Experience and Connections From November 3


Most academic writing fails to captivate the professors that read it. Why does student writing fail to grab our attention, and what can we do to fix this problem?

Our details are left in the dust as we try to get our essays done in a timely fashion. Just writing blindly and not returning later to fix arrangement and go into greater detail makes a number of our papers feel incomplete to the reader. We need to go deeper into the issues that we bring up in order to hold onto our readers until the end.

Student writing typically tends to leave out connections. Even if we have the skills to include the perfect amount of detail and explanation, what application does that have to other disciplines. Having the ability to pull back our scope and connect what we are writing about to other studies is not only a huge advantage over others, but it also creates a much more interesting read for our audience.

Learning to think across disciplines is part of being enrolled in a liberal arts education.  We are supposed to gain a basic knowledge of the way all schools of thought are laid out so that we can realize the importance of all of them and use them in the real world.

Tone is of utmost importance in all of writing, not just for academic reasons. Many writers that are my age pay no attention to their tone, they are all just writing to get the assignment done. If we were to all go back and read the essay in the tone we want our work to be received in, we would have much better flow in our papers.

Another subject that young writers seem to struggle with is word choice. A fad among some writers is  that they think that adding a bunch of random words from a thesaurus will make their work interesting. What we need to realize is that words will only work to our advantage if we are familiar with them. We need to know the context, and have an intentional definition to form a sentence that does what we want it to; get into our readers head.

At this level of writing, we need to know how to introduce a problem, and then solve it with our writing. If we know what problems our reader will get invested in, even better. It is absolutely necessary to develop concepts into the writing instead of just having them appear.

Argumentation is arguably the most important piece of writing, and we have to know how to use it in order to make our papers interesting. Anyone can throw a quote into a paper, but what really makes it your knowledge is when you can argue and explain what you have brought in.

Doing free writing with random concepts being thrown in is a great way to introduce our minds into the connection making process, but that is just the first step. Now we must take what we have learned, and apply it to our papers in all of our classes. Transfer what we are learning, and we will learn even more.

Ethan Bussell

October 24th Part 1


Get back to blogging

  • Looking for robust and engaging conversation
  • Bill takes the academic research policy seriously
  • This class has built in self assessment
  • Bill altered very few of the grades
  • There is a significant amount of scholars that do not feel motivated to get self assessment in or do a good job on them
  • How does Bill honor the academic rigor policy while helping to make sure we are helping those who aren’t doing it?
  • Bill doesn’t want us to think of ourselves whether we did the assignment or not
  • How do we collaborate?
  • We have a responsibility for each other
  • Andrew asks how we can fix the problem so that we all have motivation
  • Josh wonders how we can fix our past habits
  • You don’t turn in anyone’s papers but your own
  • Tyler brings the question of how we can more rigorously self asses ourselves
  • Self assessment is a genre
  • Every piece of writing is a genre

Connections through Free Writing


“Write about your left foot, candy and the end of the world.” Talk about making connections that others don’t see! In performing the exercise that we did during Monday’s class, we are giving our minds the freedom to make connections.

I took a creative writing class during high school. We did exercises similar to the ones we did in class where there are a number of seemingly unrelated subjects given that you must weave together into a story. I remember liking the fact that I could freely write, instead of going off of a specific prompt that had all sorts of requirements that I would have to work through. I could connect my writing to my emotions that day, the music that was playing, or really anything that I wanted to.

Making connections is highly useful within our liberal arts curriculum. We have talked about the importance of connecting before using the concept of transfer. I think that the reason that we hesitate to make some more obscure connections between subjects is because we are afraid of being called wrong, or having people not understand.

Monday in class, I wrote so much that my hand began to hurt, once again proving that writing is physical as well as mental. Something feels good about putting all of the words that you are thinking in your head down on a piece of paper. We can just let go and flow. Doing such an act really does bring you comfort in your own mind. Nobody is going to be able to do that for you, that is another thing that we must take responsibility for on our own.

