It Matters How We Say It

“I wrote the same, but in different words.”

I don’t know if this is a “true” story, or based on one, but the point about how we use our words, and how our words convey our thoughts and ideas is the truth.

How we convey our ideas, our message, is as important as the ideas themselves.

As writers, we have many choices. For me as a writer, I struggle and I revel in those choices. As a writing teaching, sharing those choices is both a challenge and a joy.

I’m not trying to change my students writing, change what they have to say, but to show them that there are other ways to express their ideas that will be more moving, more transformative for their audience…and for themselves.

Jayne Cortez, 1934-2012: “Find Your Own Voice & Use It”

“Find your own voice & use it, use your own voice, and find it

The sounds of drizzle on dry leaves are not like sounds of insults between pedestrians

Those women laughing in the window do not sound like air conditioners on the brink”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, performance poet Jayne Cortez died at the close of 2012 in NYC, having found her own voice and using it throughout her long life, writing, publishing, and performing poetry that addressed racial and sexual oppression. The 2010 video above features her performing with Denardo Coleman, her son with Ornette Coleman.

Sue Shapiro’s Genious “Humiliation Essay” Assignment

In the article “Make Me Worry You’re Not OK,” author Sue Shapiro explains how her assignment, the humiliation essay, “encourages students to shed vanity and pretension” and discover that “through the art of writing, [students] can transform their worst experience into the most beautiful.”

Read the whole article here:

I’m gearing up for the new term which starts Monday Jan 14. I’m teaching two sections of writing at Ventura College, one “fundamentals” class (English 2) and one transfer level class (English 1A). E2 meets Tues/Thurs from noon-2:15pm and E1A meets from 430-645pm.

Do you think I should model my first assignment this spring after her humiliation essay? Do you think students would get into it? Hmmn…certainly would make for some a great writing practice prompt–and some great blog posts!

Oh, and happy new year!


What is wrong with this picture?

Actually there is nothing wrong with the picture–but there is a lot wrong with the text! What do you think this gallery is trying to say? How would YOU revise this text? Please comment and leave a link to your blog!

Only 15 days left to apply….  

Collector’s Choice 

Sylvia White Gallery   

15 of the galleries best collector’s

will jury this exhibition

Getting Your Group Presentations ON!


Active Learning

Making the Grade in Group Presentations

Group presentations are often necessary in the classroom and in the workplace — working as an effective member of a team is a skill that can be essential in work and life. To be successful, all members must work as a team to deliver a consistent and memorable presentation to the audience. In Becoming a Master Student, author Dave Ellis outlines three key strategies that anyone working with a group can follow as a path toward successful group presentations. Read on for your own benefit, share with your students, or both!

1. Get Organized. Once you have your task, appoint a leader and make sure you have all group members’ contact information. Then, compare your calendars and schedule times to work on all stages of your project: planning, researching, writing and practicing. At the first group meeting, create a detailed to-do list of all the tasks involved in successfully completing the presentation. Once you have created this list, distribute the tasks evenly to group members, keeping in mind the strengths of each individual in your group. For example, some members may be great writers, while others may shine on the visually creative side of the project.Next, the group should clearly define the topic and thesis of the presentation and begin to gather and brainstorm quotations, visuals, facts and anecdotes that support the main point of the project. While completing all of these steps it’s important to keep in mind how your project will be evaluated, so you can be sure to meet expectations.
2. Get Coordinated. “Practice makes perfect” is an old adage for a reason, so get the group together and rehearse the presentation! Focus on creating smooth transitions between speakers and keep track of time to ensure that you stay within the time allotted. Additionally, be sure to practice using your visuals, as they are a key component to the success of the overall presentation. To give visuals their full impact, keep in mind the room where you will be presenting when creating them, and be sure that the text is large enough to be seen from anywhere in the room.
3. Get Cooperation. Teamwork and planning are the keys to a successful evaluation of your group presentation. Communicate with all group members in a respectful and open way. Share your ideas, and be responsive to the ideas and suggestions from others. When everyone in your group cooperates, you’re more likely to deliver a successful presentation. (p. 265)

Reference: Content adapted from Ellis, Dave. 2013. Becoming a Master Student, 14th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

These useful ideas are reblogged from Cengage eLearning Newsletter.

I suspect my students will find these tips helpful as they prepare for their group presentations related to their Book Club Books. Each Teaching Collective will create a group blog which will host any of their presentation materials as well as their group’s book review. Read more details on that assignment.


Punctuation Matters

Are you an average North American?

How many Africans do you consume?


What went wrong here?

And how would you make it right?

For more examples, check out Grammarly on Facebook–that’s where I found this one.

And to see what’s wrong with your text, check out Grammarly’s website.

Just don’t ask about the word “grammarly.”

May = Bike Month:: May + 9 = Bike to School Day!

Just in time for April’s Earth Month, Safe Routes to School E-News March/April 2012 announces:

First-Ever National Bike to School Day

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 – in conjunction with National Bike Month

According to their newsletter:

Adding to the fun and excitement of National Bike Month in May will be the first-ever National Bike to School Day on Wednesday, May 9, 2012! “Celebrating Bike to School Day will increase the excitement surrounding 2012 National Bike Month,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists and National Partnership Steering Committee member. “Bike Month – including Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day – has grown year after year and we’re pleased to add a school-and kid-focused event to the celebration this year.” National Bike to School Day will be a great way to generate excitement about bicycling and reinforce safe bicycling skills; events can take place on May 9 and other days throughout May. Share your photos and stories with us on our Facebook page and for step-by-step guidance in planning your Bike to School Day activity, visit launching on April 9.