Friday, May 26, 2017

Building a prompt III: Some examples

Last time, I wrote about prompt characteristics. Last last time, I wrote about prompt types.
So now that you can really put an eye on it, here are some example prompts to demonstrate how these types and characteristics might manifest themselves. I don't provide a detailed anatomy of the prompts, but I hope they illustrate what I described in my past two posts. 
First, here’s a prompt designed to get students talking about a reading and then exploring how that reading applies to their own work (1):
Allen, frustrations and connections
Hi all,
Allen, in her article, talks about frustration with writing. She talks about myths. She talks about imitation. She talks about connecting with others.
Did any of her advice particularly resonate with you? What myths about writing have you held in your life? Do you believe in “the Inspired Writer” or something like it? Have your struggles with writing changed, even in the course of this year?
Looking forward to reading these,
Prof. Warnock
Here is another prompt focused on a reading. This was a challenging reading, so I provided students with increasing layers of complexity, ending with an invitation for them to think more broadly about the topics raised in that piece:
Activity Theory
Dear students,
Yes, this is the most challenging reading of the term so far, but it’s interesting for our purposes, so I hope you engage with it. The first posters here can answer these questions: What does Russell want to do with this article – what’s his purpose? What is Activity Theory?
Later posters can answer this. What does Russell mean by “But writing does not exist apart from its uses, for it is a tool for accomplishing object(ive)s beyond itself” (8). How can Activity Theory help people re-think general writing courses? Why might that be important for you?
Looking forward to your thoughts,
Prof. Warnock
Work Cited
Russell, David. “Activity Theory and Its Implications for Writing Instruction.” Preprint version. In Reconceiving Writing, Rethinking Writing Instruction. Ed. Joseph Petraglia. (Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum,1995): 51-78. Web.
OWI, as I said two posts ago, allows you to "also use prompts to have them work on/explore specific aspects of writing"; such prompts also allow them to make good use of course writing texts, in this case The Norton Field Guide to Writing:
Analyzing your own argument
Dear students,
I’d like you to choose a post you wrote from earlier in the term in which you made an argument. Please cut-and-paste that post here and then provide an analysis of the argument you made using any of the tools and terminology (see the Norton and our other readings) we have discussed this term. How do you develop the "key features" of arguments (p. 169)? Did you argue logically (p. 356)? How do you connect with your audience?
This is a 15-point assignment that is separate from your other Discussion work this week. Put a little extra oomph into it, and make your analysis clear.
I’m looking forward to seeing your analysis of your own arguments and methods,
Prof. Warnock
Here is a straightforward prompt to help students generate ideas about projects:
Talk about Project 2
Hi everyone,
We have been discussing how Project 2 is unconventional and challenging. Let’s use this thread to have some conversation about it during the course of the week as you work on your drafts. We have done a number of readings, including Townsend this week, that can help you think about the many ways to look at how things influence you, how you learn things, and, well, transfer.
Looking forward to your questions and comments,
Prof. Warnock
Finally, I also use prompts, especially in courses framed around argument, to encourage persuasive writing. However, I don’t think they have to battle it out over sensitive argument topics:
Argument statement: Writing technologies
Dear students,
Some weeks, I’ll ask you to post what we will call “Argument Statements.” Basically, I’m asking each of you to write a short argument here on the Discussions. I hope you use these Arguments Statements to take risks and try something new. See the syllabus for a little more information.
This week, I asked you to read a couple of brief pieces about writing online or writing with digital tools/apps. Please write your Argument Statement about how technology – and you can define this any way you like – affects your writing.
I hope these Argument Statements are good practice in writing arguments and that you find them, well, fun.
Feel free to respond to someone’s Argument Statement as a secondary post.
Professor Warnock
I think people are drawn to teaching because of the creativity it engenders. For me, I found a whole new area of creativity when I started designing these asynchronous writing prompts. And I've got a 100+-page Word file full of them to prove it.

1) From Sarah Allen's Writing Spaces piece, "The Inspired Writer vs. the Real Writer." Writing Spaces is a great resource.