Discourse Community Memoir Writing Activity

I feel like I owe my (very small) readership an apology. I’ve been amazingly busy with UTA work, and so have not had time to work on my BLOG as much as I would want to. Furthermore, even when I have a chance to write for it I do so under the weight of two deadlines for book chapters, a deadline for a curriculum revision, and a deadline for two papers on Race, Gender, and Class (not to mention the stress of not knowing if two other short papers will be accepted for publication – I’ll keep my fingers crossed). So, for today I will share a writing activity for first year writing instructors and intermediate to advanced level ESL teachers: the Discourse Community Memoir (DCM).

A quick Google search will yield conflicting results on what discourse, community, memoir, and discourse community are. None mention what a DCM is.

A Discourse Community Memoir is a writing activity similar to a Discourse Community Essay with one distinct difference – you are trying to make an argument. In this work you will have your students use an academic lens on a non-academic discourse community.

But what is this Discourse Community thing? In common English it is a group of like-minded people who share distinct values. The discourse community of “English professors and teachers”, for example, share the values of love for language an literature (regardless of Lit, Linguistics, or TESOL specialization), love for teaching, and (more often than not) love for the advancement of the profession. The discourse community of “politicians” share the values of “lying to the people when in elections”, “cutting deals with big corporations in exchange for campaign endorsements”, and “being overall blinded by party politics and talking points while ignoring facts and the common good” (at least that is my perception and that of many of my colleagues). But discourse communities are not just professional or political groups. “First Year Students”, “DDR Players”, and “Youtubers” are also part of distinct discourse communities with independent values.

For this activity the first thing you want to do is have your students identify their discourse community. The less academic it is and the more familiar they are with it the better for the assignment. Then you will give them the writing prompt: make an argument that your chosen group is a discourse community and that you are a part of it. Remind your students that their paper must have an exigency (a reason for writing the paper), an implied audience, and a writer with constraints. For the paper to be a really successful it should have a structure that prompts the argument (they say), the argument [or claim] (I say), evidence (for the DCM the evidence takes form of a personal narrative), naysayers (people who don’t agree with your claim), and a conclusion.

This activity should take about a 5 to 6 meetings to complete. In one class you introduce the terms to be used (they say, I say, nayseayers, etc). In the second class you talk about the DCM as a whole, providing example papers when you can. In the third class have the students begin working on their papers and assign them homework to bring a draft for the fourth class. In the fourth class do a peer-review session. Have them go home and apply the peer-review recommendations to their papers. On the fifth class have them hand in their final drafts to you. Make recommendations and when you return their drafts remember to talk generally about their strengths and weaknesses so they can fix their paper for their final version.


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on August 8, 2010, in Education Commentary, Video Game Commentary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is cool. I might use your idea here to lead my class in a discussion and activity on discourse communities.

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