Early Assignments and In-Class Activities


 

Nominalization/Characters and Actions
 
1. Go to Alderman Library and find a professional journal in your field. [Discuss with students what constitutes a professional journal and how to find one.] Choose a passage (at least twenty-five lines) that is difficult to understand. Rewrite the passage so that the nominalizations appear as verbs.
 
2. Find a passage in a general interest/popular magazine that describes a topic or debate in your field, and re-write it for an audience of specialists.
 
3. Choose a topic/debate/process/theory in your discipline that is difficult for outsiders to understand. Ask a professor or other specialist to describe it to you as they would to another specialist. Tape the conversation or transcribe it. Translate that description into a description (at least one page in length) that outsiders could understand. Bring the tape/transcription to class. (Adapted from an assignment by Betsy Winakur.)
 
4. Choose a piece of equipment used frequently by specialists in your discipline. Find an instruction manual for the equipment (often available online) , and rewrite it for non-specialists.
 
5. You are on the staff of __________________ . S/he is scheduled to give a speech to _________________, who are very interested in ______________________. It's your job to research the topic and write a brief about it. You know that your employer isn't a great intellect, and doesn't have much time to read the brief. The brief, then, must be clearly written in order for him/her to understand it (and in order for you to keep your job. [Brainstorm employers/audiences/topics in class, to ensure that students have picked topics in their fields that are specific enough for them to write about in a couple of pages. During the workshop, ask readers to write memos explaining why the brief was helpful/unhelpful.] (Adapted from an assignment designed by John Knapp.)
 
6. You are on the public relations staff of ________________. There has been an embarrassing mishap, for which your employer is seen to be responsible. Basically, what happened was ___________________________________________________. The press is demanding a statement, and it's your job to write one that will obfuscate the facts enough to confuse everyone and make it seem as if your employer is not especially at fault. [Brainstorm employers/disasters in class. During the workshop, ask readers to pose as members of the press, asking questions in response to the memo, or to pose as the employer, explaining why the press release did/not succeed.]