Study Materials

Session 1 Handout: Student Course Information Sheet (PDF)

Students fill out the course information sheet with the following questions on the first day of class.

  1. What adjectives would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
  2. What do you like to read? What authors do you admire?
  3. What has been your best writing experience in school (elementary, middle school, high school, college)?
  4. How often do you write from your own experience?
  5. In what ways would you like to improve as a writer?
  6. What other courses are you taking this term?
  7. Have you taken other writing courses (at MIT or elsewhere)? If "yes", list the titles or numbers of the courses you have taken.
  8. What other activities (jobs, extracurriculars, volunteer) are you involved in on or off campus?
  9. Do you think you may be interested in the service learning option? (more information next week)
  10. Is there anything else that you'd like me to know about you as a learner/thinker/writer as you begin the course?
  11. What are the best and worst pieces of advice that you've received about writing?

Session 10: Discussion Questions for Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed" (PDF)

Buy at Amazon Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. 1st ed. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books, 2001. ISBN: 9780805063882.

  1. Barbara Ehrenreich in "Nickel and Dimed…" uses the metaphor of a "parallel universe" (p. 761) to describe the world of low wage work. How well does this metaphor work?
  2. How well does Ehrenreich capture the world of waitressing? How would you describe her voice as a writer? Are there any paragraphs or sentences that seem particularly powerful?
  3. In what ways does her experience of low-wage work compare with yours (if you've held low-wage positions)?
  4. How well does Ehrenreich use outside research to provide a larger context for her personal narrative? In what ways do the footnotes add to the text? What would it be like if the footnotes were included in the body of the essay?
  5. How might this piece have been different if Ehrenreich had used more traditional journalistic methods (interviewing, observation)? Is this method of first-person experience superior for certain kinds of topics?
  6. Ehrenreich draws upon her low-wage work experience to make an argument about welfare reform in America. What is her argument? Is it persuasive to you as a reader?

Service Learning Option (PDF)