Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Okayyyyyyyy. I'm writing this two minutes after the class has left the room. I think that they've gotten the idea about the interview/profile, and, more importantly, have settled into writing. Just writing. Outlining, drafting, clustering, paragraphing--whatever helps them move beyond their interview notes and into the beginnings of a rough draft.
The last three weeks have been hard--in part because of the weather throwing off our schedules (yes, here in the DC area we panic at the sight of a snowflake. We know that all of you who live anywhere else north of here think we're nuts.), in part because their study habits are not strong, and in part because they have been so anxious that they've frozen every step of the way.

The other part is that three weeks ago marked the point in the semester when they realized that I was going to hold them to getting their assignments done and that they couldn't behave like children in class. This happens every semester in every section of BW that I've taught. It is the most challenging, exhausting and enervating part of teaching BW students and requires the most patience from me. Having to send people out of the room or move them to another seat is very elementary schoolish--and while I hate doing it, I hate even more when some students get in the way of other students' learning. Or my teaching.

But, may I say that today they settled down and either worked on their draft or did the peer review assignment, and did a good job of it? I was so impressed with their lead paragraphs that I stopped class and read several of them out loud, praising the good I was hearing. Both sections of students are starting to "defrost" and relax about just writing and taking chances on different kinds of writing beyond the five -paragraph theme. They're calming down enough to read an assignment sheet through before asking questions about it.
They're taking notes and asking questions when they don't understand things, and they are relying on each other for constructive help--meeting between classes to review things and so forth.

I think we're starting to turn the corner.

Friday update: I wrote the above on Wednesday. Today, Friday, both classes kept chugging along and students approached me for conferences--an important step because they are taking charge of the situation by asking me and then by having specific questions in mind when we sit down together. After classes, a student came up to me, holding several newpaper articles, in which he'd highlighted sentences whose grammar or punctuation confused him. He must have had about ten of them. We went over each one, and while I don't want to get into a discussion of grammar in the writing classroom, I was impressed that he was thinking about what he was reading and noticing how words were arranged into sentences. What a wonderful way to end the week!


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