University Laboratory High School
Urbana, IL

Fall 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Reading for Wednesday: A Visit to the Hacker House

The results are in, and with nineteen votes (one apparent abstention), the clear favorite for tomorrow's reading assignment is "Hacker House Blues: My Life with 12 Programmers, 2 Rooms, and One 21st-Century Dream," by David Garczynski (originally published at Salon almost a year ago). This was Jan's selection for his summer-reading essay, so let's all thank him for bringing it to our attention. Read it for tomorrow, and come to class with some thoughts and observations to discuss (no formal notebook assignment).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Poll No. 2 for December 6 Reading

Please vote in the run-off poll for our December 6 reading selection (responses will be accepted through the weekend; the winning essay will be announced on Monday).

Links to the selections listed are included below, in my November 27 blog post.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Feedback on Your Portfolio Reflection (in Progress)

Choose a partner, if possible, someone you've worked with on peer-editing one of your essays this semester (if not, that's okay too). Take about 20 minutes to read their draft reflection and to respond to the following questions on their draft (questions 1-3) and on your own draft or in your notebook (question 4):

  1. What was the most interesting and/or surprising part of this draft reflection?
  2. What did you want to hear more about?
  3. List between one and three questions you were left with after reading this draft.
  4. Did reading this draft make you think of anything you want to add to your own reflection? If so, make a note of it in your notebook or on your own reflection.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Your Choice of Readings for Tuesday, and a Poll to Determine Next Wednesday's Assignment

Please read one of the following essays for tomorrow, and answer these questions in your notebook:

"The New Mecca," by George Saunders

  • How does Saunders depict himself, as an outsider to Dubai, throughout the essay? What uses does he make of his own inexperience and confusion in order to explore his subject?
  • What specific detail(s) about Dubai circa 2005 stand(s) out to you after reading this essay? Which incident or episode made the strongest impression on you, and why?
  • Consider this essay as a piece of writing: what are its strengths? Is there anything you would suggest to improve it?

"The Secret Life of Time," by Alan Burdick

  • How does Burdick use personal experience to get into the abstract philosophical ideas the essay is exploring? Is this an effective technique?
  • Which of the many philosophical and psychological ideas about time and how we experience it resonated most strongly with you, and why? Is your individual experience as a time-bound entity reflected in this essay at all?
  • Consider this essay as a piece of writing: what are its strengths? Is there anything you would suggest to improve it? 

* * *

Please fill out a poll to indicate your preferences for our reading assignment on Wednesday, December 6. The options, all drawn from your summer-reading selections, are listed below, with links. Please complete this survey by the end of the day Wednesday, November 29.

"Shakespeare's Cure for Xenophobia," by Stephen Greenblatt
"The Waves," by Harry Arter
"The Lost Art of Stealing Fruit," by Charlotte Mendelson
"Woven," by Lidia Yuknavitch
"How Censorship Works," by Ai Weiwei
"My Lost Body," by Christina Crosby
"Shirt-Worthy," by David Giffels
"Welcome to the almost Cult-Like Fan-World of American Women's Pro Basketball," by Stephen Burt
"Hacker House Blues: My Life with 12 Programmers, 2 Rooms, and One 21st-Century Dream," by David Garczynski

The Final Portfolio

The culmination of your writing work all semester will take the form of your final writing portfolio, a selection of your strongest work supplemented with some reflection, revision history, and commentary. This will be graded as a culminating assignment, and will comprise 40 percent of your semester grade for the course.

The guidelines for the Portfolio are available for perusal and download here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sarah Vowell's "Trail of Tears"

Sarah Vowell's essay "What I See When I Look at the Face on the $20 Bill," which we read a few weeks ago as an example of an "information plus" essay, originated as a radio essay for This American Life, "Trail of Tears," which aired on July 3, 1998. The interviews with people she meets along the trip were in fact recorded for this radio essay, and you can hear the voices of her sister Amy, the tour guides, and others, which later appeared in quotation in the published essay. The story of the Vowell sisters and their road trip to retrace the Trail of Tears took up the whole episode, and you can listen to the complete audio version of her essay here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New and Final Syllabus! And Multimedia Project!

Here is the fourth and final installment of the syllabus for this course.

And the detailed assignment of the Multimedia Project can be accessed here.