Archive for the ‘Student Success’ Category

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Student Success in Savannah

posted: 4.21.15 by Traci Gardner

I spent the weekend in wonderful Savannah, Georgia, at the Student Success in Writing Conference. The wonderful event led me to conversations with teachers from high schools, two-year colleges, and four-year colleges.

I got to meet Bits guest bloggers Kim Haimes-Korn and Jeanne Bohannon, who presented on “Transcending Tech-Tools: Engaging Students through Critical Digital Pedagogies.” Jeanne shared a video animation project that focused on “A Day in the Life” stories that developed students’ critical thinking skills by requiring them to consider another point of view, and Kim talked about an assignment that asks students to use digital timeline tools to publish literacy narratives. I’m hopeful that they will share more details in a future post. [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Digital Writing, Student Success, Teaching with Technology, Traci Gardner
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Trauma in the Classroom

posted: 11.24.14 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

Guest blogger Abby Nance has an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and is an instructor at Gardner-Webb University. This is her seventh year teaching in the first year writing program. Her research explores the relationship between trauma and writing in the college classroom.

Last year at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, I spoke about the role of trauma in the writing lives of first-year college students. Whenever I talk about trauma, toxic stress, or mental health with other writing instructors, I feel deeply aware of my own students and the stories of abuse, neglect, violence, and anxiety that they hint at or explore outright in their own writing. If statistics can provide a baseline or a map, then many of our students are entering our classrooms with histories of trauma. [read more]

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Categories: Basic Writing, Guest Bloggers, Student Success, Teaching Advice
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Ask Me Anything: Using Formspring with Students

posted: 11.29.11 by Traci Gardner

5005673112_e8271a3d1a_mThere are always questions that students are reluctant to ask in front of the entire class. There are also questions that they would ask, but they don’t want me to know that they are unsure. Sometimes I would find the more generic of these questions on mid-term evaluations. More often, though, the questions simply go unasked and unanswered. But what if there were a site where students could send you those questions?

Formspring allows anyone to post a question to someone on the site, either with a log in or anonymously. It’s easy to sign up, either by creating an account or connecting with your Facebook log in. After that, you use simple forms to ask and answer questions. You can get e-mail notification of questions, so you don’t have to worry about missing them. There are even mobile versions to provide access to the site when you’re not at a computer. Getting Started on Formspring (PDF) has all the details.

Once you set up your Formspring profile, you can invite students to post questions directly to you. Questions go to your Inbox, so you can review them and decide which ones to answer. Nothing posts automatically, so you can skip repetitive or irrelevant questions. On your Profile Settings (located in the pull-down in the upper right corner), change the “Ask you about…” field to narrow the kind of questions that you will answer. You might choose something general for the entire term, or change the questions during the term to fit the current class activities with questions like these:

  • Ask me about English 1106.
  • Ask me about your research paper assignment.
  • Ask me about your final project.
  • Any last-minute questions about this week’s reading?

Just type in the kind of questions that you want students to ask, using a full sentence. Questions and answers can be cross-posted to Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Tumblr, a WordPress blog, or Blogger. Find the details in the Services section of your Profile Settings. [read more]

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Categories: Student Success, Teaching Advice
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The Super Secret Formula: Still Super If Not So Secret

posted: 11.6.09 by Barclay Barrios

When I think back on all of the little class activities I’ve developed in my time as a teacher I don’t think any have spread or persisted as much as the Super Secret Formula.  It’s on my mind because one of our former teachers (now in Georgia pursuing her PhD) mentioned using it with success in a recent e-mail.  That same week the waiter at my favorite breakfast place (who also happens to be a freshman at school) also mentioned loving it.

So what is the Super Secret Formula?  Well, simply, it’s

Cl > I > Q1 > E > T > Q2 > Ce

Students start their paragraphs with “Cl,” a sentence that states the claim of the paragraph.  Then with “I,” they introduce a quotation from the first author, adding a sentenced that explains it (“E”).  The next sentence makes a transition (“T”) to a quotation from a different author, “Q2.”  Finally, students take a sentence or two to explain the connection between the two quotations (“Ce”) and how it supports the argument they’re making in the paper.

The concrete structure of a “formula” provides a good scaffolding for students to build a solid paragraph that works with quotation use but the risk is, of course, that all their paragraphs will becomes (literally) formulaic.  When using this exercise, I start by having groups use the formula to make a sample paragraph.  Then I challenge groups to come up with other formulas for working with quotations.

