Remember, final portfolios due Wednesday!

2 May
27 Apr


As promised, here’s the portfolio requirements:

1. You don’t have to include anything from your mid-term portfolio unless you chose to revise anything. If you did, you need to include the original plus the revision. You do, however, need to include the evaluation sheet I included in your portfolio. If you can’t find it, or never got it from me, just talk to me.

2. You need to include your research-beased project and the three anotated sources I had you do prior to the project. If you changed topics or lost your sources, find the three most helpful sources you used, and tell me why they were so helpful.

3. You need to include your op-ed and a cover letter. In the cover letter, please tell me why you chose the topic you did, what you wanted your audience to come away with, and how successful you think your op-ed was at achieving this stated goal.

4. You need to include your final revision, the “reader-ready piece.” As noted in class, this piece should represent a radical re-working of a semester project (either project 1, 3, the research project, or the rhetorical analysis). You can only do the op-ed with my specific permission. We will talk about this project this and next week.


The final portfolio is 60% of the class grade.

Of this 60%: project 4 (the research project) is 10%, the op-ed is 10%, the “reader-ready revision” is 20% and class participation is 20%. (Remember, I said that class participation is on a virtual pass/fail basis. If you have missed fewer than 8 classes and not slept/texted through class, you should be looking good here.


See me with any questions.







Op-ed due Wednesday

18 Apr

Remember, your op-eds are due on blackboard on Wednesday. Go to, find our class, go to the discussion board, click on op-ed, create a new thread, copy and paste your op-ed. Done.

Also, you must respond (on the discussion board), to three (3) of your fellow students’ op-eds. This should be a short response (around 200 words) giving your respectful but honest response to your classmates’ arguments.

Wednesday and Friday we will have in-class presentations.

For Monday

15 Apr

For Monday, please come with a draft of your op-ed. Remember to check your op-ed’s for both appropriate length (shoot for between 650 and 700 words) and clarity.

We will workshop the drafts again on Monday. They will be due (you will post them to a discussion board I will create on BB) on Wednesday, and we will present them in class on Wednesday and Friday.

Email me with any questions.



Op-ed questions

13 Apr

I want you to come into class on Friday with answers to the following questions about your “journey” from research project to op-ed:

1: What topic now interests you? (after reading and identifying the key moments and surprising discoveries you-hopefully-made in your research project)

2: How will you support your new argument with a mix of personal experience and research-based evidence? (remember, you don’t have much space here).

3: What evidence (or arguments) are you going to cut in the progress from research project to op-ed? That is, what evidence take on increased importance as you look back at it, and what looks like it should be tossed?

4: What should your audience feel as they come away? Should they be foaming at the mouth? Or just ready to turn on NPR and learn something new?

Readings for tomorrow

7 Apr

Remember, I want you to decide which one of these op-eds is more effective, and write a note explaining why.

Article I: Parents sway youth obesity

Children didn’t do this to themselves.

For years, the nation steadily has become aware of the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, said Karen Ramsey, health education supervisor at the Nash County Health Department. Early years marked by too much junk and fast food and not enough exercise has left the United States with about one-third of its children overweight or obese.

“Parents don’t always realize their child is at risk for being obese. … Bringing parents to the recognition that they need to be concerned or they need to be proactive is kind of hard to tell them,” Ramsey said.

Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled in the last three decades, according to the website for Let’s Move!, an anti-obesity initiative launched by first lady Michelle Obama. If the problem isn’t dealt with more effectively, one-third of all children born in 2000 or later are expected to suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma, the site said.

Many reasons are sited for childhood obesity, said William Cherry, a physical education teacher at Englewood Elementary School. Too many children are staying inside playing basketball on a video game system rather than doing the real thing. Money and schedules are tighter, leading to too much unhealthy food and not nearly enough fruits and vegetables.

Worst of all is that children often learn these habits from their parents, Cherry said.

“The parents have to lead by example because if they don’t demonstrate behavior, the kids won’t have an example to go by,” Cherry said.

