Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category


Lightning Write

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This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Brainstorming

I had my classes do a lightning write activity this week, and I realized that I never shared the one I participated in at the Codex retreat (CoWW).

For this activity, you need a group (a group of 6 works pretty well). Each person has about a minute to write the beginning to a story. Then, the stories get passed around from one person to the next after a set limit of time (that gradually increases so as to allow people to read what has already been written). Finally, the original story starter gets their paper back and they get to finish the story.

See the story, after the break.

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1001 Ideas

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This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Brainstorming

I just got back from teaching my Writing for Digital Media class, and I went through Orson Scott Card’s 1001 ideas in an hour with them. It worked out really well. I’m not nearly as good as OSC at pulling more and more ideas out, but we came up with some doozies. Very cool ideas.

The main one was about an alien coming to earth to desroy it since she is the last surviving member of her species and world. But she falls in love with the president of the world, who is 96, but she gives him a treatment that makes him look 30. Then, they must contend with the destroyer alien coming to finish the job he started with her planet.

Yeah, they were in a weird mood today. But, it was fun, and we got out some good ideas as we learned about brainstorming and loglines.

I am really enjoying learning all this new lingo and style in the digital media world.


Peanut Butter and Jelly

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This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Audience

A couple weeks ago, I had my two composition classes do the old describe the steps for how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich exercise.

It went very well, especially in the early morning class (they are just better, more engaged students overall).

We did it because we were talking about informative writing, speciifically instructions. It seemed like an easy way to bring the idea home to them that it is harder than you think and you really have to know who your audience is.

The fun part is when they switch papers with someone and then have to actually literally follow the instructions and make a sandwich for real (I went through a couple loaves of bread and a jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly).

Most people were really nice about interpreting the instructions, but I had a few who kept it real and did follow the instructions exactly, ending up with one slice of bread with jelly on top and then another slice of bread and then peanut butter on top of that, and such.

I’ll definitely use it again in future classes. But, what struck me was how important it is to define audience from the very beginning. I knew this, intellectually, from my study of rhetoric, but it never really hit home for me before.

As a writer of technical documents or of stories or novels, my very first step should be to define who I am writing for so I meet their needs. I think that is why poor writing like in Eragon, Eclipse, and Harry Potter have succeeded so well as books – because they are meeting a need with a specific audience (OK, so maybe not with Eragon, it’s just his publisher parents).