College Composition and Research Tips

Notes & Queries for College Writers

I just felt I must share.

I know the feeling!

Lux Tenebras

I…I have a box of Mountain Dew.

I don’t want diabetes.

I can’t stop.

Better pre-order insulin.

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Test post

This is the way we test our post, test our post, test our post…

Columbus Day should be a day of teaching and learning. Depending upon the class I am teaching, I ask my students to read an essay by Suzan Shown Harjo. We then discuss stereotypes and the misconceptions associated with the day. I’ll definitely be adding this blog to the reading list for my students.

Harjo link:'t%20be%20celebrating%20columbus%20day.html

Cynthia Coleman Emery's Blog

Monday ushers in Columbus Day, an event that irritates indigenous folks in North America.

Particularly vexing is the well-worn trope that Columbus “discovered” the continent.

Christopher Columbus offers a convenient target for our wrath but I can think of many other individuals who have caused grief among tribal people.

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Grammar Nazis and the Downfall of Grammar

A friend and former student just killed me with a couple of YouTube videos. They’re true enough, but great for a laugh.

College Humor’s Remix of the Opening to “Inglorious Basterds”

Hitler Just Can’t Stand Poor Grammar

Personally, I understand from whence the hyperbolic comparison of grammatical prescription to Nazism comes. I get it. Presrciptive grammar is strict, the Nazis were strict; Nazis are bad, stricture is often bad.  Grammatical stricture = Nazism in hyperbole.

I just wish it weren’t the case. Grammar isn’t that hard, but it takes time to learn it (as a second language, or as a first if you’re young), and it takes even more time to un-learn all of the “rules” a lot of well-meaning public schools might have taught us. What to do?

Nailed it. Might even make this required reading.


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Check Out my Students

One of my many goals for this blog is to encourage my students to start blogging themselves, thereby developing a habit — even a fondness? — for writing. So far, five of my ENG 102 students have taken me up on the challenge; take a look at their work:


There aren’t any posting schedules for the students; they may post whenever they’d like. The first three students have made posts already!


Harvest Moon

Sure, it has nothing to do with composition. This Harvest Moon photo is an example of what you can find in the blogosphere, though. I’ll probably order a print of this — the photographer is quite talented.

Using Pinterest to Teach?

Professional conferences are always a great way to go about spreading ideas and collaborating with like-minded professionals. I’ve presented my own research at several, but I was only a spectator this weekend at the Southeastern Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (SETESOL) conference in Knoxville. It was a great conference, and I learned quite a bit; simply put, I would’ve canceled class to attend the entire thing. I was only able to attend on Saturday, though; but, that didn’t stop me from finding a couple of interesting panels. Oddly enough, the most interesting panel of the day, for me anyway, was a presentation by three graduate students from Vanderbilt; in it, the students discussed how to use Pinterest to teach English as a Second Language.

The idea behind the presentation was simple: Pinterest provides ESL students with more than one way to learn vocabulary words. Creating a pin board for an adjective like “happy”, and then finding pictures in which people look happy, could reinforce what the word means and lead to the student having a rounder understanding of what sorts of nouns “happy” can describe. Pinterest can also be useful in organizing classroom information and in delivering lectures, as far as teaching ESL goes. I think it has promise, and I’m going to try it in the latter part of the Fall 2012 semester.

I want to think that it’d also work in the college composition classroom, but I’m not entirely certain how. I’ll mull it over. More later: time to grade.

What does Language Indicate About Human Thought?

The Stuff of Thought is a book by Stephen Pinker. In it, Pinker explores how words and language choices can be windows into human nature and thought. One reviewer on Amazon commented that:

The Stuff of Thought can be a little technical as well. After an introduction in the most appealing Pinker style, chapters 2 and 3, on the ways verbs imply metaphorical categories and the reasons competing language theories are wrong, are both persuasive and engaging, but only if you think about them really, really hard. I remember feeling the same way about the sentence trees and bushes early on in The Language Instinct. But the rewards for the persevering reader comes later. Should you find yourself bogging down, skip to the chapter The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television, which treats the subject of George Carlin’s famous monologue in a manner that is more comprehensive and penetrating (sorry), but at times equally hilarious. That should provide the fuel to travel the rest of his landscape.

I am a big fan of Stephen Pinker and his work. Here at Eastern Kentucky University (where I currently teach comp.), I teach Pinker every semester as part of ENG 101 — English Composition I. The ENG 101 selection is an excerpt from How the Mind Works and it is found in the A World of Ideas anthology.

  • Preview the A World of Ideas textbook here — note that one of the reviewers is from EKU.
  • Read up on Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought here.

I often wonder how my students’ language choices relate to their thoughts on a given topic — especially those thoughts they choose not to verbalize. Perhaps I’ll put a chapter of The Stuff of Thought in my ENG 102 curriculum this semester