This week's EN 411: Teaching Composing Processes looked at writing to evaluate and writing to judge. Inspired by Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This, I opted for charting criteria to form an opinion, and what better way to get graduate students to put their finger on this discussion (granted, a finger with the ability to also be opened to blow bubbles) than to hypothesize what makes an outstanding Halloween costume?
Everyone listed their own criteria: originality, humor, irony, attention to detail, believability, WOW factor, etc, and I handed out blank rubrics for them to specify language from low to high in each of these criteria.
From there, I showed five costumes I found online and I had them discuss with one another how they would judge and evaluate the mimicry given the rubrics they created on their own.
My point? Well, in order to be an insider, one needs to establish a sense of expertise. This, I feel, comes from experience, consulting with others in the community, and naming what are the levels for putting a rating on a given subject. They co-created criteria, and then used this to do their own evaluation and judgement.
We moved, of course, into commercials and the rhetorical devices used to get consumers to recognize and/or purchase their projects. My argument is that teaching students to be critical consumers of media (hence the language of discussing commercials and the tricks they use to sell us their product) also provides a vocabulary on whether or not they are successful. Rather than being numb recipients of materials thrown their way, they become knowledgeable receivers of such information to judge and evaluate for themselves.
Such thinking is almost innate - we are highly evaluative and judgmental creatures, but it is important to name the criteria we use, so that our judgement and evaluation is concise and in line with other communities.
I think the Halloween trick worked, and the gimmick from Targets also helped out. In other words, we put our finger on what it takes to be more deliberate in our teaching. I will definitely do this exercise again if the chance is provided. The bubbles were a bit of a distraction (playful), but I'm sure the metaphor will last for quite some time.