Stop looking back at the way it was when you were young and find an activity your child loves that will get him or her active, said Henry Bunn, a physical education teacher at Spring Hope Elementary School.

Bunn faced the issue of inactivity with his daughter, Taylor Bunn, 10, who didn’t like most sports. He kept encouraging her to try new ones, and eventually, she found she loved soccer. Now, when it is time to sign up, she is the one who reminds him to submit the paperwork.

“It is going to be different with each kid. If you can find something they really love to do, they will do it,” Bunn said.

Parents know this, and they know that a dinner featuring broccoli or salad is better than fried chicken nuggets and macaroni, said Melissa Lowry, healthy kids coordinator for the Down East Partnership for Children. But with many parents worried about budgets and knowing their children will eat the nuggets and macaroni, it can seem like an easier choice.

“They are not thinking, ‘Let me see how much healthy food I can buy.’ They are saying, ‘Let’s see how much food I can buy with this amount of money,” Lowry said.

Children like what they know, and convincing them to try new things can be hard, Lowry said. The earlier you introduce them to a variety of fruits and vegetables, the more likely they will continue to like those as they grow older.

Also, remember that it sometimes takes kids several times trying a food before they will decide they like it.

“If you want to change, start integrating healthier food options slowly,” Lowry said


Article II: Parents must be in charge on childhood obesity

Just last week, officials cut the ribbon on a gleaming, 71,000-square-foot ShopRite in Hunting Park West, one of those parched “food desert” communities in North Philly where there’s a corner store at every intersection but no supermarket to be found.

To add to the bounty, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) a five-year, $3.7 million grant to study the link between what parents feed their children and why kids get fat.

For the first time, CORE researchers will be able to put everything they’ve studied about children’s eating behavior over the last decade into a nutrition education program that will teach parents how to healthily feed their children.

Forgive the pun, but that’s huge news.

It’s going to take a holistic approach to quell the city’s obesity rate – 40 percent overall. But for poor kids alone, it’s even worse, at almost 52 percent.

And, as in most big cities, obesity dovetails with poverty – Philadelphia boasts the second-hungriest congressional district in the country.

Sadly, many parents just don’t have access to healthy options – yes, like something as basic as a grocery store – or the information to make the right food choices.

That’s what Maleata Ragin discovered when she and her 6-year-old son, Ta’lis, participated in a five-week CORE observational study recently.

The study looked at about 100 kids – some obese, some not – and their weight in relation to their appetite and eating habits.

Mind you, Ta’lis isn’t obese. Far from it. At 46 inches tall and 42 pounds, the gangly kindergartner bounds all over the room in the Lansdowne home he shares with Ragin; his little brother, Joshua, 4; and his maternal grandmother.

But Ragin signed up for the study because she noticed she always served Ta’lis seconds. She wanted to learn how to preempt his portion sizes so he wouldn’t eat too much.

And, truth be told, she didn’t want her own bad eating habits to rub off on her kids.

“If I wanted another cheeseburger, my dad would get it for me. When I was about 10 or 11, I started gaining weight and started getting teased,” recalls Ragin, 24, who has already been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

“Kids are mean. I don’t want them teased like I was because I was chubby.”

A single mom who works and goes to school, Ragin admits “cooking dinner would be so much easier if I could go through McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. But that stuff is not healthy. So if I want a snack, instead of hitting the corner store for chips, I’ll get some dried fruit at the market.”

Ragin is grateful that both Ta’lis’ and Joshua’s tastes run toward healthy foods. She encourages the behavior by budgeting more for food, so she can buy healthy options like chicken breasts to go with the broccoli, corn, and salad her sons like to eat.

“Have you ever seen those Maury shows with the babies who are 2 years old and weigh 90 pounds?” she asks. “Do you really think that’s OK? Parents don’t take time to learn.”

