From the category archives:

Teaching Tips

Beyond Rhetorical Arts

by Dr Davis on April 7, 2016

Moving Beyond the Rhetorical Arts: Refiguring Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

Christopher Foreé, TCU
“Reading in the Public Sphere: Reimaging the Content and Context of Comp Classrooms”

Habermas described public sphere as public space where private discuss in public…

Rhetorical public spheres as described by Gerard Houser…
Active members forming around issues.
Rhetorical public spheres digital and physical spaces. Students participating in and reading these spheres.

What and how students read has resurgence?
Pedagogy January 2016 looks at reading and transfer

Corillo (in Pedagogy)
Mindful reading.
Students create mindful reading—thinking about how they are reading.
Create mindful readers, rather than mindful reading.
Examine ideas.
Teach HOW to read in order to make reading visible.

Invisibleness of reading in classroom.
Reading as a tool to differentiate between composition and literature

Nancy Atwell
Simplest and most powerful innovation = giving choice and option

Assigning readings…
Reading difficult texts = cohesion
Coherence = connect the reading networks of information outside the text

Reading and Writing for Student Literacy
Critical reading, writing, and thinking skills needed to fend off and be able to understand inundation of public sphere rhetoric

Reading as a way of making meaning.

My experience is that students can come up with arguments in the news. Real world examples.
They avoid superficial. Discuss HOW they are being used and how they are effective.

Expand the aims “Expanding the Aims of Pedagogic… Writing Letters to the Editor”
… situational binary of privileging “real world” over classroom space

public shares civic literacy
nuanced form of civic participation

shift reading to the public sphere
don’t look at academic writing only
Look at other kinds of writing.
Read the public sphere.

What could I have the students do to encourage looking at public reading without allowing them to use those as sources?

Restore idea of public intellectual.
What do students read and how do they read it?

Notes from CCTE 2016: Rhetoric 4


Long-term Subbing in FYC

by Dr Davis on April 5, 2016

Sara Hillin, Lamar U
“Seeking Rapport: Emotion and Work of Long-Term Substituting in FYC”

for student discourse, require sincere and appropriate academic level

safe space for students: risk-taking, playing with language

What about when an instructor has to pick up classes?
Happens more often than expected.

Labor and learning issues…
Ft prof teaching 5 = 5 instructors
Consequences of not transitioning…

FYC students being asked to write in genres don’t understand (Melanie Kill)

Invite emotion –Laura Micciche’s work
Real-world human perspective who subbed during last 2 years

Ramifications of word “substitute” or “subbing”
Students will use that word.
That’s terrible. Think of what subs are viewed as.

Some of the subs had taken over more than FYC. Wider range of responses.

Subs—less surprised by self-examination

1. what subbed? FYC, lit, etc
2. when took over?
One exam with essay response, had to handle grade complaints, but hadn’t graded the paper.
3. first substitute?
One “by far not the first substitute”… fourth… further complicated by students attending a library workshop, which added another instructor (by student perspective)

Almost everyone transitioned to their own syllabus.

Why should this issue be on interest?

Can’t compare sub course with day-1 classes.
Writing is risky.

Emotion as a mitigating factor.
How well we acknowledge our own and students’ emotions makes a difference.

Pathos as a rhetorical technique is essential.

Lots of references to Bonding with student/not having developed bond
Second sub to take over “poor stepchildren”
Orphans being shuffled around.
Not a reflection of them by any means.
Humor useful. Jr level Creative Writing… pop instructor left… “Well, I’m not so-and-so and I never will be; you are stuck with me.”
Break the tension with humor.
Humor can be an aid to learning: book on pedagogical benefits

Essentially, arguing that emotion can be used actively as a category in investigating FYC situations.
“emotion determines how we orient ourselves to the world”

Take emotion seriously. What can we do to make sub situations better?

Notes from CCTE 2016: Rhetoric 4


Lecture v Active Learning

by Dr Davis on September 14, 2015

“Given that active-learning approaches benefit all students, but especially those who are female, minority, low-income and first-generation, shouldn’t all universities be teaching this way?” NYTimes, “Are Lecture Courses Unfair?”


Gaming the Classroom

by Dr Davis on August 30, 2015

Gamification: Engaging Students With Narrative begins:

When looking at how engaged students are in playing games, it makes sense to capture some of the ideas that game designers use to engage the player. This idea of applying gaming mechanics to non-game situations is known as gamification.

