Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Assignment: The Professor & The Cell Phone

Background


In class, we first watch this YouTube video:




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hut3VRL5XRE

We have a discussion about what happened (a cell phone goes off in a lecture hall; the interrupted professor takes it, then slams it to the ground before continuing with his lecture), and students' responses. Several say that student deserved to have his phone destroyed. Some say the professor should have taken the phone, but not broken it. Others say the professor was out of line completely. It's usually a spirited debate.

Then, we get to the assignment.


OVERVIEW

This assignment is a response to the video we watched in class of the professor and the cell phone. Your task for this assignment is to imagine you were a student in the class who witnessed the “incident” with the professor and the cell phone. You will write a letter to the professor’s supervisor with a specific purpose.

  • If you are in Group A, you will write a letter to the professor’s supervisor that attempts to get him fired.
  • If you are in Group B, you will write a letter to the professor’s supervisor that attempts to defend him and keep him from being fired. 

FORMATTING

  • ONE Business Letter with a specific purpose
  • 500-750 words
  • Typed & printed 
    • Sender’s name & address 
    • Recipient’s name & address 
    • Date 
    • Salutation 
    • Paragraphs 
    • Valediction (sign off) 
    • Signature 

GRADING

An “A” Firing Letter…
  • Is complete, on-time, and meets the word count; 
  • Is typed and neatly presented with high-quality printing; 
  • Is cleanly proofread with no typos; 
  • Describes the incident honestly and completely; 
  • Uses words that negatively impact the reader’s opinion of the professor; 
  • Appeals to the reader’s emotions; 
  • Appeals to the professors character and the reader’s character; 
  • Appeals to logic; 
  • Uses formal, professional language; 
  • Persuades the reader that the professor deserves to be fired because of his actions. 

An “A” Defense Letter
  • Is complete, on-time, and meets the word count; 
  • Is typed and neatly presented with high-quality printing; 
  • Is cleanly proofread with no typos; 
  • Describes the incident honestly and completely; 
  • Uses words that soften the reader’s opinion of the professor; 
  • Appeals to the reader’s emotions; 
  • Appeals to the professors character and the reader’s character; 
  • Appeals to logic; 
  • Uses formal, professional language; 
  • Persuades the reader that the professor does not deserve to be fired because of his actions. 

TEACHER'S NOTES

This assignment comes second or third in the semester, after we have introduced the terms ethos, pathos, and logos. I wish I had allowed more time for free discussion and freewriting--students had so many varying opinions that didn't all get to be heard. Also, the situation's context is complex enough to have lots of discussion about purpose, intent, cause/effect, ethos, respect, etc. It's a wonderful rhetorical situation to dwell on for a while.

Some things I like about the assignment:
  • We break from the essay genre;
  • Students have a tangible audience and purpose;
  • Students seemed to find the subject easy to relate to and interesting--the video certainly got their attention;
  • We got to discuss more subtle persuasion techniques, like disinterest. We discuss context, tone, consequence, and other aspects of the situation to decide what's appropriate in that particular situation.


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