Today Abby and I took turns again, but it was a more even division than on Wednesday. On Wednesday, she started us off by introducing Project 2 and then the remainder of the class was my time. Today it was more even because we alternated with doing rhetorical analysis practice activities.
Almost all the students were well engaged. I sat in a chair in front of them and read the practice article along with them. I think demonstrating/talking through it together as a group worked for them.
They also responded well to me asking new people who haven’t talked yet today or at all this semester to give answers. Only one group was not paying attention much, especially as the activity went on. I had to repeat the instructions/explanations to them multiple times during each round of the activity. Then when asking them to give us the last answer for the day, because they hadn’t contributed yet, they repeated the answer just given and had no idea. I told them they had given the answer just given and Abby reminded them they would have known that if they had been paying attention. I don’t know if that got through to them or not.
All the students in that group are in the STEPP program and their writing mentor finally showed up for the first time Wednesday. I just hope she knows which students in the class work with her and noticed the behavior today and the resulting comment Abby had to make.
Yesterday was my first teaching day since the school remained closed after the hurricane through Monday. Abby and I had to adapt our plan because we missed a lot of time and had to really condense our material. I think I did okay for having to rush through the lesson that I wanted to span two days, but I don’t know if I explained things well enough. I feel like I blanked sometimes on how to elaborate on what I meant. I hope Friday (a practice/activity day) will show me if they really got it or not. Whenever I asked if everything made sense, they all nodded, so that at least makes me hopeful. Sometimes students won’t even nod or shake their heads!
The students were at least respectful and receptive to how I did the lecture. I didn’t want one long day full of lecture; I wanted to break the lecture up with more active learning activities dispersed in between. I also didn’t want to cover so much material at once because I didn’t want to overwhelm them. I wanted to cover one topic per day and spend approximately half the class period engaging with students in practice where we went through some examples together and then I let them pair up to try on their own before bringing the whole group back together in the end to wrap up.
Anyway, I hope my actual abilities and actual joy of doing this will come through more on Friday.
This week did not feel very eventful for me. Students got their Project 1 assignment, had a library day learning about the NC collection, and some time to work together in groups to discuss their topic ideas before posting them to Blackboard.
I did express a little concern to Abby and to the group on Thursday that I wasn’t sure if the students were actually as confident and clear on the expectations as they were saying, or if they were just saying so when they were actually not sure. It could also be that some students are not taking the project seriously. It is definitely my hope that every is actually going as smoothly as it seems. Their Blackboard posts about their intended topics show a wide range of effort, detail, and enthusiasm even just in this initial post, so I am not sure if that same range will carry over into the project or not.
Other than that, I’ve had some more great email communication with the students so far, which is encouraging. They are a kind and considerate bunch, at least in class, in my office, and in email!
One thing I hope is that they will start coming to see me in my office more as the project continues. So far it is the same few students who come to sit down with me that are the same students who volunteer to read in class or answer in class while the rest are both quiet in class and don’t come by. I’m not sure if these students are just shy and are totally okay, or if they are so shy that they aren’t getting the help they need.
For our second day of class, Mindtap was a little troublesome, but everyone was patient and we all finally got it figured out. Abby and I walked around and helped folks get set up. One of the problems was that student accounts were looking different than what we were shown at orientation and what Abby was accustomed to. We also had the expected trouble with turning off pop-up blocking. Once we were all in, it was smooth sailing with showing them the online textbook and how to do the auto-graded assignments.
Abby also showed the students the LiveSafe app and gave them the chance to download it, which I really appreciated. I think it showed the students that we care about their safety and it is actually on our minds. I’m also going to put it on my phone for Monday nights because I don’t get done on campus until 8:30 and my walk to my bus stop in the dark is a little scary. I’ll use the SafeWalk feature to get from the library to my bus and then from the bus to home with my brother on the other end. He will definitely appreciate knowing I’m safe without him having to come pick me up.
So far three students have come to my office and they all seemed happy when we were done, so I feel good about that! The second two students were just sitting with me to borrow my copy of the Pirate Read because theirs hadn't come in yet, but it still helped them have one less thing to worry about during this stressful first week when things are prone to go wrong and overwhelm students.
