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September 28, 2007

Week 4 update

Next week we'll wind up unit 1 and get started on unit 2. On Monday, your final draft is due. That should be printed out, not posted online. You should also bring a print copy of the best example of feedback you GAVE to someone. I'm going to recommend you all invest in a pocket folder for turning stuff in for the course--you can put these two things in it for this time. You'll also be turning in a short reflection on this project in Monday's class.

Also on Monday, you have a reading assignment--chapter 1 of Fieldworking. That's broken into two files on E-Reserve--be sure to read both sections and post before class time.

On Wednesday we'll talk more about observation. You have another reading assignment ("Take Your Fish"). We'll also practice observing the campus during this time, so hopefully the weather will be good!

No class on Friday--it's time for you to observe and conference time with me.

No office hours Monday

For a couple of reasons, I need to cancel office hours on Monday. Let me know if you need to talk and we can set up another time.

A couple of examples

I've been talking with several of you in office hours about how to develop your analysis in these papers. So I thought I'd try to post a couple of examples from drafts of good ways to do that. Here's a sample from a piece on "In My Mother's Kitchen" that I think does a good job of it. This writer pulls details together from several different points in the narrative to make a larger point about what Eng learns through this experience. She's not just summarizing, but actively making connections between different parts of the text:

Food has yet another purpose within Eng’s article: it serves as an occasion when there is none other to be found. When she was younger, breakfast was an entire meal, set out in order to prepare everyone for another day at work or school. Eng’s mother always said, “You could never concentrate in class…if your stomach wasn’t full? (316). Dinner was a reason for the family to collect at the end of the day and talk, in order to bond and keep the familial connection strong. As the kids got older and made friends, they hung out in the cafeteria or dining hall of their schools, chatting with friends and socializing, eating their lunches while sharing stories and laughter and making memories. Even before everyone is out of school, Eng’s mother brings them all together for sporadic dinners, reuniting everyone at the same table they grew up at. There was almost never an occasion; Eng’s mother “needed no special occasion? (317) in order to gather everyone at her table. By the end of the article Eng has realized that food can be its own occasion, and she sets about honoring that fact by trying to learn how to cook like her mother, which turns out to be an occasion in and of itself. There again is the clash of modernization v. tradition, and there is where the idea of a mixture of Chinese and American is born.

When dealing with argumentative pieces, the focus might be more on how convincing the piece is. This next writer is talking about Singer and Mason's article about the meat industry. After summarizing the mistreatments chickens face during the production process, she writes the following:

Obviously these arguments appeal to people interested in preserving animal rights. But what about those who aren’t? It doesn’t take a genius to realize chickens feel pain or that they have enough intelligence to recognize other chickens (Singer 22). In fact, most people understand and accept that brutal, horrible things happen to animals in order to feed them even if they don’t know the gritty details. After all, how pleasant could a slaughterhouse be? Yet people still buy meat products in excess. Therefore, I do not think Peter Singer’s description of the treatment of chickens alone will ultimately fulfill his goal of boycotting the company. However, the inclusion of another problem posed by the meat industry may better convince readers.

Notice here that she's not just summarizing Singer and Mason's point, but thinking about how effective these arguments are or the assumptions that are behind their argument. Certainly, you can also talk about how effectively Eng or White talk about their families, but this kind of thinking is perhaps better suited to these argumentative pieces.

In any case, I hope this helps you all get a better sense of the kind of thinking I'm looking for in these papers. The ability to critically analyze pieces in this way is immensely valuable in college writing. You don't just have to understand pieces, you have to be able to contextualize them and critically reflect on the points they make.

September 26, 2007

FYI--draft comments

For a few different reasons, I'm guessing that I'll only be able to give comments to groups 4-6 in each class on the second draft. If you are in groups 1-3 and have specific questions, feel free to email me about them or stop by during my office hours tomorrow (12-2). I'll also give those folks priority for in-class conferences on Friday.

A friendly note from your instructor

Please include your name on all drafts you submit for this class. It can be a hassle to try to figure out who wrote a certain draft otherwise. It also serves your classmates well in this regard. Thanks!

September 24, 2007

Workaround for reading drafts

If you're having problems downloading classmates drafts, here's another way to do that. Click on the checkbox next to the posts you'd like to download in your revision group topic. Then click on "Create Printable View." Then click on "Save as File." and choose OK to also save attachments. The .zip file that downloads should be opened by Windows, and the drafts you want should be inside. That's probably the easiest way to get around the problems some of you have been having.

