized the new form of the talk yet (something that will be decided on by tonight) but I think I’ll go low-tech, with a spare two-page handout, and I’ll do a first – I’ll read my paper. Or, rather, I’ll read it and offer asides as I go, as a dry read-through is awfully boring.

Lately, I have gotten some practice reading papers out loud in my classes, as I’ve been presenting analyses of freshman papers from classes that I’ve taught before. I put them up on the projector and walk the class through each paragraph, noting what is working and what isn’t, jumping back and forth through the paper to see the overall organization, etc. Sometimes this changes my view of the paper and its original grade a bit, as normally I don’t have to justify a grade to the entire class, and an internal analysis done in front of a stack of 26 papers is different from one done on the fly in front of a group. So farI have not had to do too much fancy footwork in that regard, thankfully.

Either way, it seems to engage the class in a way very different from peer workshops, going over the assignment requirements, or even a one-on-one discussion of a draft. It gives a class a vaguely scientific feel, a more craftsmanlike approach to writing. I like being able to point interesting things out the second I notice them, too, so they can have a good grasp of how I grade and what I expect and why. The students jump in with their observations as I make mine, and I discuss it with them afterward. After this I comment the paper heavily in Word (mostly repeating what I said in class, with a few added insights as available) and put it on the class blog so they have a model (with large caution signs attached) to work with when they write their drafts.

This semester I’ve gone over 3 papers in this detailed manner. The first two were orginally B’s, and the third was an A. I have resisted using only A’s. I want them to see typical papers and typical mistakes. I might show them two papers for their last assignment – a C and a A, to give a range.

Of course, this only works if you have good samples and have taught the class before. But the portfolios that are required in 1010 make this easy.

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