Below six SNL writing teachers share what they learned when they attended the national Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in St. Louis. While this is a conference for writing teachers, almost everything they learned is applicable for any teacher at SNL.
Kathryn Wozniak - #1
I attended a pre-conference workshop called “50 Ways to Leave the 5 Paragraph Essay” that invited participants to think about writing assignments that reflect and/or use authentic audiences, multimedia, and/or multimodal writing. The workshop participants included writing instructors, directors, WPAs, educational media consultants, and Writing Center staff from all different types of schools that cater to students of non-traditional and traditional backgrounds. I suggest that any instructor, from any discipline that involves writing, visit the Wiki we created during this workshop: http://4cccc2012saintlouis.pbworks.com/w/page/47915512/Home
Here’s a brief overview of some assignments I found most interesting:
• Analyzing and Writing Reviews: Amazon.com, RateMyProfessor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, GoodReads.com
The designers of these assignments felt that these were more authentic writing experiences, and better than blogs or websites, which are numerous and often not accessed by a wide audience. Analyzing and writing reviews for any of these websites helps students be mindful of ethos and public writing.
• Google Map: Ask students to use GoogleMaps to visually track the context of a story, writing process, controversies, or his/her autobiography. This can be literal or metaphorical. Instructors should assess the writing and content, not the graphics. This is sort of like brain-mapping but with a familiar technology.
• Commonplace Book: Instructor comes up with controversial terms (diversity, sustainability, etc.) and asks students to collect video/music/billboards/articles/broadcasts that reflect one of the terms. At the end of the course, the student creates a presentation with these elements describing issues/arguments as well as his/her own perspective.
• CRAAP test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose): Rhetorical analysis of websites, especially for students who use Google instead of library databases to do research. Asks students to rate strong/med/weak credibility of websites. See http://www-lib.iupui.edu/files/Applying%20the%20CRAAP%20Test%20to%20Evaluating%20Web%20Sites.pdf
• Complaint letter: Find an issue to complain about (not too difficult!). Find support from a community on facebook, blogs, etc.—analyze that community evidence, draw conclusions, write letter, and present to “authority”.
Kathleen Schmidt - #2
A couple of weeks ago I attended the 4 C's workshop on giving audio feedback to students. I am always looking for doable technology to add a social presence to my online classes that I teach at SNL. This workshop was a goldmine! First, and most important for me, I was able to go home from the workshop, download the software, figure it out and implement it all in the same weekend! The software I am referring to is from Techsmith (http://www.techsmith.com/) and is called Jing. It is entirely free.
Since our distance ed quarter at SNL just started there aren't any papers to give feedback on yet. But - what I did is use Jing to make an audio-visual recording of my weekly announcements. Once the software is downloaded you will see a yellow half-sun at the top of your screen - to the left is a capture icon (+) so you simply drag the capture icon to take a 'snapshot' of the printed document you want to include then click (at the bottom of the page) 'video capture' - you will see a countdown 3-2-1 after which it is recording. You are limited to 5 minutes. I use a headphone/ mic to control background noise. When you are finished, click stop and then upload to screencast and it will process a video. Once uploaded, choose view screencast and copy and paste the link for the students. Here is an example of the audio I just did to recap the Module 2 Week 2 assignments for Academic Writing for Adults http://screencast.com/t/fyv3nh9NI3v1
Additionally, I have tried out Jing video to give feedback on papers for another class that I teach at a different school. Just remember your papers need to be on the computer screen -once captured you are able to move the cursor, highlight, and type on the document while talking. My students love it! You are able to give more holistic feedback which they are finding helpful.
Michelle Navarre Cleary - #3
Like Kathleen, I attended the workshop on using audio feedback. The big take away for me was that audio feedback can be an important teaching tool for three reasons: it forces us to limit our comments (particularly using Jing with its 5-minute cut off time), students seem to internalize comments they hear more than comments they read, and students feel a greater sense of care and connection from spoken rather than verbal comments. As the workshop presenters pointed out, research has made clear that students do best when teachers do not overwhelm them with lots of comments on their writing. Working in the 5-minute Jing window helps teachers focus on just three or so main points. One of the presenters reported on a study she did comparing written and recorded feedback. She found that students who received written feedback could not recall any specific comments she had make. However, student who received her recorded feedback often recalled points she had made verbatim. Her theory was that these students had played the feedback over so often that they had internalized it. Similarly, all of the presenters reported that students felt a closer connection to their teachers and believed that their teachers cared more about them and their work when they received recorded rather than written feedback.
