A Sense of Place Collage Essay

Kathleen Byrd, South Puget Sound Community College

Summary

The "collage essay" is a formal writing assignment for English 101. The "collage" format of this paper offers students the opportunity to explore a sense of place from multiple perspectives without needing to demonstrate a stance as is usually expected in a thesis-driven essay. This assignment is the students' first foray into the course theme of "eco-composition" and is designed to prepare students for responding to writings on ecology. To prepare for writing a "sense of place collage" students will read and discuss various writings that share an intimacy between writers and places. Students write in journals in class and as homework on topics related to local places and their own sense of place. Students learn names of local places, plants and animals to develop a stronger concrete vocabulary of place by consulting field guides of the Pacific Northwest. Students observe, reflect upon, and ask family or community members about places that are important to them. The finished product of this work is a compilation of diverse perspectives on place with a distinct message (usually one of discovery) that is articulated in each student's self-evaluation. The collage writing is intended to stimulate interest and topics for a local research paper.

Learning Goals

Writing

  1. Use various strategies and processes for writing: narration, description, observation, research, response, and modeling.
  2. Develop a theme with multiple perspectives or angles in order to convey a complex message in writing.
  3. Develop ideas with details using concrete specific language.
  4. Work collaboratively to revise writing.

Sustainability

  1. Understand interconnectedness of people, places, and other living things.
  2. Consider social and natural systems at the local level.
  3. Develop a sense of civic consciousness in one's place, including an animated knowledge of attachment to one's place.

Context for Use

The "collage essay" is a formal writing assignment for English 101. Collage writing offers students the opportunity to explore a sense of place from multiple perspectives without needing to demonstrate a stance as in a thesis driven essay. This assignment is the students' first foray into the course theme of "eco-composition" and is designed to prepare students for responding to writings on ecology and to stimulate interest and topics for a local research paper.

Timeframe

Course work to develop collage pieces includes in-class writing, seminar discussions and workshops on revising. This work can take between two to four weeks of the course, usually before the midterm.

Possible Use in Other Courses: This assignment would work really well in a learning community course such as art and writing; sociology and literature, environmental science and English.

Description and Teaching Materials

The Learning Activities

(See Attachments for assignment guidelines, readings, journal topics, and research tasks.)
  • Students read and seminar on readings related to place and bioregional thinking.
  • Journal topics include: familiar places, new places, family history of places, place names, names and concrete details about local places are shared so we all learn from each other.
  • Field guides and natural history texts will be used and available on print reserve at the library so all students can develop a vocabulary of place.
  • Campus walks and place observation combined with writing exercises will initiate all students to writing about place.
  • Students will share and offer feedback for each others' writing in class.

Journal Topics and Suggested Readings (Microsoft Word 32kB Nov1 11)
Essay #2 Guidelines (Microsoft Word 36kB Nov1 11)
Grading Criteria for College Essay (Microsoft Word 35kB Nov1 11)
Self Evaluation (Microsoft Word 29kB Nov1 11)
Examples of Student Work (Microsoft Word 37kB Nov1 11)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Please refer to the Journal Topics and Suggested Readings, research assignment and the examples of student work included in the above section of this teaching and learning plan.

Assessment

  • Ongoing in-class assessment of collaborative learning
Students will share journal writings, brainstorm topics together, and give feedback to each other and then each student will produce a "collage" of writing that conveys a unique message about a sense of place. Discussions and workshops will be assessed by the instructor and the students to determine the level of student engagement.
  • Criteria-based assessment
Student collage essays will be evaluated according to the writing rubric.
  • Student self-assessment
Students self-assess their writing and learning process.

  • Authentic assessment
Students will share their collage writings with the class and possibly with the larger campus community or community.

References and Resources

  • Guest from horticulture, science, and anthropology instructors to help students observe, understand and write about place.
  • Library resources include natural history and field guides to wildlife and plants in the region and are put on reserve for student use.
  • Students work may be submitted for publication in local environmental newsletter "Green Pages".

Evergreen State College