Invention and Brainstorming exercise, Nathan Buck

Using Informal Methods of Discovering and Exploring Ideas:
Freewriting, Looping, Brainstorming, & Clustering)
***Before beginning the official activities, encourage the class to go over the definitions
of freewriting, looping, brainstorming, and clustering. These definitions are covered in
Chapter 8, “Strategies for Invention,” in their Work in Progress books. Pages 225-232
sum things up nicely.
1) Freewriting. Ask the students to freewrite on what they thought of the assigned
reading. Remind them that they shouldn’t stop writing for the entire time, even if
they ramble and go off on tangents. That is, after all, what freewriting is all
about—the continuous flow of ideas. (10 min.)
2) Looping. Ask students to reread what they’ve written. They will then pick one
central idea or “theme” they’ve seen emerge from their work; they should proceed
to write a sentence that summarizes this “heart” of their feelings. Students will
then freewrite again with this idea in mind. Encourage them to be free to explore
any ideas in this second loop—they shouldn’t feel restricted by their first
sentence, it is just a jumping board to continue to expand their own views on the
topic at hand. (10 min.)
3) Brainstorming and Clustering.
Students should then pair up with another
student in class. They can be assigned randomly by the teacher, or pair up with a
classmate of their choosing. (In the case of an odd number of students, three
people may be in a group.) One student will then be assigned to brainstorm and
the other to cluster. Ask the students to take the ideas they’ve just written out in
the past two exercises and place them in either a brainstorming or clustering
format. Once again, encourage them to expound on their ideas—whatever pops
into their heads. The pairs of students should work in silence, but may ask their
partner questions or concerns regarding the exercise. Also, inform the students
that if at anytime they feel uncomfortable with the form of freewriting assigned to
them, they may switch to another—as long as they keep writing. (10 min.)
4) Discussion in Pairs. The pairs should then discuss how they felt placing their
ideas into these various forms. Did he or she enjoy the “bubble” or “branchlike”
idea of clustering?
Was it easier to get thoughts out in a list, like in
brainstorming, rather than writing more complete sentences? Were all forms
useful, or were any not useful at all? If any students switched how they addressed
their ideas, they should share these with their partners. (5 min.)
5) Class Discussion. After the students have had time to generate ideas amongst
themselves, have everyone return to their seats for the class discussion. How
comfortable was it to generate ideas in these formats? Are certain forms better for
certain types of writing? How does coming up with ideas for a term paper differ
from jotting down ideas for your best friend’s birthday present or what you need
to purchase at the grocery store? How does writing a paper on the assigned topic
differ from writing an essay on your family? Maybe not differently at all—or
maybe the two topics are worlds apart in your situation. What situations would
looping, brainstorming, and clustering best be used for, in your opinion? (10
6) Wrap-up.
Please answer—and have the class discuss—any other questions
regarding today’s exercises and the various forms of freewriting, especially in
regard to the paper assignment. (5 min.)
Anne Sexton’s Transformations/Fairy Tales
WR 121, MWF, Spring term
Instructor: Nathan Buck
[email protected]
This is an IN-CLASS ACTIVITY. Do not do outside of class!!!
Fairy tales are an ingrained part of every culture on this planet. Consider your
take on them: What did you think of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty or Hansel & Gretel
as a child? Did you view these characters as models to live by? Could you empathize
with their plights to go from rags to riches, to defeat the evil witch or slay the dragon, to
marry the handsome prince or rescue the fair maiden? How has your view of fairy tales
changed over time? Has becoming an adult enriched—or tainted—your take on some of
these universal stories? Pay special attention to how the words “happily ever after” affect
you—is this phrase a reality, an illusion, or simply a far-off goal?
Read through Anne Sexton’s Transformations.
It is a book of poems that
“recasts” seventeen Grimm fairy tales in new lights, parodying some, reenacting others,
and completely inverting the meaning or purpose of yet others. Your assignment: 1)
What do you consider the nature of fairy tales to be? In other words, what purpose do
you think fairy tales serve in a culture? 2) How has the poem you’ve chosen reflect
on/alter/expand/invert/modernize the traditional idea(s) of fairy tales? 3) How does this
poem compare to your personal view on the necessity—and reality or illusion—of fairy
tales? 4) How do traditional fairy tales portray the roles of both men and women? Feel
free to discuss how books, movies, television, and other forms of media contribute to
these views in our society, how one myth perpetuates the other in a cycle. Compare and
contrast these stereotypes with how Anne Sexton discusses the roles and perceptions of
men and women—you may draw on notions of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age,
etc. Also, remember to bring into this essay your own experiences, memories of favorite
childhood stories, etc.
2) We live in a media-saturated culture. Everywhere we turn we are confronted
with images of how we should look, act, and even feel. Depending on our age, social
status, race, gender, etc., we are in fact told to feel different things—there are norms we
are expected to live up to.
You will be working with the following pieces of writing for your paper: Plato’s
“Allegory of the Cave” and Mitchell Stephens’s “‘By Means of the Visible’: A Picture’s
Worth” (both can be found in The Presence of Others, p. 467 and p. 473, respectively.)
You will also be choosing from one of the following television programs: Fox’s “The
O.C.,” NBC’s “Friends,” or MTV’s “The Real World.”
Your assignment: 1) In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Plato talks about a line of
people chained in a dark cave, trapped by shadows, compared to those people who are
released to the outside, into the sunlight. He argues that this journey from darkness to
light is like the journey we all take, where our souls escape the realm of sensory
perceptions to the freedom of “true reality,” which exists beyond the realm of senses.
What we see with our eyes is suspect, a shadow. Only what we see with our souls is
“real.” What metaphors and analogies does Plato use to get his point across? 2) What is
valued as real in our society versus what is considered real by Plato? What are typical
images—metaphors if you will—that the media floods us with in order to make us
believe their version of reality?
