Let’s Get Blogging!

Another Snow Day!

UPDATE:¬†We will have some time in class to review the information below, but for those of you curious, feel free to get a head start. What else are you doing on this beautiful snow day?! ūüôā

For the rest of the year, we’ll be taking some of our writing into the online world through blogging! Blogging will be your opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas with each other outside of class. As an added benefit, blogging will also give you the opportunity to improve your writing (and thinking) skills. Even though you’ve heard the word¬†blog before, here’s a great 3-minute overview from Common Craft videos:

Before you¬†can begin blogging, you’ll need to sign up for our blogsite, which will be housed on WordPress at aplang1516.wordpress.com. You can also find the link to your blogsite anytime by using the dropdown menu above.

FIRST, you will need a WordPress username. To get a WordPress username, click here to sign up. Once you have done that, you will receive a confirmation email. Be sure to activate your account.

SECOND, send me your username by filling out this form. I will invite you to our blogsite using the information you provide.

THIRD, check your email for your invitation to our blogsite. Accept the invitation. When you click “accept,” you may receive another invitation that says something to the effect of “You’ve been added!” with a “view blog” link.

IMPORTANT: You can’t get started until you receive an e-mail invitation from me. If you do not get an e-mail invitation, let me know.

FOURTH, now that you’ve been added to the site, learn how to log in and take a quick tour with the video below. Just note that I made this video for last year’s students, so some things may be slightly different, but essentially it’s all the same. ūüôā

IMPORTANT:¬†Some students have reported that the drop-down menu in the tutorials is not working/appearing. To get to the “Dashboard” found in the tutorials, add /wp-admin to the end of the web address, as such:


Once you’ve watched the intro, continue by heading over to our blog site, reading the overview, and following¬†the tutorials there!

On Writing an “On” Essay

UPDATE 12/19:

Bring in at least one paper copy of your rough draft. Please double or 1.5-space this draft in order to give you room to write in-between and around your words. You’ll use need this paper copy in order to read your essay to your peer response group and to take your¬†own revision¬†notes.

However, you may want to also print out 3 single-spaced, double-sided copies of your essay so that your group members will each have a copy to reference as you read your essay (the visual can help, but it is not necessary).

Choose a topic you know well and write a personal essay that reflects, explores,  and explains this topic.

What makes an effective “On” Essay?

Writing in a variety of modes, the essays we read succeed because they explore complex topics in a very relatable way. They explain, define, and describe; they use anecdotes and allusions. They feature both insight and curiosity. They zoom in and zoom out.

Consider¬†the “on” essays that we read in class together; these¬†serve as¬†our mentor texts. For your convenience, below is a list. Review them carefully, reflect on our conversations, and revisit your annotations.

  • “On Keeping a Notebook” (Didion)
  • On Compassion”¬†(Asher)
  • “On Running After One’s Hat” (Chesterton)
  • On Being a Cripple” (Mairs)¬†<–READ FOR MONDAY, 12/14
  • On Dumpster Diving” (Eighner) <–READ FOR WEDNESDAY, 12/16
  • The Jacket” (Soto) and other short pieces read earlier this year
  • Individual stories/chapters from TTTC

Below is a handful of exemplar essays from former students. As you read their writing, consider the strengths of each one. (If it matters, scores ranged from 7 to 9 on these essays.)

Writing Your Own “On” Essay

Review your notebook as you narrow down to your topic. Ask yourself: What do you need to explain to your reader? What descriptions would be interesting and valuable? What ideas or terms need definition? What comparisons or references could you make to connect with your reader? Where could you slow time? Where should you speed it up?

Yes, it’s a lot to think about–which is why we will do at least 2 drafts for each essay. You will have the opportunity to meet in small reading groups that will act as a writers’ workshop. Keep this in mind when you compose your essay. You will be reading them to a group of 2-3 students for immediate feedback.

The requirements
  • 750-1200 words
  • A narrow focus indicated by your title (“On…)
  • Evidence of different modes of writing (red rhetorical modes quarter sheet in your notebook)
  • Clear organization
  • Sentence variety
  • Strong diction (verbs especially)
  • Awareness of audience

First draft due MONDAY, 12/21, paper copy to class.

I will use a modified 9-point AP rubric, available here. See updated rubric in newer post above. They will be worth 60 points. Questions or concerns, come talk to me.

View my own “On” essay in progress here. UPDATE: I’ve changed my topic. Feel free to view here.¬†And feel free to comment (just don’t change any text).

IN SUMMARY, SOME GENERAL CLASS UPDATES (especially for 2nd period, whom I haven’t seen in two days!

