ENG 122 4.2: Medium.com and Workshopping

Today’s plan:

  • My comments in Google Docs (Erica, Megs)
  • Review some material / Revision activity
  • How to use Medium.com: a checklist
  • Workshopping

Review: Crafting a Signal and Writing a Paragraph

I flew through a lot of plagiarism material on Monday, and I think I glossed over something that deserves more attention. So let me review two things from Tuesday. First, there’s the magic sentence construction:

[Author’s] [time period] [genre] [title] [verb] [purpose]

Momma Brown’s recent blog post “For the love of God, let the students sleep…” echoes my own concerns on why school boards are ignoring scientific research on school start times.< Jacque Derrida’s 1960’s essay “Sign, Structure, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” represents the moment at which poststructuralist challenges to scientific authority took over academia.

Judging by the drafts, I think this idea resonated with most of you. But I think I skipped over another important idea a little too quick. That sentence above is just a part of a paragraph, a way of transitioning into some evidence, or offering someone else’s perspective. A whole paragraph looks like this:

  • Claim: what idea is this paragraph trying to prove/persuade?
  • Signal: who, what, where, when. Note that what/where can be a reference to a kind of media [article, book, poem, website, blog post], a genre [sonnet, dialogue, operational manual], or location/event [press conference, reporting from the steps of the White House]. The signal helps create ethos, establishing the credibility of your source, addressing their disposition toward the issue, and positioning them within the context of a particular conversation. 
  • Quote/evidence: in-line citations use quotation marks and are generally three lines or less. Block citations do not use quotation marks and are indented from the rest of the text. Generally, quotes present logos of some kind–be it in the form of statistics or argumentation. Of course, quotes can also be used in an attempt to engender pathos, or a strong emotional reaction. 
  • Summary: especially for block quotations, you need to reduce a block of text to a single-line. You need to put the quote in your own words. Because language is slippery, and your readers might not read the quote as you do. So, offering a summary after a quote– particularly a long one (which many readers simply do not read)–allows readers an opportunity to see if they are on the same page as you. 
  • Analysis: Reaction, counter-argument, point to similar situation, offer further information, use the bridge, “in order to appreciate X’s argument, it helps to know about/explore/etc. This is where the thinking happens. 

That’s the blueprint for a complete paragraph. I want to show an example of this, one that additionally highlights between empty analysis and specific analysis. Here’s a paragraph from workshopping last week:

Reina Gattuso wrote a powerful article that was posted on Feministing.com called “Fighting Texas’s Anti-Abortion Burial and Cremation Law With Art and Used Tampons”. She talks about how she and other women are fighting the unjust law by holding what she calls a ‘tampon funeral’ because if current legislations continues, women will be forced to bury their menstrual blood too. In this article, there is a strong and powerful line “Bills like HB 201 send a message loud and clear: our reproductive functions are more important to the government than our health, agency, personal religious choices, and—oh yeah—our humanity.” I love this line because it genuinely speaks to how people are legitimately feeling. Gattuso is truly an amazing person because she fought for what she believed was unfair.

This is the kind of paragraph that would do fine according to the rubric below, but isn’t going to do well in future weeks. Why? Because it has too many empty words and too many hollow claims. Don’t tell me an article was powerful, rather, show me its power. Explain what makes it powerful. Don’t tell me Gattuso is amazing. Don’t tell me that “she believed [something] was unfair,” explicate why it is unfair. Let me show you want I mean by rewriting this paragraph one sentence at a time (keeping in mind my anatomy of a paragraph above):

Reina Gattuso wrote a powerful article that was posted on Feministing.com called “Fighting Texas’s Anti-Abortion Burial and Cremation Law With Art and Used Tampons”.

Reina Gattuso’s dark and powerful response to these heinous laws on Feministing.com, “Fighting Texas’s Anti-Abortion Burial and Cremation Law with Art and Used Tampons,” highlights how she and other women are fighting back by holding “tampon funerals.”

What’s different about the way our first sentences make a claim?

She talks about how she and other women are fighting the unjust law by holding what she calls a ‘tampon funeral’ because if current legislations continues, women will be forced to bury their menstrual blood too.

In these mock macabre burials, women are burying their tampons to show how hyperbolic these laws are becoming; at this rate Texas will be asking women to hold ceremonies for their menstrual blood too.

What’s different about the way our second sentences summarize the purpose of the article?

In this article, there is a strong and powerful line “Bills like HB 201 send a message loud and clear: our reproductive functions are more important to the government than our health, agency, personal religious choices, and—oh yeah—our humanity.”