My Notes October 1st

  • “Read the god damn book!” – Bill
  • Even if you don’t understand the reading, we can go back over it together
  • Know what portion of the reading that you didn’t understand
  • Find and note where you have the question
  • Buy your book with ink
  • Exigence:
  • In writing and conversations, words arise because of a need
  • Giving someone a card is an act of composition –  the need is their birthday
  • Bitzer says that exigence is not just a need
  • We don’t treat things as exigence unless they can be fixed with communication
  • It’s raining – Is an observation
  • It’s raining, are you prepared to go out – is exigence
  • It’s not a rhetorical action unless you can have a say in the action by speaking
  • Bill will constantly ask us to reword things, instead of just repeating the  concept
  • It is not rocket science, all we are doing is starting to study things we do constantly
  • To act on the need rhetorically
  • Ocations the questions
  • Raising your hand is the exigence for a teacher to stop and call on you
  • The only things that count as exigence are those that can be fixed or improved by speaking
  • Words accomplish things
  • If you need money, you apply for a job
  • Need that gives ride to rhetorical action
  • Paraphrasing captures the essential parts
  • You select the quote, someone else’s words
  • You are using those words to convey ideas
  • Quoting is an act of selecting
  • Being objective is impossible
  • Meaning is communicated between what you say and what the audience hears

My Notes from September 15th

  • Bill will always give papers back within one week
  • Not trying to perfect our writing, but energize us as writers
  • Won’t correct little grammatical mistakes
  • You can make Easy Writer your friend by not selling is back
  • Money is not how you buy a book, it is about the amount of ink you put in it
  • Go to page one, read the top 20 mistakes professors catch
  • Pick the top 5 and master them
  • Wrong word choice, the computer is not responsible for errors
  • go to blogs.fortlewis.edu, have a blog today by five
  • Log in and out under meta tab
  • Go to the dashboard and change the title, leave the tagline, and set the time to Denver
  • Uncheck the search engine visibility under settings
  • In a college setting there is an average of three hours of homework for every hour in class
  • Bill will try to limit it to  2.5 hours
  • Take a half hour to set up your blog
  • Write a post under Edit–post
  • Blog, forum, essay, comment on another blog
  • Take two hours
  • This task makes us revisit our notes and go back over them

My Notes from September 12th


Self assessment

  • Other words- criticism, evaluate, reflection, observation
  • Creating a word cluster, similar words
  • All of those words can be written as verbs or nouns
  • Matthew says that criticizing  is negative, but observation notices positive and negative
  • When you get to comp 250 you have to create a definitional argument, which is different from an evaluative or a narrative argument
  • Molly says that to evaluate is to gather all of the data that you have collected
  • Reflection is going over pas experience (thinking back)
  • Your papers will improve when you know the meaning of every word that you use
  • Words that you don’t know are bullshit
  • Control your language so that you know what you are saying through the words that you use
  • Students have been trained to think that they have to make a noise to make the teacher move on.
  • Joe says it is because they are nervous
  • We have to care about language and the sounds we are making
  • We have a fear of being corrected
  • WE have to come to believe that nobody will listen to us
  • Force yourself to be heard
  • Don’t wait for others to empower you
  • Take responsibility
  • Watch your language
  • Don’t fly under the radar
  • When you get called on say that you appreciate being called on and ask the teacher to explain further when you don’t understand
  • You have shown that you are grateful, acknowledged that you do not understand, and asked a question to another student instead of the teacher
  • Josh says that you have to show the teacher you are willing to learn
  • Using language correctly is not the same as using language effectively
  • Learn how to construct thoughts in a confident way

How to empower people

  • Learn to properly respond
  • learn to take control of your own education
  • Learn to speak with more confidence
  • Learn to speak up in class
  • Each individual is unique in their own way
  • Present ourselves
  • I can face fear and I can win

My Experience September 24th


“What’s about not trying,” Bill said to the class as we all got tried to get settled in to our seats and start class. We never really knew what to expect when we enter Bill’s class, because it is a surprise each day we are there. Bill went into discussing a calculation that I had done for a previous paper, saying that each class costs about $25 to attend. “It is up to you to make it worth it,” he told us.

