Category Archives: Visual Thinking

The Older I Get

Earlier this week, on Monday, I had the opportunity to return to my alma mater Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, to present a talk and workshop on visual thinking as a strategy for engaging students more effectively in reading assignments and other course work.  I’ve already written a bit about this opportunity here.

In addition to the presentation and workshop, I wanted to do a bit of time travel back to my days at Southwestern between 1972 and 1976, so I walked around campus and drove to where I used to live in town, and also spent some time at San Gabriel Park along the North San Gabriel River.

San Gabriel Park

I also wanted to find a poem I had written in 1973 that led to me winning the literary festival award in poetry that year, an experience that kickstarted my thinking about the possibility of majoring in English.  It also prompted me to see writing and poetry as core features of my identity.

Unfortunately, I no longer had a copy of that poem, even though I had a photograph of me sitting with the other festival winners in poetry.  That’s Bill Cates on the left, Cary Campbell in the middle, and me on the right.

1973 Literary Festival

But I do remember thinking that the last time I saw the poem that I was a little embarrassed by its simplicity and awkward phrasing.  Still, it opened a door to the person I am today, so I wanted to find a copy for my own records.

Last week, I looked on the Southwestern library electronic catalog and had trouble finding the 1973 edition of Southwestern Magazine, the student literary and arts magazine, so I emailed the library staff for help.  A staff member there found a catalog entry and sent me an email with a link to a entry which identified a copy on microfilm

I left early from San Angelo on Monday, and after a four hour drive or so, I walked over to the library, pulled up the email on my phone, and saw at the bottom of the entry that there were also hard copies available in Special Collections.  I walked up to the top floor, filled out some paperwork, and was then handed a box of Southwestern Magazines from 1970-1980.

I hadn’t remembered that this little magazine was published three or four times a year, but there they were all neatly huddled together in this box.  Little journals in all colors and sizes.  I reached in and began pulling out one by one those that were recognizable to me, focusing on 1973, the year I won the festival prize.

I thumbed through each magazine from that year, and I found other poems I had written during that time, but I couldn’t find the poem I was looking for.  I was confused because I was sure it had been published in one of the collections that year, but I couldn’t find it.   Convinced I overlooked it, I went through all of the magazines again.  Still no luck.  I stood there, 41 years after the fact, wondering if I had only imagined the poem being published in the magazine.

The librarian in special collections came over and asked me if I found what I was looking for.

“No,” I said, “Maybe it was never published.  Or maybe it was printed in the student newspaper instead of the magazine.  I guess I don’t remember it after all.”

So I handed him the box of magazines, and both disappointed and confused, I headed over to where I would give my presentation/workshop later in the day, wondering if I just didn’t look closely enough in the box and thinking maybe I should go back later and look again a third time.

That afternoon, after making sure the audio-visual was in place for my presentation, a few members of the campus community, faculty, staff, and students, began filing into the room.  I greeted them one by one, introducing myself and learning their names.  One woman walked up to me and said,

“Hi, you must be Laurence.  I’m Joan Parks, and I work in the library.  We talked on email about that poem you were looking for.  And here is a copy I printed for you off of microfilm.”

And sure enough, there it was.   And here it is.

real eyes

I am very thankful to Joan for finding this for me.

Reading this poem of mine by the me who was 18 years old at the time helps me remember him and the kind of serious fun he liked and I like when writing our poems.

But what strikes me now as I read the poem is the fact that here was a poem about vision, about seeing and knowing and not seeing and not knowing, and there I was back in the same place four decades later talking about visual thinking.

As my pal Tex would say, “The older we get, the more we get to be the who we already were.”

 

Notes on Breathing

There are times when I get  the urge to write or draw, so I begin to look for something to read.  

Or something to look at.

This urge comes to me not because I have something to say or an image I want to make.

It’s because I want to have the pleasure that I know comes when I write or draw.

And I know I have to be in conversation with other ideas or other images to generate that pleasure.

