The following are some guidelines on how to successfully participate in discussion and workshops.
Try to define main ideas in our readings by the time you come into class. Are there certain key words that stick out to you? What moves did you notice the writer making that were significant or that you think you could emulate? What can you say about the reading? What did you get out of it? Even if some of the readings are dense and difficult to understand, there is typically a place in them where you can circle around a main idea and attempt to come to terms with it.
Workshops in this course will take two chief forms: discussing writing and discussing reading. Along with each draft of the essay you turn in, please notify your group members of what you would like them to pay attention to in your essays and any questions you may have. You may include this as a list at the bottom of your draft or in a separate document.
When responding, you should aim to do several things:
- Define and summarize the writer’s argument. What is going on in the paper?
- Point out what works and what doesn’t. Where is the writer focused and on topic, and where is he or she not? Which examples are effective, and which are not?
- Extend the writer’s argument. Where else could the writer go with their topic? How could the argument be improved?
In workshops, you will read your responses to one another aloud and then give the writer your response. The writer should respond to the suggestions and ask any questions for clarification, as well as thank his or her group members for their responses. These are not intended to intimidate or embarrass you but to exercise writing for an audience that doesn’t consist solely of a teacher. Still, do not be overly praiseworthy, under-critical, and just line-edit; point out “bad” or ineffective points, never abandoning civility, and suggest ways you think the paper could be better.
On days where you bring in your own articles, you should attempt to enact a discussion with your group about some of the ideas presented in your materials by relating them to course readings. Your group members should be able to ask you questions regarding your reading to provoke further understanding and help you to figure out what you might do with the reading you have selected.