Bill said that he was going to shut up for ten minutes and as a class, we were instructed to come up with the meaning of the word trying. The challenge seemed simple enough. How wrong we were. I have been told throughout my life that everyone has a different perspective, and their experience would dilate how they would see things. This is the first time that I was able to see that in action.

The class took some time to decide how to get at the meaning of a phrase as a whole. Jessika said that we can use or prior knowledge and connect what we are trying to figure out and Eljin says that we should look at the opposite to find the meaning.

As a class, 24 of us, with a combined 279 years of education took on the challenge of determining the meaning of trying. John Getner took a leading role in the discussion and asked us if we could go around the circle and each give our own meaning for the word trying. Going around and hearing all of the different opinions of the word trying was an interesting thing to do. Some of my classmates built off of what others had said, while some came up with an original meaning altogether.

I hadn’t really expected it to be that hard of a task to accomplish, and I was surprised that it was so difficult to create a meaning of such a commonly used word.

This exercise really showed me the difference in perception that we all have. One word will never mean the exact same thing to another person, since their experience with that word or concept has been different. Dictionaries are a great way to help someone understand the meaning of a word, but context is everything.

My Notes September 24t

  • Practice what you need to know
  • “What’s about not trying”
  • How to make knowledge
  • Just walking into class costs ~$25, The school gets the money regardless of what you do
  • It is up to you to make it worth it
  • Contact your group if you need something
  • Intertextuality- when one piece of writing borrows elements from another, making connections
  • We constantly bring traces of meaning from other places, as these meet new words, they make new meaning
  • Taking a phrase and expanding it
  • What’s about not trying
  • How do we get at the meaning of that phrase?
  • use prior knowledge, can we connect it to what we already know
  • deconstruct
  • paraphrasing-if you aren’t trying you aren’t getting anywhere
  • Eljin says we should look at the opposite to find meaning
  • What does try mean? give effort, apply yourself, attempt, pursue, a desire for self accomplishment, challenges
  • 24 scholars with 13 years of education is 279 years of schooling
  • “the act of applying effort to a certain goal or desired outcome” John Getner
  • “to try you must give effort” sammy
  • “apply yourself fully, to achieve something” Jessika
  • “success or failure doesn’t matter” Tyler
  • Being your best, even when the situation is difficult
  • There is a cluster of meaning to all words
  • We brought in words like goals, achieve, succeed,  are those necessary for trying?
  • Pursuing sounds different than trying
  • Pursuing somebody rather that trying to ask them on a date
  • Common everyday words are not easy to define
  • How did a word get in the dictionary?
  • Get with people you know and create a definition
  • Don’t fall down on your knees to google
  • We have been socialized to not think
  • whats up with this old guy implying we are all learning the same thing?
  • Rebecca rocks- Bill assumed that we stopped learning
  • We have been schooled to package info
  • Unrap the package and start thinking
  • We only talked about trying, what does not trying look like?
  • Intuitively we decided that rugby tri was not relevant
  • Contextualized the meaning of the word
  • We have used love for intimacy, closeness, and positivity
  • We have all used it cynically as well
  • tone and context changes meaning
  • Hallmark never defined love
  • The conversation never stops, only pauses

Transfer in History


In history, we have an interesting perspective on claims, since literally all of history is different people’s claims. I am not talking about claiming land (although that is a big part as well), but instead claiming that something happened. An observer can create a report of what they see happening, but it takes evidence to make us believe that actually happened. What we read, or even see today on the news, is an account of somebody else who wants us to think a certain way. We need to take what we have learned about claims and evidence and apply them to all aspects of our lives so that we can think for ourselves about the information that is presented to us.

Even when we debate about historical events, we are still making a claim that something happened or something impacted something, and we use evidence to make our fellow scholars believe us. What is written in a textbook is possibly very far from the truth. Whether it be Christophe Columbus or Japanese internment camps, there are events in history that become distorted, and some that get left out altogether. All to make us think a certain way about what happened.

