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March 14, 2010


When I taught Huck, we did a day where we talked about The Word, using the OED and looking at different arguments for and against, but this project sounds so exciting! At my school, the students only do research projects in history classes, and I've been thinking lately about different ways to do it. Also, like you, I've read about writing alongside students and have never done it--I'm thinking of trying it for the first time during my college essay unit at the end of this year...

That's a cool assignment. I'm sure they'll have fun with it.

Just today, the NYTimes had an article on whether or not . Seems relevant to your project.

oops, must have messed up my html. Anyway, the article is about whether the middle finger is taboo or not anymore.


Love this assignment! I read a description of a similar assignment that was grounded in a class's reading of Henry Louis Gates' memoir (forgotten title and am too lazy to look it up). Just as he looks at the n-word and explores its history and contemporary usage, students had to choose a word and do much of what you're asking students to do here. What I read of that assignment was just a couple of paragraphs, so I'm really looking forward to reading more about how this assignment works with your students. And I think, having read two descriptions of this kind of assignment and having loved both of them, that I really will have to design my next intro level class in ways that allow me to use this kind of assignment.

Wow, what a great assignment! That's really exciting. Even if the papers themselves aren't well organized/written/etc., I expect that they'll be pretty interesting--I'm actually kind of...jealous?

This is one of the most thoughtful and interesting assignments I've heard about in a long time. I'm thinking of ways I could adapt it for my intro to creative nonfiction students. Very exciting.

what a great assignment, wn! in my ap lang class, when we read huck, we always talk about the use of the word, reading gloria naylor's brief piece about it. i also have them read jane smiley's "say it ain't so, huck" and toni morrison's essay on the novel. then my students have to write a defense or challenge of teaching the novel in high school. i *really* like your word study, though! i can't wait to hear more about what kind of work you get from the students! we haven't done huck yet this year, so i'm totally tempted to steal... :-)

Coolest. Assignment. Ever. :-)
I think this is an amazing assignment, one with lots of takeaway value--they'll think back on it for years to come.

wow. I think it's a great idea.

You're so right about new writing challenges messing up students' writing -- that's exactly what's happening in my Middle English class. And fwiw, our History of the English Language prof regularly has students do a "biography" of a word assignment, much like you're doing (although it's not limited to dangerous ones, just ones that have changed in meaning or usage a lot).

"Shit" would be a good word (though not "dangerous" in the way you're defining it). In Middle English it was higher "register" than it is now -- it was used in medical treatises!

Wow, you are such a fearless teacher! I'm really impressed. This is an assignment your students won't forget any time soon.

Great assignment! And it sounds like you dealt with Huckleberry Finn in an interesting way.

I'm curious: in the classroom, do you actually say what I feel I must call "the n-word"? Do you do it continually so that it becomes a fairly natural part of the conversation? Do the students use it? I'm not sure I could do it, even in a totally appropriate academic context.

What a GREAT assignment! I'm jealous of your students! I hope they do well :)

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

    Email me at whatnowblogger at yahoo dot com.

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