Friday, September 16, 2016

Doing What I Teach: Rhetoric

I love it that students are noticing and asking about unfamiliar words. Yesterday I ran out of class time to address their vocabulary questions, so two students handed me their post-it notes. Now we'll work on noticing rhetorical strategies!

This week I’m just going to celebrate the nerdy joy of loving, doing, teaching language. Not so much reading and writing as such--which is usually the topic when I talk about being the living curriculum, a doer of what I teach (29 posts with this label!). But one thing I've especially enjoyed doing this week is noticing rhetorical terms and strategies in what I read and even in what I say! (I warned you it was going to be nerdy!) It's the lovely feeling of being on my second year of teaching AP Language and Composition, where instead of straining to keep one step ahead of the students, I've absorbed the content and skills of rhetoric and argument a little more into my bloodstream, so I'm actually doing it. Gives me a nerdy little thrill. Also gives me examples I can bring back into class to demonstrate that this is not so esoteric--people frequently use both the terms and what they mean. Here are some of the things I noticed this week (bolded words were already on our word wall):
  • “‘Flesh’ is a synechdoche, a part of speech in which a part of a thing is used to represent the whole (as in our phrase ‘counting noses’)” (255). Timothy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage, which I've been working on for a while and finally finished this week.
  • “They had the look of men who held their breath /  and now their tongues” (6-7). Marv Bell in “Veterans of the Seventies”  which I came across cleaning out my email—this was the poem for the day 11/11/2015. (No, you would not believe how much email I had collected.) I could identify the reason this line made me catch my breath—it’s a zeugma—using one word, “hold,” in two slightly different ways.
  • “The poignancy of its appeal is heightened by its juxtaposition to Ps 77…and Ps 78….” NIV Study Bible study note on Psalm 79. This was in my devotional reading last night. 
  • "I had planned to have dinner at home tonight because of the forecast typhoon, but since it hasn't materialized yet, I wouldn’t be adverse to going out." Me to my husband Friday morning. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized that I had just used one of the types of understatement I’d gone over in class Thursday. (In fact, I’d told the students not to worry about the names of the different types because that was so specialized even I didn’t know them. But now that I caught myself using it, I’ve gone and looked it up again, and I won’t forget it. Maybe I’ll even tell the class next week. We’ll probably end up using the word just because it’s so fun to say—litotes [LIGHT-uh-tease], litotes, litotes….)
I hope you love what you teach as much as I love what I teach. Don't be afraid to turn your heart and brain inside out and show your students what it looks like and how interesting and fun it is to see the world through the eyes of a doer of your subject. If you don't show them, who will?

Where do you see and use what you teach all around you? How do you share that with your students?

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