Think about commercials, product placements,
billboards, advertisements for vacations, etc. Draw on Mitchell Stephens’s “‘By Means
of the Visible’: A Picture’s Worth,” to discuss these various images and how we might be
affected by them. 3) Watch one of the above television programs. How does it conform
to our society’s obsession with certain norms? Does it, in fact, differ or try to enter a
higher level of “reality”? Is this impossible because of the very nature of the medium?
Discuss how both Plato and Stephens would have viewed this program, and what they
would have had to say about it; pretend they are in your living room with you, hanging
out in front of the television. Make sure to draw on both Plato and Stephens’s notions of
how images—particularly videos—can represent reality more directly than words can.
So what reality is being represented? What abstract ideas about how we should live our
lives are being conveyed?
3) Wally Lamb, in his novel She’s Come Undone, writes from the first person
point of view of a woman, Dolores Price, and her life experiences between the
ages of 4 and 40. Stephen Chbosky, in his young adult novel the perks of
being a wallflower, writes from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old boy
who is going through his first year of high school; the book is written as a
series of letters to an anonymous friend, “compiled” together in the novel.
For your assignment, read one of the above novels and consider the nature of
voice in writing: Why might someone choose to write from a first, third, or
even second person point of view? Can adults still accurately write about
what it felt/feels like to be a child or teenager? Can a man effectively write a
novel from the first person point of view of a woman, or vice versa? Why
might someone choose to write a book in “letter” or “diary” format instead of
as a “straightforward” novel? Consult Work in Progress, Chapter 1, “On
Writing,” particularly pp. 11-12, and Chapter 5, “Analyzing Rhetorical
Situations,” pp.145-158. Pay special attention to the concept of persona in
people’s writing, and to Aristotle’s Three Appeals—the ideas of logos (the
appeal to reason), pathos (the appeal to emotion), and ethos (the appeal to the
credibility of the speaker or writer). What would Aristotle have to say about
Wally Lamb or Stephen Chbosky? What would he say the writer is trying to
accomplish in his work, and how?
Scary movie/interview assignment
WR 121, MWF 2-2:50pm
Instructor: Nathan Buck
[email protected]
The philosopher and cultural theorist Noel Carroll, in his book The Philosophy of
Horror (also known as Paradoxes of the Heart), discusses how the horror genre—
whether it be in books, film, or otherwise—satisfies the human appetite for the horrible.
Working from a philosophical perspective, he accounts for how we are frightened by
what we know does not exist and how we often take pleasure from what terrifies us.
How many of us watch scary movies even though we know they’ll give us nightmares?
How many of us curl up with the latest Stephen King bestseller, unable to put the book
down? How many of us stop to stare at an accident along the side of the road, creating
(mostly unseen) stories in our minds of the fate that has fallen on a fellow traveler? Pick
a horror classic that most of the class would be familiar with and watch it: The Exorcist,
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie, Alien, The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws,
Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Predator, etc. (I have many
more suggestions if you would like to hear them.) Make sure to take notes during the
screening—use Work in Progress, Chapter 8, “Strategies for Invention,” pp. 232-236.
This particular section—“Using Formal Methods of Discovering and Exploring Ideas”—
provides key ways of gathering information, including the journalist’s questions,
tagmemics, and the topical questions. Also consult Work in Progress, Chapter 4,
“Understanding the Research Process,” pp. 120-123, which will help you decide the best
approach to an interview (and possibly questionnaire) process. On your own, create a log
of your thoughts, ideas, and perceptions. The next step is the interview process, which
we will be doing as an in-class activity. You and your partner will interview each other
regarding one another’s feelings about the film. Remember to keep in mind these
thoughts and ideas: Why did the monster or villain frighten you—was it because of the
way it looked, its deformity? Why are women typically the ones left to fight the evildoer in horror films—is it the result of sexism, or is it indeed a different form of
feminism because the only survivor in these films often turns out to be female? Did you
at all identify with the villain, maybe root for him to “get” that next teenager? Finally,
how did you feel in the minutes, hours, and days following your screening of this picture?
Was it mostly a negative experience, positive (cathartic) experience, or somewhere inbetween? What do you think about the place of horror in our culture? You WILL be
turning in your notes from the screening, as well as your interviewing notes/results.
5) Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, in “The Making of a Divorce Culture” (found in
your The Presence of Others book, p. 619), discusses how divorce is, for better or worse,
“now part of everyday American life.” What evidence have you found in the world
around you that supports or rejects this idea? You may draw from popular culture,
American society, and/or your own experiences to discuss your position on this issue.
You may want to include Whitehead’s notion of how, as a country, we’ve moved from
obligations to the family to obligations of self-fulfillment. Part of your assignment is to
keep a log for the next week of people that you know or meet who come from families of
divorce (and, on the flipside, families who have stayed together), as well as to record any
instances of divorce that you see, hear, or read about in the movies, on television, in the
newspaper, etc. You may record the names and situations of fictional situations, but keep
the names and specific facts about people you know private; this is simply an exercise to
open individuals up to the changing culture around us, and how Whitehead’s statements
may or may not be true, in your opinion. After everyone has turned in an essay regarding
their observations and support or rejection of Whitehead’s views, we will meet in groups
to discuss the state of divorce in this country today. In groups, we will discuss how
Whitehead dismisses certain public policy proposals that exist to “lessen the harmful
impact of divorce on children,” including “a federal system of child-support collection,
tougher child-support enforcement, mandatory counseling for divorcing parents, and
reform of no-fault divorce laws in the states.” We will discuss these options, as well as
other ideas for making families more stable and successful. We will be writing group
proposal papers expanding on one of these ideas.
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