Conversation

The conversation begins with listening or seeing, and then my part in the dialogue is what I make in return.

So my words or my drawings are my replies.

No conversation.  No reply.  No pleasure in the making.

Just silence.  And darkness.

Creativity is nothing special, of course.

But it has requirements.

Like breathing.

Like breathing in light.

 

 

 

 

Visual Thinking at Southwestern U

I’m happy to report that my proposal for the President’s Innovation Grants Initiative at Southwestern University was just approved.

Here’s my proposal: Musgrove Proposal for President’s Innovation Grants Initiative

In short, I will present a workshop titled “Visual Thinking for Engaged Learning” and thereafter support three junior faculty members as they incorporate visual thinking strategies into their classes at Southwestern.  As a Southwestern alum (I received my BA in English in 1976), I am very glad to participate in this initiative.

Doodling a System of Evaluation

Our faculty senate has charged departments to reconsider our current system of evaluating teaching at Angelo State.  We’ve had a number of discussions in my department (English and Modern Languages), and as chair, I’ve established an ad-hoc committee to introduce some possibilities to the department.  Yesterday, I was beginning to worry a bit that we might not be making as much progress on this project as I had hoped.   Then early this morning, a version of the following woke me up, and I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Eval of Teach EML Flowchart

Visual Agenda for Travel Writing

First Day Visual Agenda 1-16-2014

 

Here above is photo of handouts for tonight’s first class.  This semester,  I’m teaching an 8 week Travel Writing course culminates in a Spring Break trip to Rome.  Because I’ve used visual agendas before to some success, I thought I would create handouts with tonight’s lesson plan.

The class will be divided into two 55 minute sections with a 10 minute break.  During the first section, we’ll begin with a short video on Hulu from Rick Steves on Rome, and then move into the course requirements via the webpage I’ve built for the course.  I’ll review the 3 course texts, the 4 kinds of writing assignments, the oral presentation assignment, and the tour guide assignment.

In the second half of the class, I’ll focus on our excursion to Rome, reviewing our flight itinerary, our tentative daily schedule over 9 days, and the resources I’ve begun to develop on the course website.

Next, I’ll have students generate questions they have about the course and trip.  And I’ll close out the class with next week’s homework assignment.

 

A Storyteller’s Choices

TFIOSHere is my favorite two-page spread in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a novel my students and I are reading in first-year composition.

It’s my favorite not only because of the awesome Venn diagram on the left, but also because of the line Hazel, the narrator, is at this point able to say, there on the right:

“You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories,…”

Given the novel’s topic, this is also clearly John Green speaking.  And boy, does Chapter 13 (yes, 13) get sad fast.

 

 

Drawing Out My Language Biography

For my senior-level Advanced Composition class today, students and I had a section on ethnopoetics in FieldWorking by Sunstein and Cheri-Strater.

FieldWorking

My students are writing a series of ethnographic papers on a subculture they’ve selected, and now we are studying the role of insider language.  The authors of FieldWorking argue that ethnopoetics (that is, the process of converting an informant’s language into verse) can be a productive way of focusing on the rhythm, the vocabulary, and the emotional timbre of a subculture.

Because I wanted to have students practice ethnopoetics in class today, and because I begin each class meeting with an in-class freewriting exercise, I asked my students to warm up a bit by writing informally about their relationships with poetry.

As I was writing along with them, I sketched out the image below in an attempt to capture my relationship with poetry.

My Relatiionship with Language

 This sketch helped me reach back into my language biography to recognize

1. how my family (particularly my father, uncles, and cousins) contributed to my early enjoyment of language via jokes, puns, and wordplay;

2. how my college years helped me develop an interest in metaphor and drawing;

3. how through my ongoing practice in poetry, I’ve focused on writing concisely and with constant concern for the order of words and lines as they fall down the page;

4. how, finally, all of these aspects of my language biography show up in the cartoons I now draw.