Posts Tagged ‘teaching’


Peanut Butter and Jelly

   Posted by: Garrett    in Audience

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).

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Back At It

   Posted by: Garrett    in Path, writing

I haven’t done very well at writing here regularly, but I’m trying to make amends for that starting today.

I started a blog for the classes I teach, and so that has started getting me in the habit of doing this regularly. Plus, this is a great place to think through ideas and what I’m doing with writing.

I’ll go into more detail later this week, but for now, I’m excited to get back to this. I hope it helps me, and anyone else who is just getting started as a writer and happens upon this blog (I know, not likely to happen, but one can always dream ?:grin: )

That’s all I’m going to write for now since it is getting late. But I will say that I’m excited to start reading the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series (The Well of Ascension). I really enjoyed the first one, and also Elantris. It is really cool that he will be writing the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, as well. Way to go Brandon!

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Not Writing

   Posted by: Garrett    in Path

I have not been writing very consistently lately.

I have all sorts of excuses, but no good reasons ? :cry:

I am teaching Freshman English at UVU (Utah Valley University) this year (it’s been a long time since I taught), and I have been learning lots about good writing that I had never considered before. I’ll probably go into more detail later about this, but for now, I am having lots of fun learning while I teach.

I did notice, now that I’ve finished grading their personal narratives, that people really have no idea how to write well. They think writing is like a movie: all show, no interior. Several of my students tried to use a flashback right of the bat to explain things. Others withheld information from the reader that the narrator knew at the time in order to create “suspense”. I think Orson Scott Card has broken me of my habit for doing these things (without an absolutely excellent reason for breaking the rule) during Bootcamp, but it is interesting how much I notice it now and how much it drives me crazy? :lol:

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