Carol McGury - #4
The CCCC Annual Convention could be characterized as too much of a good thing. I spent part of my first day at the conference doing exactly what the Newcomers’ Committee had warned me not to do: planning to hop from session to session because so many of the topics sounded interesting. Luckily, I found that the individual sessions held my interest, so I usually ended up staying for longer than I had intended. A particularly meaningful session, for me, was “Being Both Personal and Academic: The Lessons of Objects.” The speakers had taken thirty days to write about a different object each day. I am planning to incorporate a modified version of this idea into my writing classes and into my own writing “practice.” Many of our students at SNL excel when writing about the personal but are filled with fear when transitioning to academic writing. I think the addition of something outside the blank page and the scholarly sources could contribute to a more fluid relationship between personal and academic writing. I am always looking for ways to bridge the gap between the personal narrative and the research paper to facilitate students’ finding and keeping their voice within the conventions of formal academic writing. The use of objects seems to be a promising tool in testing and, perhaps, alleviating the tension between personal and academic writing.
Joe Hemmerling - #5
A couple of the sessions that I attended dealt specifically with how Black Vernacular English was dealt with in the classroom, and explored the variety of reactions that both instructors and students themselves had towards the usage of students' home language in academic writing. Many of the speakers focused on the context of Historically Black Colleges; however, it was easy to draw parallels between what they were describing and my own classroom. It made me reflect on my own teaching methods. I always try to be sensitive to students' language usage, and to encourage students to write in their own voices, rather than some sterile brand of academic English. Yet, I am certain there have been times when I've offered correction or taken off points for certain features of vernacular usage. It puts the writing teacher in an awkward place, wanting to respect the voice of the student, but also wanting to achieve a certain level of standard language usage to prepare him or her for future course work. One of the speakers, Mark Hankerson, managed to articulate a principal that I had difficulty putting into words myself: he said, more or less, that the rule he used to judge whether the language usage was acceptable or not depended on how self-aware the student seemed to be in the usage. In other words, was the student making conscious choices to use this "non-standard" language to achieve a rhetorical effect, or were these signs of unfamiliarity with academic discourse? The key, ultimately, is not simply to penalize students, but to foster dialogue about why certain grammatical constructions are not considered acceptable in academic writing, and how the rules of academic writing can be bent and reshaped to make room for individual voices. It definitely gave me a lot to think about.
Steffanie Triller - #6
In their presentation entitled “Supporting Writing at Critical Moments” presented at the 2012 Conference on College Composition and Communication, Rick Fisher, Joyce Stewart, and April Heaney from the University of Wyoming presented strategies for facilitating both “high road” and “low road” transfer among developmental writing students. Their research on their own students (primarily with students they labeled as “underprepared”) reflected that students often see their FYW courses in a vacuum: students interpret the primary audience in these courses as the instructor, and do not consider the skills they learn applicable to other courses or their personal and professional writing outside of the classroom.
For SNL, this presents a problem: the format of the grid encourages students to see the LL courses, including Academic Writing for Adults, as development and support that moves horizontally across the curriculum. Academic Writing for Adults and Research Seminar should both support and reinforce what students do in their competences in the Arts and Ideas, Human Community, Scientific World, and Focus Area.
Fisher, Stewart, and Heaney believe that guided critical reading strategies can facilitate this kind of transfer in early writing courses. Based on work with their own students, Heaney presented four suggestions for facilitating transfer through critical reading:
(1) Highlight critical reading as a course goal with transferrable strategies
(2) Select FYC readings that represent a range of academic disciplines and involve pressing issues across several fields
(3) Prioritize intellectual agility/inquiry and synthesis skills in theme-based units
(4) Offer opportunities for reflection on transfer in strategies and approaches to reading
How we ask our students to read may well influence how they write. Reading more critically allows students to compose stronger arguments and prepares them for the kind of reading agility they will need for Research Seminar. Some of the assignments below might provide the extra scaffolding students need in order to synthesize course readings into a multi-source essay.
See the following site for assignments that facilitate guided critical reading:
This assignment for a “Difficulty Paper” provides a step-by-step process for guiding students in critical reading through writing: