Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Impressions

A great idea that I got from the CTL workshop was a letter writing exercise that I find works really well in our type of classrooms.

What do you do? Well, you give each student an envelope and you have them write down their fears, hopes and expectations for the course. They should also include what they hope to get out of us (the instructor) as a resource and how they will engage. Then the students seal the letters, write their names on it, and then they hand them back to you.

I have adapted this idea so that I keep the letters until just before they have to write their learning letters for the final portfolio so they can see how they have progressed and what they have accomplished. It not only makes them pay attention to their roles as writers, but I think it even gives them an idea of how to value themselves as learners and contributors in the course and it makes them realize that you as an instructor are really interested in providing them with a classroom community wherein objectives and goals are set and reached (together).

Try it and let me know how it works for you!!!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

How to get students to find and read 94 articles before the next class

Michael Wesch is doing some very interesting work: "My student-researchers and I tried something a little different to kick off our semester. Instead of the standard syllabus that requires everybody to read a few articles to discuss, we decided instead to organize ourselves into a Smart Mob that would try to read a good hunk of the literature on a single topic in one go. We chose to explore the implications of anonymity online, which is the centerpiece of our project this year." Read about it here. Also, check out their cool video.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hear it, Read it, Analyze it

This is a simple activity that I will try out with my students. Before lecturing on Proposals, I will have the students engage in an activity that will demonstrate the making of a proposal. I will begin by dividing the class into committees (or islands again) and give them a problem to work out. (This is similar, but not identical, to the activity on p. 262. I’m planning to do an alternative activity because my students tend to use the problems and solutions that we come up with in class and this thwarts their creativity.) I plan to begin with an abstract idea and through the lecturing and class discussions move towards a more concrete idea of how to make a persuasive proposal.

Here’s the problem :
A new government has been installed that rejects Freedom of Speech in favour of Complete Censorship. Give them examples of what might be censored (such as certain words, who speaks, writes, reads etc). Each group is on a committee that wants to counter this problem , i.e. denounce censorship. Your task is to brainstorm a number of solutions and choose one that seems most feasible, and summarize, in a line or two, the benefits of such a solution.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just Saw Something Cool: The Class Blogger

Hi Everyone,

I've been conducting classroom observations this semester (I have 28 of them to do!)
I just saw a great idea, being used by one of the GTAs here at WVU.

One of my research interests is accessibility -- how do we make our pedagogy as broadly accessible to the widest range of students as possible -- whether we see this broadness as across "learning styles," "modalities," "abilities," languages, learning backgrounds, or other differences.

One way that we can create access is through redundancy -- a positive kind of redundancy, in which ideas and information can be made accessible in multiple formats, and the class is engaged in translating ideas across these formats. 

So, the idea was this: every class session has a blogger.

The teacher set up a class blog, linked to the course webpage.  A different student is the blogger each day, and they record notes, summarize conversations, narrate classroom action, and so on, as best they can.  The succinct but descriptive writing they do is important in and of itself.  And their synthesis and summary is then there for students who may need reminders, might benefit from another perspective on the day's themes, or otherwise benefit from accessing this information another way.

Asking students to take turns doing this also seemed to nicely "democratize" the class. Over the course of a semester it might even chisel away at the idea that the instructor's voice, vision, and version are the only mediums for the creation and dissemination of classroom "knowledge."

Anyhow.  I thought this was a really nice technique.

(I saw this done in a computer classroom, and the blogging was done in "real time."  But the blog post could be done retroactively as well, after class as a homework assignment.)


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Memoir Ideas...

Hey I want to do some more memoir-related activities with my students (particularly ones to help them think through conflict and the main memoir elements). Does anyone have suggestions that could help me? The setting/character/conflict/resolution shared story is a good idea. Are there any others that have worked particularly well in the past?

Please help :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interview Inquiry Assignment (to help with that thing called research)

As we discussed in our meeting today, I provided this information in the form of a handout to my students and am having them respond in their writer's notebooks. I can give you an update on how it actually plays out once I read these entries, but one of my students is already extremely excited about the 25-page Princess Diana interview he's analyzing...and that makes me excited too. Here's the assignment:

Notebook Assignment: Interview Inquiry

1. Find an article of an interview with a person who you have an interest in, such as your favourite author, artist, musician, athlete, actor, etc. You may find an article in a newspaper, magazine, online publication, or another source.

2. After carefully reading the interview, consider whether the questions asked by the interviewer were as effective and interesting as possible, given the interviewee and subject matter. Consider answers to the following questions in your notebook:

Ø What were the most effective and engaging questions and strategies used by the interviewer?

Ø What strategies could the interviewer have used to make the interview and interview questions more effective and interesting to the reader?

Ø What questions would you have asked differently or not have asked at all?

Ø Did the interviewer leave any holes or gaps in the interview?

Ø Did the interview provoke you to think of further questions that were neither asked nor answered?

3. After writing your response to the above questions in your notebook, answer the following question in your notebook: How may an activity such as critically reading and critiquing an interview assist you in your own research process? (Remember: An interview is a form of research, so in the interview that you read, the interviewer is conducting research and presenting his/her findings to you, the reader.)

