Story Circles & Group Poems (Handout for Conference on Community Writing)

Handout_Conference on Community Writing

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Business Travel With (and Without) a Baby

Since my daughter, Clara was born in January, I’ve traveled a number of times for business. Each time, I was fortunate enough to have my mom or husband tag along so that Clara could come too. She was 10 weeks old for her first airplane ride. It was an exhausting, but extremely rewarding feeling to bring her along so that I could present at a conference in Florida. We even tacked on a short vacation at the end of the trip, where we got to take her swimming and on beach walks in her rockin’ Bob stroller (which, amazingly might be the only stroller that does great on sand). At four and five months old, she tagged along for business meetings and conference in Cleveland, Ohio, Nashville, TN and Johnson City, TN–all five hour drives from our home.

Today is the first time I’m traveling without her. It’s the farthest I’ve ever been away from her. It’s the first night I will be apart from her since her conception nearly 17 months ago. Needless to say, it’s been an emotional travel day for me.

It’s difficult to leave an 8 month old behind knowing that you can’t explain why or how long you’ll be gone. My saddest thought is that she will wake up from a nap or look around as she plays and wonder where I went. Where’s mommy? Why did she leave me? Where did she go? Why does providing a secure environment for me mean that mommy has to go bye-bye?

As I walked through the airport, everything baby-related caught my attention. I teared up when I saw diapers for sale at the airport bookstore. I sighed when I saw the family restroom. I can think of many times during my life as a new mom when I thought, “Jeez, if only I could have a break for a day or two.” Yet those thoughts seem far away at this point in Clara’s little life. Back during the dark days–you know, the days when we were waking up every 2-3 hours or the days before she was so interactive and smiley–I definitely wished for a break like this. But now that we’re past that (or at least we’re blissfully unaware that days like that could creep back at any time), our time with Clara is heaven. She’s hilarious and explorative and extremely interactive with us. She smiles in ways that melt my heart every so many minutes, and she’s climbing, crawling, chatting, and generally being delightful. To add to my struggle, she’s also going through a stranger anxiety slash if-mom-is-near-me-I-want-no-one-else phase. It’s tough leaving for business when your baby seems to need you so much.

So how do we do it? How do we decide which business trips are baby-friendly and which aren’t? How do we weigh the expense, hassle, unknown outcome, and security-inducing joy of bringing baby along versus the potential focus and rest that comes by letting baby stay home?

My instinct so far has been to give Clara new experiences by bringing her along whenever possible, despite the extra cost and complication of packing and shipping a baby around–or waking up with a baby despite having full days of business ahead. Seeing that my current feelings of sadness and worry are heavier than any hassle that might have resulted by bringing her along, I’m wondering if I will regret my decision this time.

The only thing that is inspiring me is the hope that this trip will give me clarity and direction for my work, and that I will learn a whole lot. I’m actually staying in my first air b-n-b, and it’s a home in Palo Alto reserved only for entrepreneurs–what could be cooler?! The anticipation of such new and different experiences will calm me down. For now. Until I get the first phone call with my baby crying in the background. Then I’ll wish she had her own company and was in the innovation commune with me. 🙂

What about you? Suggestions? Advice? Concerns about bringing or leaving baby?

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Archival Rhetorical Analysis Project Prompt

I designed the following project with and for students in my ENG 223: Rhetorical Strategies for Writers class. It asks students to research and collect ten texts surrounding a current issue, and to present those texts (alongside a brief rhetorical analysis called a “rhetorical précis”) in a well-organized website. I’ll share select student projects as they finalize their sites and give permission to share.

Archival Rhetorical Analysis Project

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Teaching Grant Writing

This fall, I’ll be teaching ENG 413/513 Grant Writing at Miami University. I’ve been reading up on current approaches to grant writing, and I’ve found that the course is taught across multiple disciplines. A quick search for “grant writing” on ProQuest yielded advice-driven articles on grant-writing in fields such as microbiology, neuroscience, nursing, social services, urban planning, and any other discipline that requires cash to get its work/research done (which pretty much includes every discipline!).

