Well, the summer was short and I find myself back in the classroom with a room of unsuspecting students–eager to learn and to challenge themselves. I love fresh starts. This is what I’ve got planned for my first day in Composition I.

  1. First a little “walk in” music, emphasizing the idea of a fresh start and new possibilities. While students enjoy the music, I ask them to provide a little information about themselves on an index card.
  2. After a few minutes, I introduce myself to the students, using a few slides to facilitate along the way.
  3. Ok, now under the guise of pleasantries, I tell students that we will be introducing ourselves. I pick someone in the front row and say, “Tell us who you are.” This is where the fun begins. When the student offers his or her name, I say, “No, that’s your name. I want you to tell us who you are.” When they begin to describe something about themselves, I say something like “No, your describing your personality; tell us who you are.” And so on. Of course, this is a joke to illustrate the complexities of identity.
  4. To further the laugh, I share a clip from Anger Management, which is where i got the idea from. The relevant part starts at 5:30.
  5. After the clip, I point out to students the obvious. “Who are you?” is a hard question. How do you go about answering it? And of course, this leads to a freewriting opportunity.
  6. We talk about freewriting as a prewriting strategy, and then students give it a try with the following prompts: Who are you really? Why are you here? How has education or schooling affected who you are?
  7. In small groups, now, students use their prewriting to get to know each other. The goal is to learn something about the one another.
  8. Students introduce the members of their group to the class, sharing one interesting thing about who they are.
  9. Now that they know each other a little, I ask them to work together by brainstorming as many questions about the course as they can (without a syllabus in hand).
  10. After a some time has passed, I distribute the syllabus, and students work together to find the answers to their questions.
  11. Finally, as a group, we discuss any questions that for which they could not find answers.
  12. For homework, I ask that they develop their prewriting into something a little more polished. Also, I ask that they read Alfie Kohn’s “The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement.”

Until next time…