Terms that Define

This semester, I am teaching a general education literature course titled, “The Outsider.”  This course examines the role of the Outsider in literature.  I am using contemporary texts and am striving to have the students examine where they themselves as an Outsider.  As with any of my courses, I attempt to build a safe space where all are comfortable sharing and being honest.  I believe that to write well, one must be brutally honest.  For this course, my first day writing activity will be a stepping stone to their first, longer writing assignment.

Directions to Students:

  1. On an index card, list all the words and terms that define, limit and circle you.  No explanations.  No excuses.  No defending.  Just list.  No names.  (3 minutes)
  2. Divide the words/terms up by categories that make sense to you.  Home, School, Work… Happy, Sad, Angry.  Whatever works for you and your terms.
  3. Separate piece of paper, list each word/term with 3-4 lines between each one.  Write for 45 seconds for each term.  Free-association writing.  No thinking allowed.
  4. Use activity as pre-writing activity for Un-Naming narrative.
  5. Collect index cards and word cloud them with Tagxedo.
  6. On blog, have students discuss any similarities or differences and why they are there.

“My Name Is…”

First day of the First Year Composition semester encompasses a lot of aspects, but most important to me is the establishment of our classroom space as a “writing community.”

The quickest and most effective way I have started this process is my having students write; day 1, minute 1.

  1. Project and read aloud Sandra Cisneros vignette from House on Mango Street titled My Name is...(First story only.)
  2. Give students 10 minutes to write about their own name (I write too.)
  3. All students share.  Only quick-write were I require sharing.  

This writing activity serves three main purposes:

  1. Get the students writing.  Moving hands=working brains=improved writing.
  2. Serves as “getting-to-know-you” activity without appearing to be one.
  3. Informal Assessment of students writing ability and their comfortableness in speaking in class.
I enjoy this activity and even though I’ve been using since I was first exposed to it; I still manage to write something different each semester and for each section I teach.