In class I’ve also decided to sit at the very back, not to distance myself from Abby or the students, but so I can see everyone’s device. Everyone has been on task so far, so I’m not sure if that will ever become a problem or not. So being able to see devices should also help me know who’s having trouble with Blackboard or MindTap or even connecting to the Wi-Fi to begin with. I think that will give me the chance to help them sooner because it does seem like students would sometimes rather sit in silence with nothing on their screen and fall behind instead of asking Abby to slow down or repeat a step or ask for help (because asking for help is scary, especially when it seems like everyone else is not having a problem).
I will start by saying that yesterday was a good first day! The students in ENGL 1100 with Abby all seemed very receptive to having me as their advocate and go-to person for any questions or concerns. That advocacy is what I’m most looking forward to about this unique position as embedded mentor/TA. Being the advocate for students in the UWC and being able to act as mediator between them and the professor/between them and the assignments/fear/assumptions was always what allowed me to alleviate their stress the most and encourage them the most; it was utterly fulfilling for me, perhaps because I know how scary asking for help can be and how feeling like they are falling behind or just not getting it can really weigh heavily on a student’s mind.
One thing in class that didn’t go perfectly as I imagined it was the ice breaker. Students were already antsy to leave early at that point because they could hear/see other classes being let out early, but Abby used the full class time like she should have. So, we didn’t get through as many ice breaker questions as I thought we would, and we only got to know a few students who identified with the first few questions (if they liked Marvel/DC movies/comics). The few students who answered “yes” were very enthusiastic, at least! I know what some of the students in class like, but not what most do! As I meet students one-on-one I hope to get to know them better. When they come to my office they’ll see my personality all over my desk with my little decorations and resources for them, so hopefully that will both make them comfortable and encourage them to share about themselves too (if they want to).
At least one student is planning to come today and I’m looking forward to it. She was totally proactive and emailed me with a question yesterday and it was a “proper” and polite block letter email, so she’s already on the right track!
As for those resources I mentioned, I’ve put some spare pencils, erasers, and notebooks that I never used (and just don’t have room for at home) out on my desk for them if they need them. The pencils and erasers are Halloween style, of course. I’ve also got the Counselling Center’s Coping Skills chart right on the wall where both the students and I can see it. I’ve got the academic calendar, Abby’s class schedule and other student services documents available on my desk in a folder so I can quickly reference them for students.
Starting Monday June 18th, I will begin hosting an online, self-paced workshop to help teach poets about writing concerns and as a formal introduction to how to critique. A new topic will be introduced once a week for six weeks, but the workshop will be available after that time and as a series of free printable documents for self-paced learning.
Description/Goal: A lot of folks who don't offer critique (who aren't doing so for selfish reasons) don't offer suggestions because they don't feel qualified. I’ve seen it in countless comments on forums and in real-world workshops. They don't have the terminology, the technical skills, the poetic know-how, or the formal education overall.
This workshop is intended to serve the needs of readers and writers who want a more formal foundation for suggesting revisions and giving writing advice.
By following my critique blogs and some additional scholarship, together we will explore different writing concerns for poetry. These writing concerns include content, flow, word efficiency, imagery, literary devices, syntax, and more. During this workshop we will learn how to identify, analyze, and discuss these features of writing for the benefit of our own poetry and the poetry of others.
This is not a workshop for poets to workshop any of their own writing; it is an in-depth introduction to critique where we will explore “anonymous” poetry.
Level of expertise: Open to all
Subject matter: Critique and Understanding Writing Concerns https://www.neopoet.com/workshop/great-big-all-inclusive-critique-workshop) in manageable sections.
Get the short version of the workshop (exactly as it will be posted to Neopoet by clicking the download file below. This version offers less in terms of academic resources/discussion/reading, but still offers plenty of free resources.
My classmate, coworker, and friend Cameron Green is offering workshop services on his new website, https://camerongreenwrites.com. There you can also read his creative writing, sign up for a writing newsletter, and read his enlightening and entertaining writing blog.
Stop in and say hello!
