You can sell this activity to your students as “How to strengthen your ethos.” Together, look at page 108-109 of Everything is an Argument (or the slideshow “Everything is an Argument“) to see how Swarthmore professor Timothy Burke used reflexive statements to underscore his right to speak on a particular topic.
Then divide the class into groups of 4-5 and give them 30 minutes or so to work on the following assignment.
Situation: You just met your idol—someone who is at the top of your chosen field and has a career you’d like to emulate. This person went to a CUNY school for undergrad, but it’s a different CUNY school than Lehman. In passing, she mentioned that she would like to see more CUNY graduates succeed and that you should look her up when you graduate. However, you’re only a sophomore. What do you do?
Purpose: Write an email to this person in which you capitalize on your brief encounter and attempt to make more of a connection. Endeavor to begin a relationship so that she’ll remember you when you graduate, three years from now.
After you’re finished writing your letter, underline any reflexive statements.
Whole class 10 minutes Have students write the reflexive statements they used on the board. Have one person from each group read their “emails” out loud. Talk about the strategies they used and which were most effective.
On the board, rewrite one of the reflexive statements as an appositive, and give the students time to rewrite the other reflexive statements as appositives. Discuss how appositives can be used to strengthen the credibility of someone you’re introducing, particularly when you’re introducing a source in an academic paper.