Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fun Finals Activity

Today, I tried out a new finals activity that may not be so new for some of you: we had a reading similar to what writers have when they are about to publish a book. I called it the "Winter Reading" for the class, and it included having students choose a short writing or a small part of a longer writing to read to the class. To make the mood more like a real writer reading, I brought some snacks, and I introduced each student with anecdotes from the semester and what not. This last part was my favorite as I have been thinking for some time about ways to say something personal and individual to students at the end of the semester, a practice that comes from a teaching mentor of mine who used to recite "nuggets" about our class during the final period. Students seemed to enjoy the activity, and the realistic treatment made it meaningful yet enjoyable, I think.

I only did the activity in developmental and first-level comp classes, though. For my second-level comp students, who have to write all source-supported papers, I'm thinking about having a mini-conference in lieu of a final in future semesters. That is another topic for another day, though--back to the papers.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Season of Old Saint Paint

Monday, December 05, 2005

So, How'd It Go? PowerPoint Update

It went very well. Just about every group did a much better job of organizing and presenting the information this time: people had defined roles; speakers spoke to the class instead of the screen; everyone grasped the idea of ppt. as a outlining tool and not a sheet of paper waiting to be filled with words; and they were all relaxed and content.

Yes, it went well. Why?

It was the second presentation.

It was a much more structured activity than the first.

They had plenty of prewriting assignments to pull from.

They were writing from experience.

I was pleased to see that they pulled together as teams: working together on the ppt.; discussing which items to use in each category; sending each other drafts via email outside of class; and arranging to meet each other outside of class.

The grades were largely C's, with a few B's and even fewer A's. In the few cases where a person was left in the lurch by a partner who didn't even bother to contact her, I gave separate grades so as not to penalize the one who did do the job, alone.

So, if the grades were C's, then why am I so happy? Remember that this is the first level of Basic Writing, and that for many of the students, adjusting to being a responsible student has been the biggest accomplishment that they've made this semester. In order to earn the C, each student has had to focus, write, collaborate, edit and finalize a project as well as make sure that it was presented in a lively and instructive way. Again, doing all of this and not frittering away the time allocated to group work is a big maturing point for many of my students, who begin the semester wanting to be told exactly what to write and think every step of the way.

I'm proud of them.