Participating in the study taught Ragin some feeding strategies, too. She learned rather than passing her bad childhood habits on to Ta’lis by asking if he wanted seconds, to “just wait and see if he asks for it. Since I started doing that, he doesn’t ask unless he really, really wants it.

“And I’m getting a lot better at saying no,” she says – for herself and her sons.

It’s a parent’s responsibility, after all. First lady Michelle Obama, who has visited Philadelphia twice over the last year to raise awareness about her “Let’s Move” healthy lifestyle initiative, has said as much.

“No matter how much [our kids] beg for pizza, fries, and candy, ultimately, they are not, and should not, be the ones calling the shots at dinner time,” Obama declared during her program’s launch last year. “We’re in charge. We make these decisions.”

Mothers like Ragin have figured that out, and the whole family is healthier for it.



Tomorrow’s reading

31 Mar

Just this:

It’s a research-based essay. We will discuss it tomorrow.

Research Workshop Questions

30 Mar

1. Does this project move from a unique question (not necessarily phrased as a question) to an original explanation?

2. Does the author’s voice come through? Could this research project have been written by anyone else? Or is it clear that the author is personally invested?

3. Does the research command authority and make you listen? Is it sufficient to support the argument and integrated well?

4. Is the project clear, readable, and engaging? Even for someone who may not know a lot about the subject?

5. Is the required interview present (or will it be present)? If so, how does it integrate with the rest of the project?

6. Is the research both documented and cited in a clear way?

The key idea here is originality. This should not be a research project that either has been written, or could have been written by anyone.

Musings and last minute instructions about the research project

29 Mar


As promised, here are the requirements for the research project plus some free-of-charge musings on the interview component.


1. 4-6+ pages. Not three pages and one line, at least four full pages.

2. At least one interview with an expert in the field you are researching. (more below).

3. The project must be based on a clear and unique question and progress to an original explanation (answer) to the question.

4. The project must have clear in-text citations (I don’t care what style) as well as a works-cited page. (If you need guidance here, check out the Purdue Owl’s helpful guide:

5. The project must have at least one source per page; usually two per page is stronger.

6. And finally, the project must conform to all the other standards of strong research papers we went over in class.

The interview component: I decided to require an interview for this project. Why? Quite simply, because it is hard to write a weak research paper if you truly invest yourself in your research question, and it is easy to invest yourself in your question if you have to have a conversation with someone who knows a lot about your subject. You can conduct your interview via email, phone, or face-to-face conversation. Usually, phone calls represent the best mix of personal interaction and convenience. It’s hard to get face time with busy people, and it’s easy to ignore an email.

Have a list of potential questions written before the interview, but be ready to let the interviewee take the conversation in a new direction. However, if you have tough questions to ask, make sure they get asked.  The interview should represent a quick way for you to become an expert on your chosen question without doing massive amounts of research. It’s actually a shortcut; you get to tap into someone else’s knowledge.

That’s about it for now. Let me know if anyone has questions.

Wednesday’s assignment

21 Mar


For Wednesday, I want you to take a closer look at one of the five questions you asked about your five topics.

Remember, I asked you to turn your five topic ideas into questions: Ex. “Hydroelectric power is the best option for replacing America’s dependence on fossil fuels” could be turned into the question “If hydroelectric dams are a cheap and effective source of power, why have only __ number been built in the US in the last 50 years?”

Once you have turned all five potential topics into original questions, I want you to decide which question you think has the most potential as the guiding idea for your research essay. Basically, choose the one you want to write about.

After you have done this, I want you to find three sources that potentially help you answer your question. Remember, as we saw in our workshop today, a source may be anything from an interview to a scholarly article. (sorry, even though personal observation can be used in your paper, it cannot be counted as a found source.)

Then, annotate the sources: tell me why you think each particular source will contribute to building a unique answer to your question.

Note: one of these sources MUST take a different approach to the issue than the other two; an opposing viewpoint.

Bring your sources and annotations to class Wednesday: You can bring them in paper form or email them to yourself (we will do a short workshop on evidence).



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