What Would Your Things Say About You? – The Narrative Assignment

Rocking Chair 001

My sister and I in our rocking chairs. Circa 1982

What would your things say about you?

The narrative assignment for my COM 101 class is not an easy essay. And I LOVE it! It is my favorite assignment to give and to grade.

In this assignment students are to compose a narrative of their life story as told by one object from their life. They are to personify one thing, and, from the perspective of that stuffed animal, tree, table, or whatever item they choose, the students are to share their defining moments from birth to present day.

This is a daunting task for students because some don’t have any one item that has been present for their entire life. Some claim that they haven’t done anything worth remembering. And still others whine that they can’t even remember what they had for breakfast, how are they supposed to remember what they did in grade school?

My response: It’s your story to tell. You better do the research. Your stuffed animal isn’t going to do it for you.

Rocking Chair

My childhood rocking chair today

To help them get started, I share a roughly drafted intro to my life, as told by my childhood rocking chair. I give them a glimpse into what my life was like in the beginning and how to narrate using an item that arrived after my birth. Many find the example helpful.  Some try to copy my words and plagiarize by changing the item and dates. Whatever their approach might be, they all have the same task: Tell their own story while bringing to life a special object.

Have you ever tried to tell your story?

At 19, 39, or 89 it is not an easy task. I have to say, the particular group of students I have now moved me with the tales they told. The stories of self-discovery, loss of loved ones, and the ways they conveyed hope for the future exposed me to raw talent, emotion, and understanding for who they are as individuals.  Continue reading “What Would Your Things Say About You? – The Narrative Assignment”

Ultimate Advice to Give???

advice

As the school year races our way, planning for new student orientations are revving up. By some lucky star I have been selected to speak at the Power Up for new students at my college in August. The theme is the “Ultimate Guide to Success.” (Not sure how I feel about being ‘ultimate’ yet, but I am going to try.) 

After I received the email inviting me to give the speech, I lay awake in bed hoping some earth-shattering ideas would come to me for the presentation. The one thing I fear most is to give a “typical” start-of-the-year speech. Instead of flashes of inspiration my 7 year-old appeared. Apparently, he couldn’t sleep either. So I asked him what I should say to help students start the year. (Why would’t we ask a 7 year-old?)

He gave it some serious thought and said,
“Tell them to do their best and forget the rest.” (Thank you, Paw Patrol.)

Then he went on to say, “Tell them to ask questions.” 

Wait a second.

That was pretty good advice. Isn’t asking questions the scariest part of learning?

Third, my budding genius said, “Tell them it’s okay to fail.”  Continue reading “Ultimate Advice to Give???”

What do you want to learn?- a first day question for students

What do you want to learn?– first day question for students

What do you want to learn

On August 23rd I began my teaching journey at State Tech. My lesson plans were written, my Introduction PowerPoints ready to go, syllabi were photocopied, and my broom was ready to fly. (More about the flying broom will be discussed in later posts.) What I was not prepared for was the openness my students would show towards learning.

To kick things off in my COM 101 course, I created a grammar pre-test. It was important to know what grammar skills my students possessed. It consisted of 15 multiple choice questions and was not for a grade.

Within a minute or two of starting the test, I could see frustration forming on the faces of my students. After four or five minutes, their grumblings were audible. By the time they finished their pre-test, I could almost smell a mutiny. In my most professional and reassuring manner, I tried to persuade them it would ok.

We finished up the pre-test and headed back to our regular classroom. I observed head shaking and defeated student reactions as I followed them. I had just learned that grammar was not my students’ strong suit.

Fortunately, I had anticipated this and had a question ready for them. Continue reading “What do you want to learn?- a first day question for students”