4. Be sure to attach the interview to your notebook along with your response to the questions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yeah, I finally made it to the blog! Somebody hug me.
Ok, so getting down to activity that works well for me in memoir is when students trace their hand on a piece of paper and then they write (around the hand) about the following:

1) What scars do you have on your hand? What are those scars from?
2) Who made these hands?
3) What are the best thing these hands have touched?
4) What is the most harm these hands have done?
5) What hidden talents do these hands have?

Then I take up these answers as a class in order to get the students to start thinking about the narratives that already exist in their lives. It works and they love it. Also, playing some music while this happens makes it all the more enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Group Activity - Identifying Trends (and their causes and effects)!

I borrowed the following group activity from page 473 of Writing in the Works (appearing in Chapter 13 - The Research Article), and I received really good feedback from my students about it. I did tweak it a little so thought I would share how I implemented it in the classroom. The students said that it really helped them understand the concept of not only a trend, but also cause and effect, and that discussing it with each other was helpful. Here it goes:

Break the students into groups of 3-4. Each group must produce four examples of contemporary trends, and each group member should contribute at least one trend idea. Then, each group must come up with two causes and two effects for each trend. I think that encouraging them to list more trends or more than two causes and effects per trend would be useful, but due to lack of time today (was I talking too much in class before this activity?), they only had ten minutes to come up with ideas. I then asked each group to share their ideas with the rest of the class, and they had chosen a spokesperson without me prompting them to do so, which seemed to work out well. The results were great: overlapping trends, trends within trends, creative and interesting trends, conflicting trends (which I pointed out would certainly need more research for proof). It was Trend City it my class today, and with all of the students contributing their own ideas as well as hearing each other's, it certainly seemed to clear up any confusion about trends and their causes and effects.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Social Phenomena Exercise (for lack of a better title)

I'm not sure this will be useful, but it is a composition writing exercise that I will be experimenting with tomorrow when I begin teaching my students about trends and researching. First, divide the class into four groups, and have each group represent a newly found island. Their task is to produce a concise report to their elders about a current social phenomenon (another way of looking at trends-- which in this case, they will come up with, such as blogging, flash mobs, cyber-affairs, suicide etc...) taking place as a result of some sort of epidemic (or anything for that matter). So, they must first identify a social phenomenon that is currently taking place in their island.
-To do so, they must investigate what has propelled such a phenomenon to occur, in other words, what are the causes. It could be the environment, an event, an individual, technological invention etc...

-Secondly, what are the effects of such a “trend,” or social phenomenon on the populace?
Who is being affected by it? For instance, is it a specific ethnicity, class, gender, age group etc...
How are they being affected?

-Thirdly, what are the implications of such a trend? Should something be done to reverse this trend if it is having a negative impact on society, or if it is a positive trend, what can be done to further it.

-Finally, have them report their findings to the other students.

This exercise should hopefully mimic the steps that they will consider when writing their research paper, that they are not merely proving that the trend exists but moving beyond that and analyzing the implications of such a trend, and to realize that research always takes place in conversation.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Authority Lists

The authority lists were really Dale's suggestion but I just wanted to say that they worked really well with my class. I had the students identify 5 areas where they felt like they were an authority as well as 5 areas where they wished to be an authority. After this, I had eveyone go through the top choice on their list and identify where they could find more information about the subject. For example, one student felt like she was an authority on guitars and she identified that she could learn more about her subject from interviewing musicians or looking at subject-specific books. This was a good way to help the students start thinking about research (for their exposition papers) as well as getting to know them and their interests.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Writing Exercise: Alphabet

In this exercise, first choose a topic (either choose one yourself--I used "writing"--or come up with one with the class). Next, on a loose piece of paper, ask students to write each letter of the alphabet along the left-hand side of the paper:

Only giving them a brief period of time (1-2 minutes), ask students to write a word beginning with each letter on the topic you have chosen (ie. for writing, P for "pen", R for "research" etc.). When time is up, most students will have incomplete alphabets. Next, ask them to group up with 2-3 other people to share answers—together, as the members of each group exchange their answers, each individual's alphabet will become more complete. When everyone's alphabet is mostly complete, ask students to read their alphabets aloud for even more idea exchange.

This emphasizes the value of others to contribute new ideas and perspectives to their writing and reinforces the value of group work.

Writing Exercise: Group Narrative

In this exercise, you will all participate in writing a portion of a story. To begin, each of you will write a paragraph describing, in as much vivid detail as possible, any setting you can imagine. Then you will pass this onto someone else who will then write a paragraph in the next section. At the end of this exercise, we will have many complete stories with all four sections:

1. Setting

2. Character

3. Problem/Conflict

4. Solution

This writing exercise was always a big success in my class; a great ice breaker (especially if you ask the students to introduce themselves as they exchange sheets) and a great way to start discussing the narrative arc. Plus, it's always a lot of fun to get volunteers to read the final products, which are always hilarious.