The Work Place for "Sound Ideas"

Readings and Activities for Compostion

Sound Ideas, by Michael Krasny and Maggie Sokolik

Sound Ideas

Michael J. Krasny, San Francisco State University & KQED Public Radio

M.E. Sokolik, University of California, Berkeley

Sound Ideas has as its main premise that reading involves interpreting texts of many sorts—not just fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, but also visual text, the spoken word, and more. The differing learning styles of students and teaching styles of instructors help direct this approach: students learn best when exposed to information that is presented in a variety of different ways. Sound Ideas also has as its premise that today’s classroom may look different from the classroom of fifty years ago, or even just a decade ago. Students have a wide variety of linguistic backgrounds and types of preparation for college-level studies. This is not a handicap to overcome, but a wealth of experience to explore. Sound Ideas addresses the needs as well as the interests of an increasingly diverse student population, while maintaining strong connections to a history of ideas.


Each chapter is organized as follows:

Chapter introduction, introducing the themes and history of key ideas and readings

Four non-fiction reading passages

Four fiction reading passages

Two poems

One selection from graphic fiction

Three or four visual texts (paintings, photographs, advertising)

Links to several audio texts

Each type of text, whether traditional, visual, graphic fiction, or audio, is followed by questions for discussion and writing

End of chapter activities include:

Exercises in synthesis of ideas across readings

Suggested writing topics for research, argument, narrative/expository, or creative writing

Annotated suggestions for related video viewing


A multimedia approach to text. The readings in Sound Ideas are complemented by audio texts, including many from San Francisco’s National Public Radio Station KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny, and by visual texts that are closely related to the themes. Thematic organization. Sound Ideas is organized into ten theme-based chapters. These themes, such as” On Gender Differences: Separating the Boys from the Girls” (Ch. 1), or “Ideas about Crime and Punishment” (Ch. 6) do not present oppositions—i.e., pros and cons of issues—but rather, multilayered and complex views of interconnected ideas. The goal is to help students think more deeply about complex issues, and to move beyond the idea of merely agreeing or disagreeing with an idea.

Creative thinking. Critical thinking is at the core of the questions for discussion and writing in this text. However, we hope to push students beyond the merely critical, and into drawing unique connections between readings, audio texts, and visual texts. In the same vein, our goal is to ask students to think not only critically about what they read, but also creatively in recognizing and evaluating ideas that we may not even have intended in putting these texts together.

Reading-writing connections. Sound Ideas also includes student discussion and writing activities that focus on the production and analysis of different types of texts, including visual texts, as well as the traditional composition.

Concern for multilingual readers. Many composition classes contain native, non-native, and Generation 1.5 speakers. Not only do these speakers come from a variety of linguistic backgrounds, they also come with varying levels of academic preparation, cultural understanding, and knowledge of academic expectations. As a result, “tried and true” readings and assignments are not as effective as they once were. These students benefit from a multimedia approach. In addition, in the discussion questions found at the end of each reading, one ore more “cultural focus” questions are included, encouraging students from all backgrounds to consider the multicultural implications of the text. These questions are not directed at particular groups of students—that is, the intention is not to spotlight students from various cultures as representatives of a particular cultural group or experience, but to ask all students to reflect on how culture and personal experience have informed their understanding of certain concepts.


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