What defines a game is having a goal or objective. However almost all games also have some sort of theme or story.

Interesting. Relates to book read three years ago and book on game design read two years ago.



by Dr Davis on August 2, 2015

Begin with the end in mind. This is a truism. Begin with what you want to accomplish and you are more likely to accomplish it.

Some history
I have always wanted to be a teacher and have been a teacher for a good portion of my life. My teaching experiences range from toddlers to senior adults, from biology to rhetorical history, from homeschooling to public university. I have been teaching, in one form or another, for 39 years.

Over the last six years, I have had several mid-life crisis periods. I have wondered if I am a good teacher, if I should have done something else with my life.

I have sometimes despaired because, despite my concerted and diligent efforts to be the best, I am not the best teacher nor the most beloved (which somehow somewhat equates in my mind).

New Beginning
Each semester offers me as a teacher (and our students) a new beginning. We can start over and be all that we can be or at least make a new attempt.


PCA Harry Potter Learning Communities

by Dr Davis on April 13, 2015

Kate Fulton and Alicia Skipper
San Juan College
Harry Potter Learning Community

Love and Tokuno provide a set of categories:
Common cohort of students taking class
Interdisciplinary teams of faculty teaching courses around a common theme
Students forming study groups and socializing together

Students were interested in HP. Will be teaching 4th time this fall.

13/16 said theme was what drew them to the course.

Lack of understanding about learning community
Unfamiliarity of theme
Expectations of easier courses because of theme

Ways to overcome challenges
Embracing the theme

First step: The Letter
Young witches and wizards get an invitation from the owls
Significant—formal invitation
Lets them get a wand
Helps them become full members
We send a letter in same format, same font.
Received letter with HP postage.
They were psyched.

HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The Psychology of Harry Potter
Exploring Psychology
Laura King

Include information that you should watch the HP movies…
Movie marathon with their family so will be refreshed/familiar.

Policies Connected to Theme
In red have the related points…
Leave early, you’ll be hunted like a horcrux.
Plagiarism, not even Hermione, should be doing your work for you.
Group work “even a suspected Deatheater, is unacceptable… We don’t take that even from Slytherin.”

Creating a Community: Sorting into Houses
Sorted on first day with Myers-Briggs type assessment, link personality theory with their sorting
House points by knowledge and discussion “5 points for Ravenclaw”
Students really hold each other accountable.
Peer review by houses sometimes doesn’t work.
Really want to win the house cup. Who knew that Chocolate Frogs was so motivating?
One student created a poster so could visually move up and down… So she could see visually who was in the lead.
Competed up until the last day of class.

Common assignments
Good aspect of a learning community

Easy- sleep and dreams play an important part of the HP series. You have been reviewing consciousness and dream theory. Take concepts and analyze one dream from HP using two different dream theories.

Reading response…
Discuss chapter in psychology, read related essay in Psych of HP.
Explain to HP and to their own lives.

Theme helps them understand…
They get it, when HP.

Multigenre research project:
Collection of documents in different genres that relate to a concept.
Write a research paper, annotated bibliography, and 3 creative pieces. Bind those together. They present to class last day.
Have to show they understand English concepts and psych concepts.
Letter to the reader to introduce the concept.
Last reflection…

Because they get to do creative stuff, they get really excited about it. Publishing it and presenting it to the class.

One student created a contract on wand use and bystander effect. Also made wands for every student. She said they had to read the contract before they could get a wand.

Project keeps students involved.

Benefits for psychology
Every concept covered in Intro to Psych can be related to HP and the lives of the students
Personality theory
Psychological disorders
Social psychology

Split on Harry and PTSD
Ron has arachnophobia
Dobbie has anxiety

Benefits for English
Minimizes fear factor
Provides clear connections
Makes research more meaningful (doesn’t just only relate to English, also psych)
Holds student interest

Instructor Benefits
Classroom support
Immediate feedback on teaching and lessons
Makes class more fun

Students don’t want to leave.
In fall we’re doing Intro Psych/freshman comp
Advanced psych/advanced comp
“Now I just have to find a way to do the rest of my degree this way.”


DW: The First Daily Writing

by Dr Davis on January 18, 2015

The second day of class I had students write about their own experiences with writing. For this particular daily writing, I took about ten minutes.

boy surrounded by question marksQuestions
What kinds of writing have you done? What kind was most enjoyable?

