Archive for the ‘Learning Styles’ Category

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The “Craft” of Peer Revision: Part IV

posted: 4.29.15 by Barclay Barrios

In this series we’ve looked at a few ways to make the craft of peer revision more “crafty.”  All of these exercises tend to be a big hit in my classes and I usually end up with stronger papers to grade because of this work.

But why?  Why do students do this work so enthusiastically and so well?  I have some theories: [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Drafting, Learning Styles, Peer Review, Revising, Teaching Advice, Writing Process
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Writing Review: A Kinesthetic Group Activity in Seven Steps

posted: 4.13.15 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

As the end of the term draws near for many of us, we may wish to provide a writing process review for students. We could rehash textbook pages or websites that offer basic information about writing processes, as well as written products and genres of academic writing. But spring has sprung for many of us, and summer looms and attention drifts. How can we offer students opportunities to remember what they have learned about writing—and putting their learning into practice?

A kinesthetic approach to review can help. In kinesthetic learning, students turn away from laptop and tablet screens and use whole-body movement to rehearse significant concepts. [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Basic Writing, Learning Styles, Susan Naomi Bernstein, Writing Process
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Quizzes Work: True or False?

posted: 1.27.15 by Traci Gardner

Last month, I considered the strategy of including quizzes in a writing course. Essentially, while I hated pop quizzes as a student, I thought I might be shortchanging students who do well as test takers. I decided to try quizzes in the online technical writing course during Virginia Tech’s Winter Session.

Now that the course is over, I have to admit that the quizzes seemed useful and effective. Logistically, the system was simple to set up. [read more]

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Categories: Assessment, Business Writing, Learning Styles, Traci Gardner
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Does Effort Count?

posted: 10.6.09 by Traci Gardner

High on the list of phrases that make me cringe you’ll find these: “Does effort count? I worked hard on this.” So many sighs have followed those sentences. They encapsulate one of the hardest concepts in writing instruction. Writing improvement is hard work, and even modest gains can take a long time to appear.

I’d gotten to the point where I simply ignored effort in grading conversations. It just seemed easier. A paper either earned a B, or it didn’t. Whether the student worked hard didn’t matter. It turns out that I was wrong.

I read “The Truth about Grit” in The Boston Globe two months ago, and its conclusions have been nagging at me ever since. The article explains the history and study of what you and I might call effort. According to psychologist Angela Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania, grit is what makes one person succeed where an equally intelligent person fails. It’s the idea of applying hard work and perseverance to a task. It’s the same notion, the article explains, behind Edison’s axiom “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

In fact, grit can actually be a predictor for success. Entering first-year cadets at West Point made it past summer training if they tested high for grit, according to a study by Duckworth. Another study by Duckworth found that students who become finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee also tested high for grit. Fifth graders praised for their grit actually did better on IQ tests than students praised for being intelligent, according to a study by Carol S. Dweck from Stanford University.

It’s not grit alone that makes the difference in achievement. Dweck points out that students need to understand that “talent takes time to develop, and requires continuous effort.” They need what she calls a “growth mindset.” In short, students must believe that they develop abilities over time, not that they are born with them.

That notion fits perfectly with what we know about teaching people to write. People are not born great writers. They have to work at it persistently, and the development process can take a long time. In other words, to improve as a writer, you need that same growth mindset. If you believe that you cannot write, that you just weren’t born with the ability, you may never excel. To become a better writer, you have to believe that if you work hard enough and long enough, you can improve your writing.

As I’ve thought about “The Truth about Grit,” I’ve come to realize two things. First, it’s crucial to help students understand that it takes a long time to improve as a writer. They need to cultivate a growth mindset where writing is concerned. Second, it actually matters whether I tell a student that I can tell she’s worked very hard on her paper. Effort, it turns out, counts far more than I ever realized.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Assessment, Learning Styles, Writing Process
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Notetaking for Visual Learners (and Everyone Else)

posted: 3.25.09 by Traci Gardner


SXSWi 2009: Sketchnotes
Originally uploaded by Mike Rohde

Someone else’s notebook usually leaves me B-O-R-E-D, but the ReadWriteWeb post on Mike Rohde‘s notes from South by Southwest Interactive has me glued to the screen.

