Week 1.1: Hi, I Just Met You, Welcome to College

Well, yesterday was the first day of school, and of course I kept thinking about this Onion article.

The first day of school also demands my first what-did-I-do-today lesson plan. Faced with it, I’m a little nervous and embarrassed. Blog my lesson plans? For god sake’s, why? Right now my lesson plans are on endless piles of looseleaf–each semester, I find myself recopying almost identical lesson plans from the semester before. But I think writing it out helps me study it. (Did you ever have a teacher who let you bring one cheat sheet into an exam? And after making said cheat sheet, you discovered you didn’t need it anymore?) Anyway, I had better settle on a format. I think I’m going to write out the lesson plan–i.e., what I have written on this piece of paper–first, then make comments on it afterwards. That way, if you or I want to use these lesson plans, you or I can just look at them here instead of wading through a pile of prose.

On a related note, yesterday I found myself humming a little ditty: If I had an iPad, I would use it in the mo-or-ning. I would use it in the evening, all over this la-and! I’d tweet about justice (justice!) I’d lesson plan freedom (freedom!) … you get the point.

OK, here goes.

1. Welcome! Michigan time, quick attendance+nicknames

2. Introductions – name, hometown, where you write the most (journal, class, facebook, texting, etc.)

3. Syllabus– why Kanye, why books, why blogs, why write, why reflect

4. Homework- for Thursday listen to the whole College Dropout; read short arguments article; accept blog author e-mail

5. Discuss in small groups: What was good writing in HS? What do you expect it to be in college? –> come back together, put ideas on board

6. Final notes: our job is to transition HS writing skills to college; my job is to take the skills you already have and make them more flexible, dynamic, and independent.


1. always awkward, but what can you do

2. The “where you write the most” bit is a little idea I picked up from new media pedagogy. The hope here is to remind students–many of whom say they write the most on Facebook or Twitter or via text–that in their real lives they actually write all the time. Ideally this will also make them think this class could help them with skills they’ll use no matter what they do, because written communication is a huge part of modern life.

3. You can read my whole syllabus by clicking on the link above. You are welcome, with credit, to use parts or all of it in your own teaching. My goal in writing a syllabus is to create a totally self-explanatory document. That begs the question of what I’m even needed for, but we’ll save those existential questions for another day. I like to give students those “why’s” (even though I see now I forgot a bunch of them yesterday–but I’ll remember for my second section today!) Kanye because he’s thematically rich, his focus on college is relevant, he’s not too violent; writing because you’ll do it all the dingdang time in college and forever after; books (and I show them our course books and describe them each a little bit) because I think it aids research skills to get comfortable handling a book in all its indexed and Table-of-Contents’ed glory; and blogs and reflecting to keep you aware of what you’re learning, to help you process what you’re reading and writing, to keep your reflections somewhere they can’t get lost; and because the U of M English Department thinks reflecting helps students become aware of strengths and struggles, and helps their writing skills transfer to other writing situations outside this class.

4. I love giving this homework assignment. It brings Kanye into our academic space plus it’s a place I know I can make a dumb joke: that “study setting” doesn’t mean put the album on while you’re chatting with your roommate, or partying with your neighbors from down the hall. (Ok, doesn’t sound so funny here, but it’s in the delivery.) The arguments article is just the introduction from a reader by Crusius and Channel, The Aims of Argument. This is actually the first semester I’ve used any rhetoric texts in my class at all. In fact it was thinking about my PhD applications and the other course I teach, Hiphop Arguments, that made me realize how many rap songs are sophisticated rhetorical texts. Last year I would just give a confusing shpiel about the rhetorical triangle, but that does a disservice to the rhetorical tools Kanye uses like tripartite structure, appeals to emotion, his sophisticated (if you want to call it that) awareness of himself as speaker and of his audiences and his arguments. Ergo, new reading assignment. Also re: the “blog email” part–U of M has recently “gone Google.” So things I used to do on CTools forums, like weekly reading responses, I am now doing on Blogger. For privacy reasons I’ve chosen to begin the term with this blog as private, but if my students decide to make it public later in the term I’ll let you know.

5. Love small groups. I am very invested in my students knowing each other’s names, which starts now. This conversation tries to plug them in to all they learned in the past and to alert them that their classmates share their apprehensions about this whole “college writing” thing. Yesterday my students came up with a pretty representative list: HS writing was about structure and flow, prompts, big vocabularies, thesis statements, while college writing is going to be more specific, original, voice-driven, independent.

6. With that list on the board, I like to point back to thesis statements and structure and let my students know those are still important to college writing, we’re just going to help them become more flexible, for different and longer arguments. And I also point to vocabulary and let my students know that while big buzzwords may have been good for the SAT, here we’re more concerned with clarity of ideas. And finally that word FLOW. In our class, flow is how a rapper raps. In high school we learn to use this vague term flow to describe a sense of “it’s working,” but the term is vague–so we’re going to try to be precise with our language: rappers have flow but as writers we’ll have transitions, development, etc. And maybe we can reappropriate this term for ourselves later in the semester.

And that’s all, folks! Come see me if you’re on the waitlist!

3 thoughts on “Week 1.1: Hi, I Just Met You, Welcome to College

  1. Hello! I’ve recently stumbled across your world and am in love/obsessed 😀 I think you have such great insight and awesome things to say about the world of hiphop and it’s relationship with popculture/massmedia/intellectualism. I was hoping to be able to access your blog for your class? I’m currently a graduate student and am hoping to read your other blog [redacted] just to get a feel of how your students are digesting and internalizing some of these ideas/conceptualizations. I hope I didn’t come off too creepy/needy/weird haha 🙂 my email is [redacted] if you decide to let me have access to the awesomeness 🙂 Thanks and GOBLUE!!!!

    • Hi Audra! Thanks so much for your kind words. For the time being while my students are just settling in, I’m going to err on the side of their privacy and keep the blog closed to folks outside our class. However, if my students want to share their work and it goes public later I’ll definitely share that here. Thanks again for your interest. Good luck with your studies and stick around! -Tessa

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