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Places and Spaces Introductions

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This discussion board post prompt invites students to use descriptive language and imagery to share something about their workspace with the class as a way of introducing themselves to their classmates and opening up conversations about their writing practice.

Activity title: Places and Space Introductions

Author: Christine Alfano (drawing on prompts by Meg Formato, Jenae Cohn, and others!)

Course: PWR 1 or PWR 2

Activity schedule and length: I usually do this between the first and second class of the quarter.  Students should spend about 15 minutes on this activity.

Activity goals:

  • To create a sense of class community by having students share a bit of their lives
  • To help students start to think about the logistics of their workspace for remote learning
  • To normalize the fact that people in the class are working from a variety of types of spaces, with different constraints
  • To familiarize students with discussion board posting and get them writing
  • To invite them to experiment with purposefully descriptive writing

Activity details:

Before giving students this assignment, I create a discussion board post myself about my workspace that will serve as a model for their own posts. I include a photograph and I also make sure to very clearly articulate the disruptions I encounter (having to move between different workspaces in my house; interruptions from pets and family; internet strength variability) to help students see that we all are dealing with different situations in trying to work remotely.  I also spin them positively/humorously, though, or just as facts of my life.

Then I invite students to post, using the prompt below. Note that with Harmonize they can post pictures more easily than with Canvas Discussion.  

Here's the prompt:

In class on Monday, you shared some information about yourself with the class. We're going to continue our introductions by shifting focuses from ourselves to our spaces.  As a reply to this thread, tell us a little bit about your work set-up for this quarter  - you can look at my post (see below) for an example of how to approach this prompt.  In your post, you might talk about:

  • Where will you be sitting physically? You might be moving between more than one location - tell us about them!
  • Give us a brief description of the place you might be sitting in most often.  Help us experience it.  What are the sounds? Textures? Smells? What features stand out? Who uses it? For what purposes?
  • What aspects of the place you'll be connecting most often from you give you focus or comfort? What do you like best about that place?
  • What aspects of the place you'll be connecting most often from do you think might be disruptive? What would you change if you could?

Lastly, if you can, attach a picture into your reply using the attach option (see the bottom left under the reply field).  This can be a picture of your space, a picture of your space with you in it (selfie or taken by a family member), a picture you draw of your space, or a picture of what gives you focus/comfort in your workspace, or what you anticipate might disrupt you (cats on keyboards, anyone?).

If you spend more than 15 minutes writing this, you're spending too long!  

As a last step, read some of the posts by your classmates and leave them a comment or even just a thumbs-up or +1 on their post.

Additional notes: Much gratitude to Meg Formato and Jenae Cohn whose own prompts of this sort I strongly drew on in creating my own and who also constantly inspire me to be mindful of how to invite this sort of disclosure from students while giving them enough options so they can choose how much of themselves and their circumstances they want to disclose, or how much they want to keep private from the rest of the class!