I want to read every image (and fortunately you can see them one-by-one on Flickr). I’ve considered printing them all out so I can add my own annotations. If I were a better Delicious tagger, I’d add them all and mark them up so I could find them later.

Why am I so entertained by scans of a plain, old-fashioned notebook? Some of the notes make me giggle. Take, for instance, “Kindle is like a cassette for an ATARI 400” (on Flickr). “Exactly,” I want to shout through my snickering.

Other notes impress me with how well they capture what appear to be the key events and comments at different SxSW presentations. Consider “CONNECTIVITY will be an indicator of poverty rather than an indicator of wealth” (on Flickr). Yup. We technorhetoricians have been saying that for over a decade. And how about “The minute you open up Microsoft Word you are constrained” (on Flickr). No argument there.

More than anything though, it’s that the notebook is so real and honest. No question that Rohde (the author) was there, that I’m jealous of his skill, and that I wish we could send him out to document CCCC, WPA Conference, and the Computers and Writing Conference. If I can’t be at a conference, I want a notebook like his to show me what I missed.

How would you use these great notes in the classroom? It doesn’t matter if the topic of the pages isn’t relevant to what the class is studying. Use the notebook to talk about techniques. The pages are a treasure chest of ideas for visual cues, attention-getter techniques, and readability. Together and in small groups, students can identify techniques that help make the ideas clear and concise.

And that’s not all. Ask students to notice the kinds of things Rohde records. For instance, have them consider when he writes down direct quotations and when he paraphrases or summarizes. Rohde’s notes are a great example for those embarking on research projects.

Finally, you might encourage students to recast notes from a recent class they’ve attended into a format similar to one of the pages in Rohde’s notebook. If students aren’t comfortable with paper and pen, suggest they try playing with layouts and style options in a word processor. Suggest clip art illustrations for those uncomfortable with doodling their own caricatures. Ideally, provide some other options that allow for different learning styles—students might create podcasts, videos, slide shows, or posters, for instance.

No matter what they come up with, it’s bound to be more fun than the customary notetaking we see in the classroom!

Comments: (1)
Categories: Document Design, Learning Styles, Professional Conferences, Student Success, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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5 ways I approach visual argument in the classroom

posted: 4.17.08 by Barclay Barrios

Visual argument (or, more generally, visual rhetoric) seems to be an increasingly important part of the composition classroom. I’ve never taught a class devoted to visual argument, but I have given visual argument assignments and I often ask students to consider the role that the visual plays in culture. There are of course whole textbooks on visual argument, but since the visual plays only a supporting role in my course, I tend to use a variety of websites instead. For example:

1. PostSecret
PostSecret is my favorite way to have students think about visual argument. This public art project started when its founder, Frank Warren, invited people to design and submit postcards that revealed secrets their authors had never shared before. Each Sunday, Warren posts a new set of secret-revealing postcards; in the process, he offers a wide-ranging display of visual argument, as each postcard design reflects the secret it contains. I’ve found that students can analyze these visual texts readily, providing them good practice at reading, decoding, and then designing their own visual arguments.

2. Ikea
You may be familiar with this home furnishings company from Sweden if you’re lucky enough to have an Ikea store near you (we’re getting ours here in South Florida this summer—yay!). But even if you’re never heard of Ikea, the company’s website offers a great way to explore cultural assumptions about design. That’s because it has separate sites for countries around the world. Ask students to explore some of these different sites (such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia), taking note of how language and culture influence visual argument and design. Ask them then to view the site for the United States and look for the same sorts of cultural assumptions. This assignment, of course, could be done with the main site of many global corporations. I choose Ikea to help students see that globalization is not purely an American phenomenon.

3. The Ebay Conceptual Art Gallery
Justin Jorgensen turns photographs of items auctioned on Ebay into a kind of found art. Have students explore the site and consider questions of both visual design/arrangement and art. Then have them explore Ebay itself. What’s the relationship between design and sales? What’s the economic impact of a good visual argument?

