All posts by Kate Koppy

As a precariously employed early-career scholar in twenty-first century academia, Kate Koppy studies the interaction of narrative and community while teaching, applying for jobs, and parenting two teenagers. She completed revisions on her book *Fairy Tales in Contemporary American Culture: How We Hate to Love Them* during the 2020 pandemic while making her own international job transition and supporting her children in their transitions from high school to college. She is currently an Assistant Professor (ntt) in the Department of Humanities and Languages at the New Economic School in Moscow. The constants in her life are knitting, books, and snark.

Creative Projects Spring 2022

In my upper-level survey and seminar classes, I assign students a final project with a lot of self-direction. They get to choose whether to work solo or in a small group (2-4 students). They get to choose whether to write a paper, whether to connect the current course to their overall course of study, or whether to do a creative “unessay” project. Finally, they get to choose whether their project will be publicly available or only submitted to me.

Here’s the current prompt for the creative project:

Develop a webpage, board game, video, piece of art, short story, film, or other creative work related to the content of this course. It may focus on one or a group of texts on the syllabus. Alternatively, the creative project may focus more broadly on the literary or cultural concepts we discuss. You will be required to participate in the drafting and revision process, so your Project Proposal will need to include a plan for what you will submit on the draft deadlines. Method of submission will be specific to the type of project.  You will also write a reflection on the project.

This may be a group project. Maximum group size is 4 students. Groups should include a plan for division of labor in the project proposal.

Here are some past examples of projects in response to this prompt.

Your project should be significant and polished. We are giving four weeks of our class time to this, so that is approximately 30 working hours from each student. 

This semester’s public creative projects are a mix of informational websites, instagram galleries, and interactive Telegram bots. Please visit some of these and offer up some interaction as appropriate for each platform!

Teaching Writing: The Review of the Literature

This post is part of a series on Writing Pedagogy.

The review of the literature, also called a lit review,  is a tricky sub-genre of scholarly writing.  It sometimes shows up as a standalone document in class assignments or in the early stages of the research process. It also shows up as a section of a thesis-driven paper, article,  dissertation, or book.

Continue reading Teaching Writing: The Review of the Literature

App Review: Perusall

Perusall is a social reading app than can be used as a standalone tool or embedded with a course management system like Canvas. This is a brief review based on my experience using it with students during our shift to remote instruction in Spring 2020.

Short version: Perusall is useful, but I had some challenges to implementation. Despite these challenges, I will continue to use this app in both remote and face to face instructional modalities.

Continue reading App Review: Perusall

Teaching Writing: Organizing Ideas

This post is part of a series on Writing Pedagogy.

Some writing tasks come with a rigid structure built in, while some are more open-ended and leave the writer to decide how to organize the ideas. Writers often think they want freedom, but sometimes the freedom can be paralyzing. This freedom paralysis often comes hand in hand with intimidation by the page count required.

Continue reading Teaching Writing: Organizing Ideas

Teaching Writing: Finding Your Argument

This post is part of a series on Writing Pedagogy.

Generally when we engage in research writing, the first step is to find a bunch of sources and read and annotate them. This is, of course, important because we need to know what other interested people have been saying about our topic, what the experts know that we don’t, what the conversation about the topic already is. But then it can be difficult amidst all this new knowledge and other people’s ideas to find what it is that we think about the topic, what we have to contribute to the conversation.

This is a place where free writing can help, particularly cubing. This strategy challenges the writer to look at their topic from six different perspectives. Instructions abound. Some use a similar plan to what I included in the interactive video activity below where the six different perspectives were up to the individual writer with some suggestions from me. Others use a set of verbs to guide the focus on each face of the cube: describe, compare, associate, analyze, apply, argue. When I have used this list of verbs with students, I’ve found it to be more problematic than helpful. The topics my students have often don’t lend themselves well to comparison, for example.

The goal of a cubing exercise like this one in my courses is to give the students space to discover what it is they think about their research topic, to identify their argument about the topic among all the bits of new information their research has brought to them.

This video walks through a 6-phase cubing activity in real time. That is to say, I write alongside the viewer, so a significant portion of this video is distant bird song and wind chimes while you watch me free write, or, better yet, write along with me.

The script I use is relatively simple.

At the beginning: Remind students that free writing is about a connection between the ideas in your head, through your arm, through your finger, through your writing stick to the paper. The only rule is to keep the pen or pencil moving. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or organization. Write in any language or a combination of languages. Write in any direction on the page, use doodles and diagrams instead of word, do what it takes to let your ideas flow from your brain to the page. And follow your ideas where they go.

At the end of each face of the cube: Stop writing. Finish up your last sentence. Read over what you’ve just written and star, underline, or highlight anything that seems particularly important or interesting or surprising to you. Draw a line across the page, or skip a couple of lines, or turn the paper to write in a different direction. Choose a new perspective on your topic and start writing.

At the end: Look back over what you’ve read. Is an argument emerging? What is that you think about your topic? Craft a thesis statement that does these three things: names your topic, makes an argument about that topic, and gives a preview of the way the essay will be organized.

Teaching Writing: Editing

This is part of a series of blog posts about guiding students through different stages of the writing process.

This post focuses on editing, the stage of the writing process in which we think about words and sentences. These strategies can be used in conjunction with one another or separately.

If revision is where the magic happens, editing is where we make it sparkle. When the draft has been completed from beginning to end, when it has been revised for coherence, when it has transitions that support the logical flow of ideas, the time arrives to attend to polishing our prose at the word and sentence level. Continue reading Teaching Writing: Editing

Teaching Writing: Drafting, Generativity vs. Judgement

This post is part of a series on Writing Pedagogy.

One of the most broadly applicable things I learned in all of my linguistics coursework as a graduate student is the distinction between fluency and accuracy. Fluency relates to the rhythm of speech–does it flow logically from one unit of syntax to the next? without artificial pauses in the middle of a phrase? without repetitions? Accuracy relates to the correctness of the speech produced–is the speaker following the rules of the language and dialect? can their interlocutor understand what is being said? Speech can be incomprehensible because of disfluency or because of inaccuracy or because of a combination of both. The average native speaker is able to achieve a high degree of accuracy at the same time as a high degree of fluency. Language learners, though, tend to optimize one at the expense of the other. (This is not necessarily a conscious choice on the part of the language learner.) Understanding this distinction helped me realize that as a language learner, I tend to optimize fluency. It also helped me to understand a struggle that I was seeing in my writing classroom when students were drafting. Continue reading Teaching Writing: Drafting, Generativity vs. Judgement

Teaching Writing: Topic Development

This post is part of a series on Writing Pedagogy.

When it comes to choosing topics for research papers, my students, at all levels of writing instruction, fall into two camps. First the Committers–they come to class with a specific topic that they are determined to research. Sometimes these topics are great. Sometimes, however, they are inappropriate to the course or have the wrong scope for the assignment. Then there are the Flailers, who come to class with no idea at all or with a long list of possible ideas, none of which they are willing to commit to.  The series of activities outlined in this post are designed to help both groups of students think carefully about the possibilities available to them in a given assignment, the demands and the limits of the assignment’s scope, and the relationship of their interests to the topics of the course. Continue reading Teaching Writing: Topic Development