We (the writing center staff) are working on — well, will soon start working on — a proposal for the PNWCA conference in Bellingham this April. We’re going to do something on ways to explain words like “analyze,” “compare and contrast,” “summarize,” and “thesis” more visually, dramatically, or even auditorily to students who aren’t understanding when we explain it just by talking. E.g., for “compare and contrast,” Chanel and I came up with a kind of Venn diagram to show that where the two circles overlap would be where the two things are similar (so “compare” them) and the outsides of the circles would be where the two things are different (so “contrast” them). And, for “description,” Josh and Andrea did a pretty cool little map-like drawing that had a spot in the center where the student would place a (hopefully small) object and lines radiating out from them had little symbols (an eye, an ear, etc) where the student would come up with descriptions based on the five senses.
And Andrea’s been working on a sheet explaining what a thesis is, from as many angles as she could — again, to help the students who are having trouble getting it. When she put up “What is a thesis?” on each of the four walls’ whiteboards, I couldn’t resist writing, “A Greek hero? Or, is that Theseus?” On another board I wrote, “the thesis keeps together the pieces” and “focus, people, focus — stay with me here!”
It’s all made me want to make a list of funny and helpful ways to explain these terms when I’m teaching. Josh wrote, “What is a summary?” on the boards this week. And for that one I put, “a game you play in the summer?” But Jeremy beat me when he — I think it was Jeremy — said it sounded like the opposite of “wintry.” I love that!
Being asked to summarize something is very different from being asked to winterize something.
Anyway, I should keep a list of these little quips and more playful explanations.