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The First-Year Composition Program at Oklahoma State University makes no mention of the SpEx; it is something that arises from the demands of conference work and the obligation to offer as much instructional and practice time to students as may be done.
Sections of the course taught by Prof. Elliott will need to complete a number of individual tasks to negotiate the assignment successfully:
- Locate a copy of the assigned piece and read it;
- Discuss various features of context, paratext, content, and form of the piece;
- Draft notes about the piece and discussion thereof that will ease essay-writing conducted about the assigned piece; and
- Write, in class on the assigned date, a short essay that addresses a prompt to be provided at the time, submitting it for a combination of attendance and five percent of the total course grade.
Find and Read the Piece
The piece to treat for the SpEx is David Courtney’s October 2015 iteration of the Texas Monthly feature, “The Texanist.” (Oklahoma Magazine, which was suggested by students as an appropriate alternative, does not appear to feature a regular humorous column—or even an irregular one.) It can be reproduced from a printed copy of the magazine, or it can be retrieved online for free. Students should have, and have read in its entirety multiple times, a copy of the feature no later than 26 October 2015. As they read, they should take notes about the piece’s content, context, and paratext, noting points that suggest the genre, audience, and means of addressing the audience, among others.
Discuss the Piece and Its Features
The class meetings leading up to the SpEx (beginning on 26 October 2015) will devote time and attention to discussing the piece assigned for it. Students should generally lead the discussion, as much of the SpEx inheres in student determination of standards and practices to follow; good places to begin discussion are the context, paratext, content, and form or genre of the piece assigned. Each influences and determines meaning and impact, indicating what the piece does, for whom it does it, and how it does so.
The point of the discussions is not to reach consensus, necessarily (although doing so is acceptable as a secondary consideration). It is, instead, to allow students to refine their understanding of what the assigned piece is doing and how in the interests of facilitating their ability to articulate a vision of those quantities and to argue convincingly in support of that vision. Ideally, the discussion will lead students to be able to generate new knowledge about the piece, and to present that new knowledge in a way that validates it for readers who are not present for the discussion.
As discussion goes on, students should compile notes about the discussion, detailing major relevant points and counterpoints made during discussion. Students should subsequently reflect on their discussion notes, writing out how they can be used to make and support an argument about the character of the piece and its effects upon readers.
Write the SpEx
On the assigned date, 2 November 2015, students should report to class as usual. They will be given a small packet which offers a specific prompt to be addressed—one deriving from the assigned piece and class discussions of it—and paper on which to respond thereto. Responses should take the form of a short essay. The assigned piece, notes, textbooks, and silent online materials may be used, but the exercise will not be collaborative.
The essay written in response to the SpEx is due in hard copy at or before the end of class time (except as indicated in Note 2, below). Submission of the SpEx will be the only record of attendance for the day. It will be assessed as an assignment worth five percent of the total course grade.
Owing to the nature of the SpEx, formal citation will not be expected in the resulting essay; Works Cited pages are not necessary. Appropriate informal citation of all materials deployed in the essay is mandatory, however, as accounting for the provenance of information clearly and accurately remains important even in less formal circumstances.
Please find a copy of the grading rubric that will be applied to the SpEx here.
- The SpEx does not count as a major assignment for the purposes of make-up and late submission. It is a one-time affair in the term.
- Students allowed accommodation for such an activity as the SpEx must coordinate with the instructor, indicating in writing whether or not they will avail themselves of the available accommodations and determining when and in what circumstances they are to take place.
Geoffrey B. Elliott
19 October 2015
Updated to reflect the actual assignment instead of a placeholder