I don’t know about other folks here, but sometimes I have have trouble following along in a poem like I should. This mostly goes for poems that don’t have enough capitalization, line/stanza breaks or punctuation or poems that use these too much. I also don’t know if other writers intend the same pauses as I do when using the same punctuation, line/stanza breaks, etc.
Without cues (or with misused cues), I can’t discern where one thought begins or ends. This is especially true when two thoughts share a line (enjambment) or multiple thoughts span one stanza. I inevitably end up pausing at weird spots because I misjudge where I should be pausing.
I can remember this being a prevalent issue when reading poetry aloud in school as a child. Us shy types would would rush through the poem as quick as we could, never stopping between stanzas or between thoughts, regardless of the inclusion of aforementioned cues. Those who couldn’t read as well would stumble through the poem like it was the thickest mud you’ve ever had the displeasure of trekking through. If there had been cues that would normally signal a pause, full stop or other form of emphasis, they wouldn’t have noticed it, if they knew what it meant or not.
I see poems lacking poems lacking the cues readers need everywhere from school to Neopoet to Emily Dickinson to Shakespeare’s sonnets. For some, it’s overdoing the signals. You might come across a poem with capitalization on every line, using punctuation as if the poem consists of complete sentences, lines long enough to make the stanzas look like paragraphs, extraneous punctuation (a period and a question mark together, ten periods in an ellipsis etc. For readers who notice every capitalization and every punctuation mark and try to use it the way it’s intended, it can make the poem very difficult to get through.
The poet. May not intend. For readers. To. Read the poem. Like this but. Capitalizing. Every line might. But sometimes, not, because. Some readers are used to this traditional style. on the other hand no punctuation or capitals means that the thoughts go on and on without any pauses or stops at all so that the reader just keeps going this is not so good because the reader will not be able to make heads or tails of the beginning and end of each thought they will miss out on important details they also won’t be able to savor the language use.
My suggestion is for poets to find a balance between their signals. Pick and chose. Use a combination of line/stanza breaks, punctuation and capitals. If you want to put more emphasis on one or two of those, limit your use of the others.
You can have multiple thoughts on one line or multiple thoughts spanning a single stanza, but use something that will tell the reader to pause between the two different ideas.
Punctuation like commas, semicolons, em dashes, parentheses, and periods can all provide different kinds of pauses in your writing. Commas are a brief pause that tell the reader that more relevant information is to follow. A period is a full stop that means a totally new idea is coming. Semicolons are a pause longer than a comma but shorter than a period that means related information is coming, but the information is it’s own complete thought or complete sentence (or for long lists). You typically see a period used when you have a new subject or you are explicitly restating the subject in the sentence. Semicolons are used when a previously mentioned topic, subject or action is not being explicitly restated.
Sentences are made up of clauses. An independent clause is a complete sentence with a subject and action. A dependent cause is not a complete sentence because it relies on another clause to establish subject or action. Use a comma to separate an independent and dependent clause. Typically, a sentence with an independent and dependent clause will still be a complete sentence if you removed the dependent clause (remove “Typically,” from the beginning of this sentence and the rest still makes sense). A sentence that follows a semicolon is like a dependent clause, but is a complete sentence; the statement needs the previous sentence to establish the subject or action, but it’s a complete thought and using a comma would have created a run-on sentence or comma splice. Do you see how I used the semicolon above? I needed it because my subject was “the statement”. Well, which statement? The previous line gives me the answer: the sentence that follows a semicolon.
Em dashes (the long dash, like this —) are similar in usage to parentheses or commas in that they usually denote appositives. An appositive is “added information” that can be taken away from a sentence without making it an incomplete sentence (it’s a dependent clause of useful information). The en dash (the short dash like this -), or hyphen, (the part “or hyphen” is an appositive, marked by commas) is used to hyphenate words (if you removed all the appositives from this sentence you would have “The en dash is used to hyphenate words.”). You hyphenate words (like-this) when two (or more) words together creates one adjective (age-old story, fire-red eyes, low-budget film, ten-year-old brat).
Does that all make sense (especially the period and semicolon part)? It’s a lot to take in, but I thought it worthy of explaining since I’m talking about punctuation!
