Guest Contributor: Audrey A. Wick, Blinn College (Texas).

Writing instructors often struggle with how to best teach various modes of composition. And sometimes we can get pretty inventive.

Just last week, I found myself explaining to students that, in order to effectively use the mode of description, they needed to slow down. They needed to focus, I insisted, on scene building. So I told them no dialogue, no characterization, no action. “It’s like Slow TV,” I reasoned.

Blank stares.

“Slow TV?” I prompted again. No one knew of it. So I showed a quick news clip from YouTube that described the Norwegian phenomenon of true-timed footage showing a single, calm event. An Al Jazeera broadcaster called it “Boring—because it is.”

Eight hours of knitting, six days of a ferry trip through the fjords, eighteen hours of salmon swimming upstream: these are but some of the gems offered by NRK, the Norwegian Public Broadcasting System. Arguably, these programs are true “reality television.”

I love it. Norwegians do, too.

And apparently freshman college writers.

During my students’ latest peer editing activity, I streamed the NRK inaugural Slow TV program, a portion of a seven-hour train ride. My students were taken over mountains, through tunnels, and dipped in and out of valleys, all without leaving our class. It streamed while they edited, which I intended to use to create an environment of relaxation.

Watching Slow TV—inside of a college classroom or outside–becomes an exercise in patience. Appreciation. Detail. It encompasses so many of the skills that I try to impress upon my students in certain modes of writing.

It seemed to work. Students understood the approach to the mode better at the end class than before. The train itself as metaphor for the writing process fit aptly. One student even reached-out to me with an email later that day: “Good day in class and the train was actually helpful to me. It made me feel relaxed before I started editing. Thanks truly!”

As writing instructors, we strive to reach our students in unique and meaningful ways. This day, a little Slow TV is just what we needed.

Audrey A. Wick is a full-time English professor and kinesiology instructor at Blinn College, a two-year college with four campuses in central Texas. She also serves as a Faculty Partner for Cengage Learning.

Now join the conversation. Have you ever used TV in a writing class as an activity prompt? Share a time you experienced unexpected success in the classroom with a unique video, metaphor, or activity. Do you have any unexpected teaching moments to share? Do so in the comments section below.