  • Monday, 12/14: WAR #8 due (remember to use a Graff Template, typed or filled in), read “On Being a Cripple” (link above)
  • Tuesday, 12/15: Vocab Quiz (they will be on Tuesdays from now on)
  • Wednesday, 12/16: read “On Dumpster Diving” (link above, handout will be given in class)
  • Monday, 12/21: First draft of On Essay

The Things They Carried: the Paintings

In 2010 and again in 2011, New York based artist Steve Mumford was embedded with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. He documented his time with the troops through a series of paintings, which were later published in Harper’s Magazine.

FIRST,¬†Click the image below to view all the paintings published in Harper’s.The Things They Carry Mumford

Learn about what inspired Mumford’s paintings by clicking here. You can also view more of Steve Mumford’s “Baghdad Journals”‚Äēa collection of sketches and paintings from his time in Baghdad‚Äēby clicking¬†here.

SECOND, read this Daily Beast article in which Steve Mumford discusses his experience being embedded with the soldiers.

THIRD, below are other galleries featuring artists whose work also explore the nature of war and wartime. Browse through the galleries.

ANSWER / REFLECT (notebook is fine):

  1. Which Mumford painting is your favorite? Why?
  2. What do the Mumford paintings (a particular favorite or all of them) convey about war? How do they compare with reading war literature like The Things They Carried? In other words, how does the medium (painting) affect or inform the purpose?
  3. Why do you think Mumford would use O’Brien’s novel as the title for his series?
  4. Comment on the ways in which other artists depict war through art (additional galleries).


TTTC: Rhetorical Analysis Essay


Choose a significant passage from the novel and write a rhetorical analysis.

FIRST, choose a passage. When choosing a passage, consider the following:

  • Think about the “big ideas” discussed in class‚Äēstorytelling, memories, coping, life and death, and love, among others. Consider choosing one¬†of the passages discussed in class on one of the big sticky posters (see the gallery of sticky posters from class below).
  • Speaking of sticky notes… review the post-it note reflections you completed in your initial reading of the book.
  • Review your reflections from our Socratic Seminars. Did a particular passage stand out to you?
  • Consider length, choosing a passage that is neither too long nor too short. Be sure that your passage is long enough to write a substantial analysis, but not so long that your analysis becomes¬†overwhelming. If you are unsure about a passage, run it by me in class.
  • Last, but not least… choose a passage that speaks to you. Chances are, you’ll be in a better position to write about the passage because it stood out to you while you were (re)reading.
  • IMPORTANT:¬†You may NOT¬†choose a passage from the title story, “The Things They Carried.” You may also not choose the passage on pages 76-77 that begins with “How do you generalize?” and ends with “the truth is ugly.”

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SECOND, after choosing a passage, photocopy the excerpt. Then¬†annotate the excerpt thoroughly. You’ll bring this to class for review on Monday, 11/23, and then turn this in with your final essay on Wednesday, 12/2.

THIRD, begin drafting/writing/revising your rhetorical analysis. Your final rhetorical analysis essay should be about two pages in length (between 400-600ish words). Some tips:

  • Review your photocopied annotation.
  • Review the steps to writing a rhetorical analysis and rhetorical precis (see Quick Links).
  • Review the sample rhetorical analyses from class.
  • Consult your lists: powerful verbs, tone words (see Quick Links).
  • Think RLW (“How to Read Like a Writer”), especially the reminder below:


Screenshot 2015-11-21 at 7.59.01 PM

MONDAY, 11/23: Bring completed annotations to class for review.
WEDNESDAY, 12/2 THURSDAY, 12/3: Turn in annotations and your essay together (do not staple).

TTTC: Write-Like Tim O’Brien

In “How to Read Like a Writer,” Mike Bunn points out that when you read like a writer, “you examine the things you read, looking at the writerly techniques in the text in order to decide if you might want to adopt similar (or the same) techniques in your writing” (72).

Let’s look at Tim O’Brien’s story, “The Things They Carried,” as inspiration for our own writing. To that end, think about the techniques O’Brien uses in that particular short story to convey the various things that the soldiers carry. Also keep in mind the diverse¬†types¬†of things the soldiers¬†carry:¬†individual/group, objective/subjective, concrete/abstract, mundane/extraordinary.

Using “The Things They Carried” as your model,¬†write-like Tim O’Brien. In a “write-alike,” you will borrow O’Brien’s diction (though not his specific words) and syntax. Try to mimic O’Brien’s style. However, instead of writing about what soldiers carry, you will write about a subject a little closer to your own experience‚Äēbeing a student.

Write-like¬†O’Brien for about 250-300ish words. Use the “backpack” activity from class to help you compose your piece.

ALTERNATIVE:¬†As I mentioned in class, ¬†if you would like to “play” with this assignment a bit more and use a different group of people (for example, artists) and a different verb than carry (for example, draw), feel free to take the weekend to work on this exercise.