Pulling back from her satire, she articulates the frustration many of these women feel: “bills like HB 201 send a message loud and clear: our reproductive functions are more important to the government than our health, agency, personal religious choices, and–oh yeah–our humanity.”

What’s different about the way we transition into a quote?

I love this line because it genuinely speaks to how people are legitimately feeling.

This line resonated with me because it captured how Texas, a state that claims to care so much about individual freedom that it passes laws excusing Christian businesses from serving LGBTQ children, is passing laws that strip women of their right to choose.

What’s different about the way we analyze our quote? (did we skip summary?)

Gattuso is truly an amazing person because she fought for what she believed was unfair.

Furthermore, this bill disgraces women, and I admire how Guttuso and others have answered that disgrace with brutal, dark comedy.

What’s different about the way we end our paragraphs?

I’m going to give you 10 minutes to rewrite one paragraph from your paper, keeping in mind what I have done here. You will see a quiz called “Paragraph Revision” in Canvas. Copy and paste the original into question 1, write your revision in question 2.

A third point of importance. Students in writing classes often want me to give them very specific outlines to follow. I ALWAYS resist doing this. Why? Because as a teacher of writing I know that they lead to bad, stilted writing that no one wants to read. However, after the proposals, I gave in a bit, and provided the following outline for the drafts:

This was a TERRIBLE mistake on my part. Because I don’t really like doing these things, I made an outline that doesn’t even really make sense. In many cases, there’s no reason to wait 3 paragraphs to respond to something you think is weak. You can do that right away. So, while my expectations for the first drafts include that you read 3-5 pieces WITH DIFFERING OPINIONS/PERSPECTIVES, I really hope your papers don’t follow this crappy outline paragraph by paragraph. Here’s the truth: writing isn’t cooking. There is no recipe. As the great 49ers coach Bill Walsh used to say, “if we are all thinking the same then no one is thinking.” Writing represents an attempt to articulate a thought, and thoughts, like snowflakes, are all unique. Each requires we take the reader down a different path. There is no blueprint that we can follow. This is why writing is both great and difficult.

Here is the rubric I will use to evaluate your first medium articles:

  • 1 Point: Paper makes the writer’s argument clear somewhere in the first 3 paragraphs
  • 1 Point: Paper offers one perspective on an issue
  • 1 Point: Paper offers another perspective on an issue
  • 1 Point: Paper offers a perspective different from the other two
  • 1 Point: Paragraphs end on the same note they begin
  • 1 Point: Paper properly attributes all sources so that I know who wrote it (this means not only using something like the magic sentence, but also adhering to the They Say, I Say principle)
  • 1 Point: There is NO confusion between what sources think and what the writer thinks
  • 1 Point: The paper looks like a medium essay. Here is my example medium essay.Notice:
    • It contains links
    • Proper spacing and spacing between paragraphs
    • It has a title
    • It has at least one block quote / pull quote
    • It has a header image that makes sense
    • It has 4 tags
  • 1 Point: Paper is grammatically sound

Using Medium.com

Given that rubric, I want to spend a little time while we are in the lab using Medium.com.

  • Make sure they know how to put in a link
  • Look at other medium essays for formatting–the use of images, headings, “pull out quotes” (the + tool)
  • Make sure they all know the magic power of “CTRL +Z” (digital natives are unicorns)
  • Talk about “tags” and the publish button (when they are ready this weekend. AGAIN STRESS THAT THEY SHOULDN’T PUBLISH UNTIL AFTER THEY REVISE. Some of them will undoubtedly mess this up and publish their articles right there in class as you are warning them not to
    Make sure they know how to find their drafts when they go back to medium

Workshopping

A reminder as we work today about my hierarchy of concerns:

  • Has the writer properly attributed ideas from other writers?
  • Does the writing have an argument? Is it cohesive beginning to end? Does every paragraph clarify how it relates to or advances that argument?
  • Has the writer done enough research? Have they summarized articles with enough detail that I know what I need to (the original author’s purpose, their evidence or method of research, etc)?
  • Is the writer missing something big?
  • Does the order of paragraphs make sense?
  • Do paragraphs end with purpose? Do they begin orienting a reader toward a new idea?
  • Has the writer properly coded links? It the article grammatically sound? Are there sentences that are confusing?

But I am also a lover of sentences. Sometimes the best way to learn about writing is to look at sentences we really like and look at sentences that just don’t sound right. So, if something is popping out at you, mention it!

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