If used, capitalization should occur where it would normally be if there were complete sentences and proper punctuation. Basically, use a capital to note a new thought and for proper nouns. You may not want to use this method if you plan to have multiple thoughts on one line (a capital would be odd in the middle of a line).
Lastly, lines and stanzas can also be used in various ways to distinguish thoughts. A poem that is one stanza with multiple thoughts (or could have multiple complete sentences) can use punctuation or capitalization to separate thoughts so that the reader pauses or stops when they should. Lines and stanzas can be used to separate ideas as well (new thought = new line or new stanza). However, if you would like to use the “new thought = new stanza” concept, you may not want to be writing a very long piece. Aim for a few haiku-like stanzas and express your ideas as concisely as possible.
Remember, find a balance between the various cues that are available for signalling pauses and stops. Under-doing it or overdoing will make the poem difficult for many readers to get through. You want to guide your readers. And for readers and critics, make note of how the poet uses these cues. There should be purpose for every signal that is used. If the poem does not appear to have selectively and intentionally chosen cues, let the poet know. They should be carefully placing each one.
Learn more about punctuation here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/6/
Have any questions about using pauses and other cues in your poetry and other writing? Feel free to leave a comment on this blog or contact me in the contact form on my "About Me" page.
See this blog post on Neopoet: https://www.neopoet.com/swamp-witch/blog/tue-2018-06-05-1327
As a student in high school, having my first and last required summer reading assignment was a nightmare. Having homework over the break was torture. I loved to read, but having to read something that was assigned, that I didn't get to choose or have any interest in would always feel like a chore. I now read for a living as a literature major, tutor, and editor, but I take joy in what I read. I can take joy in it because I'm reading to learn and reading to help others.
Years of depression have also exacerbated the difficulty with completing any book I set out to read, whether for course work, learning at home, or reading solely for pleasure. Depression has dictated that I haven't finished a book read for pleasure in several years, and several years before then I didn't read anything for pleasure either. So I've had large gaps of time between reading for pleasure.
I've also taken at least one summer class almost every summer since beginning my undergrad degree in 2011 and when I am doing school work over the summer, I tend to do little else but laze about trying to avoid the sweltering NC heat when the class is over. When I graduated with my BA and had from mid-December to late-July to be free, I was experiencing a mental breakdown and couldn't have read if I wanted to.
The last books I read solely for pleasure (and finished) were the May Bird series by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which I read early in undergrad. I was a little old for the target audience, but I loved the series and cherish them dearly. The fact that I picked up the first book in the series by chance at a yard sale several years prior to reading them felt like pure serendipity. When I looked through my shelves and wanted to find something to read, my eyes landed on that book which I had been drawn to because of the dark and whimsical illustration on the cover. I fell in love, needless to say, and immediately bought the next two books in the trilogy so I could read them back to back. And that I did.
Now that I'll be graduating with my MA in a few weeks and I have no summer plans and my future is in flux, I think I want to set some summer reading goals for myself. I have been reading Ruth Goodman's "How to be a Victorian" off and on when I get the urge, as well as a few other non-fiction works, but I want some pure fiction joy over the summer.
During my final class for my Teaching English in the Two-Year College certificate, a classmate recommended In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware to anyone in the class interested in dark thrillers. I was immediately interested and bought it alongside my books for the course. I didn't have much to do today, mostly in a waiting phrase for the semester to end because I successfully defended my CAP already and have little else left to do besides walk across the stage at graduation. So I picked it up, and started reading. I'm only on page 11, but I'm definitely hooked.
My additional hopes for summer reading are:
I think if I manage to finish all those and want more to read, I will be finishing "How to Be a Victorian" and finishing some of the Sherlock Holmes works I've never read out of my beautiful complete anthology I recently bought.
The completed rough draft (and an updated framing essay) have been submitted to my committee as of yesterday! I already got feedback from my director, which I've implemented.
The next stage of the process is making additional revisions from my other two committee member's feedback, then scheduling my defense (and filling out the paperwork for it). When I asked what the defense process would be like, here is the answer I received:
What happens at the defense:
I'll come back later and reflect on the process of finishing up the draft (what happened between my last post and this one).
I'm just your average fictional creature, living in a swampland by the sea.