Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Week That Got Away

On Monday, I had so much planned to write for the blog. By Tuesday, I realized that I could write about it or plan my midterms. Midterms won.
However, in the spirit of blogging, let me tell you what we did yesterday in BW. We have spent the last two weeks looking at how we use/choose words to put across meaning. Yesterday, my students were to print out another copy of an earlier assignment (not yet graded and returned), exchange with a peer group member, and, using a highlighter, highlight any places where the writer used wordy, trite or vague language. (This was an Evergreen chapter)Students were encouraged to use their notes and textbooks. We had enough time for each student to have both members of the group respond by the end of class. I did not collect the work because, frankly, I have enough to do figuring out midterms and responding to the papers I already have this weekend. My plan is that during portfolio preparation week, the students will pull out my response, which has to do with coherence and detail development, and their peer response, and learn to merge (consider?) different kinds of responses.

Which brings me to my midterm plans. The students will be revising two pieces of writing for their portfolios. One will be a journal entry that they choose, the other will be a class assignment--a letter written to a friend who is considering coming to our college and wants to know more about the kinds of activities we have. The students went to the Fall Rush activities fair a few weeks ago to do some research on what's available. Since then, I've read their letters and now, their peer group has read them, too.

I know that directing one of their submissions violates the spirit of portfolio- keeping, but this is the first time I've done portfolios with a BW group. For every innovation I create, I have probably two old behaviors that I use for my own comfort. I'm teaching the course again next semester, and will no doubt refine what I'm doing now.

I would love to hear from other BW teachers--tell me about your experiences with portfolios; tell me about what books you use; tell me how you see your students' writing as having changed through out the semester.


At 11:35 PM, Blogger clc said...

I have midterm portfolios due for all my classes the week after next, and I have directed what will be in them. At the end of the semester, they will be choosing their best pieces, but right now, I want to see a revision of all their formal assignments so I can get a good sense of how they are doing. They won't be graded on anything more than a pass/fail basis at this point, so I really don't have any qualms about doing this.

I change my reader nearly every semester, and I've been using Diana Hacker's Rules for Writers as a handbook for the past year and will probably stick with it because the price can't be beat. In the past, I have sometimes combined a full-length, non-fiction text with the reader; I've used Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace, for example. I've often thought about doing a Mercury Reader, since readers are so overpriced and usually lacking in one way or another, but I never get my act together early enough to do so. My campus has ridiculously early deadlines for textbook orders.

I'm always on the hunt for the perfect book, so I'd love to hear what others are up to.

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Steve H. said...

I haven't used portfolios in BW yet, but Subject Blogs or Course Blogs,a post by Marcus O'Donnell on Kairosnews, has some interesting implications for BW teachers. Basically, he discusses the potential benefits of using student weblogs not just for specific classes (which apparently are called "subjects" in Australian colleges) but throughout the student's academic career ("course"). If we used weblogs (or paper portfolios or any other format) for student portfolios and enabled (i.e. required) students to maintain the portfolio throughout their coursework, the students would be less likely to see their BW writing as "something to do to pass that course I didn't want to take anyway" and instead see their BW work as a (positive) stage in their development. Maybe some schools are using portfolios throughout the curriculum, but from what little I know, the portfolio for any one class is done with when the student completes the class.

At 11:42 PM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

Sounds like an interesting idea--I would imagine that the faculty has to be trained to use blogs in order for everyone to participate. That might be an impediment right there--But, as we move more deeply into using technology, who knows? Ten years from now we'll all be chuckling at how cutting edge blogs seemed at the time.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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