History is usually written by those on the winning side. That creates a touchy situation for historians, as we are often unable to tell when something has been fabricated to sound make the group that wrote it sound a little better. There are many situations in Russian history which illustrate for us why we cannot believe everything we read at face value. In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution hit Russia and a communist form of government was installed.  During the reign of the communist, or Soviet government, many historians started having their own ideas about how Russia was formed. The popular theory prior to the Soviet theory was that Norse Vikings had crossed the Baltic Sea into Russia, and helped the groups of eastern Slavs form a working government. The Soviets argued however, because of their nationalism, stated that the Russian state was organized by a tribe of people known as the Rus tribe, and that while Vikings were present in the area, they had no part in setting up the government for the first Russian state.

In truth, both of the situations above are claims. Due to the lack of documentation that has survived from pre-medieval Russia, we cannot be certain of which claim is correct. One may sound more inflated than the other, but that is not to say that we don’t need evidence from both of them.  There is a possibility that both have truth in them, but this is why we must train our brains to be scholarly. We have to weigh the evidence of all of the claims brought to our attention, whether that be in history class or during our everyday lives. Claims of all kinds surround us and it would be impossible to live and interact with each other by not making claims. I have become aware of claims. I will use them to my advantage. I will not blindly accept the things that I hear.


My Notes Sept 22

  • We want our bodies engaged
  • Writing is about making claims and backing them
  • Giving your name is a claim – to back it you can present birth certificate, drivers license, facebook, someone who knows you
  • Realize that most of what we do is make claims
  • Events that we go through are largely unconscious
  • I don’t know is a claim
  • I am hungry – stomach rumbling, lightheaded, grumpy, reference to the last time I ate
  • Claire claimed she was tired – list the number of hours she slept, that she was sick
  • Jessika claimed it was time to eat – lunch is only served at a certain time
  • Molly went rock climbing this weekend – blisters, climbing gear, visual evidence such as photo or video, her firsthand account, op log, texts to friends, date and time, who else went
  • Joe is focused- He had a good sleep, ate breakfast, hydrated, written record
  • Marina is homesick – she was looking at 800 dollar tickets to go home, browser history, call log, dates she wants to go
  • Erasing browser history only stops a casual observer from seeing it
  • If someone says to take their word for something, or let me be honest with you, what were they doing before they said that
  • As scholars we must suspend empathy
  • Is everyone signed in – look at the paper to see if our names are there
  • Become conscious of claiming and acting on evidence
  • Taking a test is seeing if you can prove your claim
  • Ben’s Rubik’s cube claim at the beginning of the year
  • This literally happens thousands of times a day
  • Did Bill ask Sam to make a claim – ask the people who were sitting around
  • Making claims, offering evidence, and coming to conclusions is as ordinary as breathing.
  • Sammy showered this morning – smell his hair, ask his roommate (he says his hair is still wet but it is rainy outside)
  • Scholars listen to claims, challenge and make them more comlex
  • We are animals
  • We are distinguished by our capacity for language
  • We rise above or transcend our situations to think about them
  • Ask for evidence, challenge, problematize, and reach a conclusion
  • Scholars take an account and add to it
  • “So” sets up a thought – therefore but – we analyze and think rigorously
  • You want what you say to go a certain way
  • Different word choice, conversations advance or fail based on word choice, be clear on words you are using
  • How does your reader hear the words you say
  • We aren’t bothered by certain things because we have been socialized not to care
  • By being here we claim that we want a college education
  • We must be up to the challenge and develop a scholarly mindset
  • Challenging and responding
  • Conceding is important
  • Raelynn is cold – her feet got wet
  • She caught herself and took out kinda  – the act of revision
  • Everyone does this all of the time
  • We aren’t asking you to do something that you don’t do already. We ask you to notice what you do, think about it, and perfect it.
  • Become aware
  • For Wednesday – Time on task, 1.5 hours, Turn on blog and copy notes as bullet points from today
  • Don’t expand on your thoughts

History Major @ Fort Lewis College

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