What habits of writing do you have? A trick? A place? A medium (pen or computer)? Background music? Time?

What scares you most about writing?

What (potential) benefits do you see to writing?

Verbal Interpolations
For the first question, I mention that most enjoyable could be interpreted as least unpleasant.

For the second question, I ask them if they use a particular motivator or gimmick to get started,for instance. Do they always write just before the paper is due? Do they begin with the “I don’t have anything to say” answer to writer’s block?

High School student at deskAfter Life
Though usually I simply take up the Daily Writing and go on, for this day, I tell the students to meet the folks around them–exchanging names and introducing themselves– and share their answers. (Two of the classes meet in a classroom that I set up into table groupings, so they have 3-5 people at a table.)

I gave the students in my Tuesday-Thursday classes 15 minutes to talk about their answers with each other.

Then, just before I took up the papers, I called for silence and asked the students to write the names of the other people at their table on the bottoms of their papers.

🙂 Having already told students that I know a big part of college is getting to know people and that their fyc colleagues have great networking potential, as most will not be rivals for the jobs they want to pursue in the future, this little “pop Quiz” helps them see that I am serious about having them get to know each others’ names.

(FYI I also give a naming quiz, after putting pictures into a video for the students to review first. This usually takes place during the third week of class.)


Beginning Class with Writing

by Dr Davis on January 17, 2015

One of the things I like to do in my writing classes is have the students start each day with writing. I usually assign a topic, but say they can write about other things if they wish. Then I set the timer on my phone and let them write for four minutes.

This exercise does several very helpful things. These are in no particular order.

1. For this generation, who are unused to handwriting, it helps them to build physical muscles for intense writing–which is required during the final exam.

2. It encourages students to arrive on time.

3. It gives them an opportunity, albeit in short bursts, to reflect on their lives at college.

4. It lets me continue to access their writing. (I don’t always attempt to do this, but it does let me know if students are able to consistently write.)

5. It gives a daily grade that encourages attendance.

6. It starts class out with the focus for the class.

7. Late students are far less disruptive, as they attempt to get enough writing done to qualify for the daily grade.

I keep these together in a folder and about once a week I go through them all putting them in alphabetical order and then recording the grades.

At the end of the semester, I hand all the papers back to the individual students. I encourage them to hold on to them, to give them to a parent or put them in the attic (or some equivalent), explaining that they are a small “slice of life” picture that will help remind them of their freshman year at college in some distant future, which is another benefit.


41 Must Read Books on Story, Play, and Design

by Dr Davis on January 9, 2015

from Culture Hacker

I was particularly interested in this because of Daniel Pink’s “Conceptual Age” idea, as posted here on TCE.

These sound very interesting:
Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries – Peter Sims

A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling: How to Captivate and Engage Audiences Across Multiple Platforms – Andrea Phillips

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction – Jeff VanderMeer

Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction – Nathan Shedroff

Tinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques – Michael Michalko

The only book I have read on the list is Jesse Schell’s, but I have listened to Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk.


HOF: How to Straighten Out a Thesis–Less Hand, More Moon

by Dr Davis on December 24, 2014

Here is the thesis statement of his paper about “Pride and Prejudice”. He examines Darcy’s letter to Daisy (yes, he calls Lizzy Bennet “Daisy” for no known reason):

“Darcy’s character, simply put, is a still an a**hole , but an a**hole with who is trying to overcome his faults .”

Can anyone give me any suggestions as to what to say to him? My impulse is to go all prim and school-marmish on him, but perhaps another approach might work.

Thank you.

My own approach would be a bit different from what’s been suggested here. I’m less inclined to think that appealing to his sense of future professionalism would really be a successful motivator.

Jan van Eyck hands w bookInstead, I’d call him out on the subtext of what he’s doing:

“There is an old Buddhist quote which, when adapted to teaching (as often happens), goes something like this: The best teachers point to the moon and say, ‘Look! See the moon.’ The less-good teachers do the same, but say, ‘Look! See my hand, pointing at the moon.’ Those teachers are more interested in students seeing *them* rather than the moon: they instruct, yes, but we are always aware that they are interested in showing students their cleverness first, and the moon second. When you use language like ‘Darcy is still an a**hole,’ you are drawing the reader’s attention to you, not to the text. This is not something to aspire to in teaching, and definitely not something to aspire to in papers. Always show us less hand, more moon; less [studentlastname], more Austen.”

from voxprincipalis