The students enrolled in the course represent many majors at my university, so I immediately began brainstorming how I could create an assignment or classroom environment that encouraged them to find and read articles/advice on grant writing in their particular fields. My idea is to generate two major projects: 1) a self-directed project involving grant searching and proposal writing for a grant that directly relates to their major or future profession, and 2) a collaborative project involving grant writing for a local organization.

This second, larger project will be collaborative and community-based. I want to discover: How can local organizations, departments, or interest groups benefit from grant research and proposal writing conducted by my students? How will my students benefit from real-world experience writing proposals for organizations in need of funding for specific programs and projects?

I read a recent article by Courtney Stevens in the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement about a service learning approach to grant writing courses, where students work directly with organizations to find out their immediate needs, engage in their programs through volunteer service, collaborate with each other and the organization to research appropriate grant options, and then write a proposal for a potential grant.


I immediately liked how Stevens’ course model embedded students in the organizational environment and situated organizational leaders as beacons of knowledge regarding the structure, needs, limitations, and possibilities for potential grants and the proposals that win them. I also like how this approach places a lot of agency in the hands of students, who are invited to research potential grants and work collaboratively with the organization to brainstorm the most effective rhetorical approaches to the proposals.

My goal is to identify 2-3 organizations that student teams will work with to write proposals for grants that students help identify. Stevens had an excellent idea of putting an RFP out into the community to solicit potential organizations. I’m very much interested in taking that approach in a future semester, but for this coming year, I am making arrangements myself to help speed-up the process.

One such collaboration was sparked at this week’s CWPA conference in Normal, Illinois. As luck would have it, I sat down to dinner at the conference next to a writing instructor at a two-year college located very closely to my new institution. We chatted about the courses we would teach in the fall, and when I shared that I was taking a service learning approach to my grant writing course, she immediately asked if my students would be interested in working with her department. The faculty there recently developed online modules to accompany their first-year composition courses, but their department lacks the computer lab space for students to actually engage with that content. In addition, because students at this two-year college often don’t have home computers or laptops, it’s especially important that additional computer space get created. She volunteered to drive up to my university and meet with my students to discuss their needs and her ideas for how to solve them.

I’ll continue to write updates on this (and the other) projects taking place in my grant writing course throughout the fall semester. Until then, what approaches have worked in your grant writing courses? How have you established collaborations with community partners? Do you have some grant writing that could be benefited through my students’ efforts?


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A Video Introduction to Electronic and Library Research

I created this vidcast for students in my rhetorical grammar (ENGL 320) course. They are currently working on a collaborative white paper report on a current topic or trend in grammar and writing instruction. This vidcast introduces them to online database research in a way that spans across the curriculum. It should remain relevant to students in a variety of majors, and for this reason, it could be a useful resource for first year composition students as well.

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A Multimodal Tools Challenge

Each semester, I incorporate a multimodal/multimedia project or project element into my writing courses. I’ve tried many strategies for introducing students to the wide-range of free tools available to them (see my “Online Collaboration Tool” exercise). Currently, students in my Rhetorical Grammar course are creating multimodal grammar lessons that they can post to YouTube, Prezi, WordPress, or some other online sharing site. To introduce them to some multimodal tools available to them, I created the following “Multimodal Tools Challenge”:

Multimodal Tools Challenge (Computer Classroom Exercise)

An Introduction to Multimodal Tools (Accompanying Handout)

Feel free to use this challenge in your own classroom. I gave the top finisher a small Amazon gift card, which seemed to inspire some healthy competition. In retrospect, this might work even better without the reward. Slower pacing might help the students to relax and gain confidence with tools that might be new to them. Enjoy the challenge!

Note: This exercise is designed for a PC computer lab classroom. It also utilizes Dropbox, which is free online.

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Top 100 Thesis and Dissertation References on the Web

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Made it on the list! 🙂 Glad to know that my blog is helpful to grad students.

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