Curious Incident Assignments

To make things a little simpler for myself, I've created a blog where I can post [other people's] assignments for teaching and discussing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. That book is the 2010-2011 Freshman Common Reading at Cal State Northridge. And I am Cheryl Spector.


Illustration from Mark Haddon's Blog. And don't miss Mark Haddon's dogTV!


Use the Archive link to display all these assignments on a single screen (as thumbnails).


The Submit link lets you write your own assignment for posting here. (Subject to my review, just in case.)

July 26, 2010 4:51 pm

Arguing Definition: 155-level writing prompt

Text-Based Essay #2: Assignment by Debbi Mercado for English 155, fall 2010*
Arguing Definition and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Distribute September 28

(prewriting assignment TBD): Thursday, September 30 (bring to class)
Working Thesis Statement: Sunday, October 3 (post to Moodle)
First draft workshop – bring 4 copies: Tuesday, October 12 (bring to class)
One-page peer review of 2 classmates’ drafts: Wednesday, Oct.13 (post to Moodle)
One-page plan to address peer/teacher comments: Friday, October 22 (post to Moodle)
Final Essay: Thursday, October 28 (bring to class)

Print copies of everything that you upload to Moodle and place these in your Invention/Revision Journal.

Your final essay must be uploaded to prior to class on Thursday, October 28 and a receipt from must be stapled to the front of your essay. No late papers, including drafts, will be accepted.

• To probe our usual assumptions about the words “smart” and “successful”
• To reveal layers in their meanings that we might not typically consider when using these words
• To see beyond the labels we apply to people with disabilities and to evaluate Christopher based on his own talents, skills and personal qualities
• To take a stand and formulate a thesis that expands the definitions of the words “smart,” and “successful”
• To apply these definitions to the main character, Christopher John Francis Boone, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
• To support your thesis with convincing reasons
• To provide development and support for your ideas
• To provide an analysis of the question supported by examples from the text, properly quoted (or paraphrased) and cited
• To demonstrate your understanding of essay structure

We have read in Inventing Arguments about the power of words and their potential to “protect, defend, offend, categorize, and ostracize.” We have discussed the main character, Christopher, in Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and have explored together what Christopher’s life might look like in the future. We have also read a number of articles about Autism Spectrum Disorder and the various “intelligences,” and we have examined the labels that society often assigns to people with disabilities. This assignment requires you to consider all that we have discussed, to argue for more nuanced definitions of two words that we use every day, to apply these definitions to Christopher, and to argue whether you think Christopher could attend and graduate from college and lead a “successful” life.

To help you develop and prepare the background section of your paper, you may want to consider the following questions:

What do we typically think of when we say that someone is “smart”?
When does a “successful” life look like?
What does it take to be “successful” in college?
Why do people go to college?
What skills do you need to graduate from college? Is being “smart” enough?
What personal qualities do you need to get along in and graduate from college?
What defines a “successful” college experience?
Besides classes and grades, what other experiences are part of the college years?
What kind of support does a college student need from family and friends?
What talents, skills and personal qualities does Christopher possess?

This Writing Task is two-fold:
First, argue for your own expanded definitions of the words “smart” and “successful” and illustrate how Christopher fits, or doesn’t fit, these expanded definitions;
Then, based on your definitions, argue whether you think Christopher could attend and graduate from college and go on to lead a “successful” life? Why or why not?

This essay will be constructed as an academic argument, and therefore, should be well-reasoned, supported with logic-based evidence, and balanced through the inclusion of counter-argument. Preparation for this paper must include a graphic brainstorm of your choice, a working thesis statement, and a one-page response and plan to address peer comments, all of which will be graded as individual writing assignments/invention work as preparation for this essay. Your paper should be oriented toward a general, academic audience and will be evaluated according to the grading rubric for this course.

The Essay – make sure your essay contains these elements:
• A title that represents your perspective on this question
• A strong introduction that indicates your position
• Substantial text-based evidence that serves to convince the reader that you are correct
• A clear counter-argument and refutation of this argument
• A strong conclusion that wraps-up your perspective in a manner that allows your reader to understand your opinion
• A Works Cited page, if you use outside sources (Examples in A Pocket Style Manual, p. 152 and 154)
• MLA documentation and style (p. 119-154, A Pocket Style Manual)
• At least six words from our vocabulary list, bolded and used correctly

This essay should be 4-6 full pages. Multiple, typed drafts and revisions are mandatory and will be part of your final portfolio. Your essay must be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, NO right-hand justification and NO borders. Use Times New Roman, 12-point font.

* Note: the .doc version of this assignment as originally written uses a fair bit of formatting (textboxes, underlining) that is not visible here. That version is available on request.