Odyssey / Writing Workshop

For grading purposes, the Odyssey Workshop is a chance to catch up on earning participation points. It is a participation/demonstration exercise intended to accomplish the following goals:

  1. Give selected volunteer students specific help on specific writing problems.
  2. Present solutions to other students in the class who are having similar writing problems.
  3. Demonstrate to the whole class how an effective writing conference might go.
  4. Allow shy students another way to earn participation points.
More generally. the odyssey workshop gives you a chance to ask questions about your odyssey and get advice on how to go about writing your next stage. It gives me a chance to talk in detail about the writing process, and to explain exactly what you need to do to get a good grade on your next stage. It gives the whole class a chance to see how everyone is doing, and to learn about the intellectual process in general.


At the beginning of class, I will ask everyone to prepare a Status Sheet for their current writing project in this class. This could be the Odyssey Stage you're currently working on, or it could be some other class paper (such as a Think/Feel) you have to do.  If you've got two writing tasks going in this class, pick the one you're having the most trouble with.

Your Status Sheet should include five sections:

  1. Current thesis.
  2. Current argument.
  3. Current problem.
  4. Current solution ideas.
  5. Any other comments or questions.

More Explanation

1. Current thesis.

Your current thesis is what you presently think about the topic of your paper. This might be the same as your original thesis. Or, it may be the opposite of what you originally thought. Whatever it is, it should be the result of your own thinking (and rethinking) about the relevant evidence, and whatever comments I may have made on your paper. If you're not really sure that your thesis is right, you can start your thesis statement with something like "I'm not sure, but I think that maybe . . . ."

If you currently don't really know what to think about your topic, just write "I don't know what to think" or "having trouble with my thesis," and write out your problem as a question, such as "does cheese grow on trees, or is it instead some kind of rock or mineral?".

2. Current argument.

This is just you briefly explaining why you think what you think.  This might be reference to some piece of scientific or documentary evidence, or it might be an abstract argument based on the definitions of the terms involved. If you find that you don't have any evidence or abstract argument, just write "no argument." If your thesis is that some particular writer said some particular thing, your argument will be a quotation from something written by that writer saying that particular thing. If you don't have a quote from that writer's work, write "no argument."

Remember, your reason for thinking what you think must must be a factual or logical claim that is distinct from your thesis. If you find yourself wanting to just repeat your thesis, or say things like "it just is," or "I feel in my heart that it's true," you should write down "no argument."

If you are are working on a second stage, or a think/feel do over, and have changed your mind about something, write down the reason you changed your mind.

If you can't think of anything else, and you are are working on a second stage, or a think/feel do over, and have not changed your mind,  think back to your previous paper, and write down the reasons you previously gave for thinking what you think.

3. Current problem.

This section should cover the most difficult part of your present writing task. (Spelling, grammar, and organization problems should not appear here.) 

If you are working on a second stage, or do over, in response to my comments or a new prompt, write down the comment, or part of the prompt that seems most difficult to you. If you have read one of my comments five times, and still have no idea of what I'm asking you to do, that is the comment you should mention here.

Alternatively, you could write out your most difficult problem as a question, such as "how do I figure out whether a writer gives evidence," or "how do I figure out whether or not I can prove something," or "what do I do if I can't find evidence to support my thesis," or whatever it is that's giving you the most trouble.

If you haven't started your thinking process yet, think about what part of the writing process might be the most difficult for you, and ask a question about that.

If you're acing the assignment so far, just briefly write down whatever it is I've asked you to do next.

4. Current solution ideas.

If you have any idea at all of what you could do next in your writing project, write down that idea here.  If you have more than one idea, write down the most serious ones. If you have no idea what to do next, just write "help," followed by as many exclamation points as you think appropriate.

5. Any other comments or questions.

If you have any other comments, or can think of any other questions, put them here. Otherwise write "no comment," or "n/a."

That's it.

Final Notes

You will not be graded on this sheet, and if you participate in this exercise by letting me discuss your Status Sheet, and maybe ask you a couple of questions in class, you get the 5 participation points no matter how it goes.

In earning credit for having your paper used in this exercise, I will give preference to students who have not yet earned participation credit.

Copyright 2006 by Martin C. Young

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