Category Archives: Visual Thinking

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.


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.


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.



Visualizing Curriculum Change

Over the past year, my Department has engaged in curriculum review of our English major and its various concentrations in creative writing, teaching, technical and business writing, and English language learning and linguistics.  After studying assessment results and considering our students’ needs, we decided to make some significant changes to the English BA.  Here below is the way I used Venn diagramming to keep track of the revisions, some common to all concentrations and some particular to others.  I’ll also use this diagram when I communicate these changes up through the curriculum review process at the college and university committee levels.  Click on the image for larger view.