4. MySpace
Chances are your students are already familiar with MySpace. Many students have pages on this popular social networking site, using it to keep in touch with friends old and new. Yet most the pages on MySpace are designed extremely poorly. But in doing so, they also make important visual arguments about the person making the page. Ask students to locate or bring in examples of overly designed or badly designed pages. How does the design reflect and represent the author of the page? How does effective visual argument diverge from effective visual design?

5. Comeeko
Comeeko allows you to upload photos and add captions to create a web-based comic strip. Students can use this tool to create compositions in the style of graphic novels.

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Categories: Argument, Document Design, Learning Styles, Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Grammar Math

posted: 4.9.08 by Barclay Barrios

Sometimes the best way to see something is to look at it in a whole other way.  Have your students review the material in the handbook on sentence construction and then have them create mathematical formulae for sentences.  For example,  subject + verb = simple sentence or subject – verb = fragment.  Ask them to provide a sample sentence for each formula from their current drafts or from the essay under discussion.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Learning Styles, Punctuation & Mechanics, Revising
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Studenting Skills List

posted: 2.20.08 by Barclay Barrios

Ask your students to create a list of “studenting” skills, those skills that make a successful student. This list might include coming to office hours, communicating about absences, and showing up to class on time, but encourage them to work with the handbook and their own experience to create a list specific to your course.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Learning Styles, Student Success
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The Shape of the Thing

posted: 6.6.07 by Barclay Barrios

The one is coming straight from the trenches, Bitsters!

This summer I’m teaching a grad class on Monday and Wednesday evenings, which means I have class tonight, which means I am thinking about what the heck I’ll be doing. The first thing I learned when teaching grad students is that in many ways they’re just like students in my FYC classes: they too are learning new ways of writing, they too are encountering new kinds of difficult readings, and they too don’t always do their homework. What that means for me is that all the tools I use in FYC I use in my grad classes and when I find a new tool in my graduate teaching, I get to put it in my big ol’ pedgaogical toolbag.

The new tool, in this case, is the shape of the thing.

The course I’m teaching right now is titled Principles and Problems of Literary Study, “P&P” for short. It’s a basic introduction to graduate research and writing, which makes it all the more like FYC. Tonight we’ll be looking at some standard academic genres: the proposal/abstract, the conference paper, and the seminar paper/proto-article. I was hoping to find some way for the students to get a general feel for the shape of these rhetorical forms, a sense of what they look like. I have samples of each for us to read, but I already stressed that our goal is not to read them for content but for form (aye, a sticky wicket there I know).

I’ve decided that tonight I’m going to adapt an exercise I’ve used to great success in FYC. That exercise is drawing an author’s argument and if it’s not somewhere up here in Bits-land it will be soon enough. But so far I’ve only used it to have students draw the content of an essay. Tonight I will ask them to draw the form by asking them, in small groups (which, thankfully, work as well with grad students as any students), to draw the shape of each of the genres. Then each group will put these on the board for discussion.

WARNING! This is an as-yet-untested, available only in beta version tip. But I have a hunch it will work. Here’s why. First, I find that all students respond well to anything that smacks of arts and crafts. I think it taps into some deep near-genetic memory of early schooling, when they could put the books away and have fun with macaroni, glitter, and glue. Second, I like switching registers–from the written to the visual–because it offers literally a new perspective on the object of study. Third, in getting them to focus on shape I’m hoping to get them away from the specific arguments of the samples papers we’re reading.

If this works tonight (and I will let y’all know how it goes) then I’ll bring it into my FYC classroom too. I can imagine asking students to draw an outline, draw a paper, draw the shape of the essay and not just its argument. Hmmmm…. possibilities. Me likes possibilities…

Comments: (5)
Categories: Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Genre, Learning Styles, Teaching Advice, Visual Rhetoric
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Hyper Paper Text

posted: 4.9.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to review the material in the handbook on organization. Then have them come to class with a copy of their current draft in which they have circled key words in their writing and drawn lines connecting them. How does this design impact the experience for you and for the reader? Are the connections among the ideas in the text of the essay visible to peers, and, if not, how can they revise to make them so?

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Categories: Drafting, Learning Styles, Revising, Writing Process
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