University Writing is the University of Minnesota’s first year writing course. The Department of Writing Studies lists several course objectives to guide instructors , but otherwise we have freedom to develop courses with unique materials and assignments. I have centered my University Writing Courses around “Recreational Cultures”–giving students the opportunity to explore how culture is created and enacted via language and other symbol systems in the texts surrounding them. In analysis assignment, students choose a film or television show (or episode) that portrays a particular recreational culture, such as the portrayal of women’s roller derby culture. Having been a part of roller derby culture as a referee, I model and scaffold what such an analysis might look like by leading an analysis of scenes from a roller derby themed episode of the television show Psych. I then contrast that portrayal to my lived experiences of roller derby, and encourage students to use their experiences as references in critiquing the representations of recreational culture they choose. This assignment develops students’ ability to critically examine media and texts they encounter by referencing their own experiences.

This scene from the USA television show Psych shows character Juliette elbowing an opposing skater in the nose, which would, in real roller derby, earn her a seat in the penalty box at the very least, and would likely cost her an expulsion and suspension
This scene from the USA television show Psych shows character Juliette (on the right) elbowing an opposing skater in the nose, which would, in real roller derby, earn her a seat in the penalty box at the very least, and would likely cost her an expulsion and suspension.
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