One other download issue

Something else for you all to try if you're having trouble clicking on the file attachments. Try saving those files on your hard drive and then changing the suffix from ".zip" to ".docx"--then try opening them in Word. I think that might solve the problem. The new format can be read as a compressed file.

Office 2007 conversion issues

Just another update for any of you who've had problems reading documents with the "docx" format--from Office 2007. For Mac users, there's no perfect solution, but this should work:

Here's the link

This will convert those files to RTF format, which you can read in Mac Office 2004 (or any other word processor)

For Office 2003 users on the PC, here's the updated link for the plugin to read those files:

Here's the link

Let me know if either of those don't work for you--particularly if you don't have a version of Office installed on your computer.

September 21, 2007

Week 3 Update

Next week will be a revision week for us. On Monday, you should plan on bringing comments for your revision group members to class. You'll talk in a group and have time to write/revise in class. So plan to bring materials you need to do that as well. On Wednesday, your second draft is due--just post again in your revision group's discussion topic. Friday is revision groups again.

Overall, the first drafts I've seen looked to be in good shape. I'll post some more detailed thoughts on that next Monday. The biggest problems came from too much summarizing and not enough of your own thoughts on the pieces you've read. The goal here is to think critically about these pieces--making connections and asking questions. Stay away from just summarizing what the pieces said.

I've emailed back comments to people in groups 1-3 in each class. I'll try to get some general feedback to people in the other groups by next Monday if I can. Groups 4-6 will get detailed feedback next week.

As I noted in class, I won't be on email most of the weekend, but I can try to answer questions next Monday in class. I may be able to check in over the course of the weekend in case someone has an emergency.

September 18, 2007

Office 2007 compatibility

If any of you have Office 2003 on your older computer, you may need to install additional software to read files from the newest version of Office (2007). This is the link to Microsoft's site where you can download that software.

Sample paper

I mentioned this in both classes, but there's a sample paper you guys can look at in the Resources section of WebVista. Here's a link. It may give you a better idea of what I'm looking for with this piece.

September 14, 2007

Week 2 update

Next week we will shift gears from reading to writing. On Monday, we'll try to revisit the purpose of this assignment and you'll have some time to brainstorm and write in class. We'll also talk about citing, which is another significant part of using sources in academic writing. You don't have anything due for this time.

On Wednesday, your first draft is due. You'll be turning this in online--we'll talk about how that will work on Monday. In class, we'll talk about peer revision, you'll have time to revise, and we'll begin talking about formal style in academic writing.

No class on Friday this week--enjoy the day off! Peer revision groups will meet the following Monday, which will be a big revision week!

September 10, 2007

An extra credit opportunity

Two extra credit opportunities are listed in the syllabus: sharing your draft for whole class review and going to the Center for Writing for additional help. In addition to those, I'm going to make one more option available:

You can visit one of two "alternative" food systems close to campus. The University Farmer's Market is open on Wednesdays from 11-2 here on campus and runs through September. The North Country Co-op is close to campus as well, and also has a variety of local and/or organic food options. Spend some time at one of these two places Then write a 300-400 word reaction (about a page or more) to what you saw and turn it in to me. Focus on what was new or unique about this experience. How are they different than your local grocery or convenience store? What advantages or disadvantages did you notice? Talk to any people working at these locations to learn more about how food is produced and sold there. Basically, summarize what you learned from your experience. As long as you seem to have spent time thinking about your experience there (i.e., don't just list what you did, but also include your reactions to that experience), you will receive 10 points extra credit for this.

September 7, 2007

Week 1 update

Hopefully you all have survived your first week of school unscathed!

Next week we'll continue on with readings for our first essay unit. Monday we'll read "Unhappy Meals"--a piece about nutrition and health. On Wednesday it's "Why the Fries Taste Good" from a book called Fast Food Nation. It's about the rise of processed and corporate food production, as well as the role food science and flavoring plays in those foods. Friday is "The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken"--a rather harrowing look at chicken production which raises animal rights issues for us to talk about. I think you'll find them all interesting in their own way. Remember that I expect you to post on each before class time in that Reading Discussions topic.

Also next week, we'll talk about incorporating outside sources. On Monday, we'll address quoting and paraphrasing, and on Wednesday it's citing. You'll have some time to begin working on your paper on Friday, so come prepared to do that--bring some kind of flash drive or other way to transport files if you type.

Please let me know if you're having problems accessing some part of this as we get going. They'll be some bumps in the road as we learn how this will work, so please don't be shy in asking questions!