This is my Golden Tool of my Lore Bag—it always seems to work and students love it.  I think of course they love having a concrete pattern and set of instructions to learn how to think connectively and thus to synthesize while working with quotations.  But I always find that taking the writing class out of the writing classroom has some near magic effect.  There’s something about a scientific-looking formula that taps into some other region of students’ brains and bypasses any anxiety they may have about writing.

So, still super if not so secret.

(If you’d like to see more ideas for working with quotations, read my older post “5 ways I help students to work with quotations.“)

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Integrating sources, Student Success, Working with Sources
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What If Students and Teachers Tweeted for Help?

posted: 7.22.09 by Traci Gardner

I’m jealous of @comcastbonnie. Okay, that’s a little extreme. I wish I had the resources she has and could use them to help writing students and teachers.

Bonnie Smalley, also known as @comcastbonnie, was the focus of “A Day with 400 Tweets Starts with Simplicity,” a recent New York Times article that describes how she provides customer service for the cable TV and Internet service provider Comcast.

As the article explains, Smalley is “one of 10 representatives who reach out to customers through social networks, rather than waiting for them to find Comcast’s support site.”

Imagine if we could do the same thing to help student writers! I’d love to prowl the Internet, on the lookout for students lamenting that they can’t figure out an assignment or they can never remember how to use the semicolons.

If I ran a writing center, I’d set up and publicize a school hashtag and then ask online tutors to watch for basic questions. In quick exchange on Twitter, a tutor could answer simple questions about grammar and punctuation, define literary terms, and point to additional explanatory Web pages on a site like the Purdue OWL or Colorado State’s Writing Studio. When student writers ask more complex questions, tutors can encourage them to set up an appointment for a more in-depth session.

If we could support students the way @comcastbonnie runs customer service, writing program administrators might monitor the Internet for questions about program requirements, prerequisites, and course registrations. An English Department could answer similar questions for majors and minors as well as for incoming students and those interested in applying.

But why limit the help to students? Just think how we’d benefit as teachers from having someone out there on the Internet dedicated to helping us find what we need just when we need it — whether it’s standards and guidelines, convention details, or a second opinion on a troublesome situation. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could “reach out” and give them the help they need when they need it? Now there’s a job I’d love to have!

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Categories: Collaboration, Student Success, Teaching Advice, Writing Center
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Teaching Students to Use Wikipedia Wisely

posted: 7.7.09 by Traci Gardner

Like it or not, Wikipedia now shapes how many of us learn about the events that happen in the world today. Perhaps you have never turned to Wikipedia to find out more once you’ve heard something in the news, but many people in the world do.

How do we know? Wikipedia set a new traffic record on June 25th as thousands of people rushed to the site to learn more about the death of pop star Michael Jackson. What bothers some teachers isn’t that students may look up information online, but that students need to evaluate the information they find carefully to determine if it’s valuable.

On a collaboratively produced site like Wikipedia, any number of people may be updating and changing the information that is posted. On the day Michael Jackson died, for instance, hundreds of editors were updating the related Wikipedia entries.

Wikipedia entries can change frequently, and sometimes those changes are more subjective than objective. It’s useful to talk with students about the different perspectives that make up each Wikipedia entry.

Once students understand the range of information that can be included in a Wikipedia entry, they need to develop the skills to determine how accurate and relevant the entry is. I share these suggestions to help them decide:

  1. Look for images and notes on Wikipedia that indicate special details about the entry—and read them for tips on which information in the entry may change soon. For example, this note appears at the top of the Wikipedia entry on the Funeral of Michael Jackson this week:
    Current Event Warning on Wikipedia Entry
  2. Visit the History tab for the entry, and you’ll find details on the revisions that people have made. Check out the Page History Help for tips on how to use the information. Notice the dates of the changes to determine how current the information in the entry is.
  3. Use the comparison tool on the History page to look at how revisions have changed the article. The specific changes are highlighted on the comparison page.
  4. Click on the Discussion Tab for details on specific issues that have been explored regarding the article, including any debates on the information that has been included.
  5. Review the list of Notes and the References for the entry. If there are links, click through to compare them to the information in the article. Additionally, consider whether the references are reputable resources on the topic.
  6. Check the External Links for the article. Compare the information on the outside pages to the details in the entry. If there are differences, try to determine why.

If students need additional help, use the guidelines and examples in Bedford/St. Martin’s “Evaluating Online Sources: A Tutorial by Roger Munger.”

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Research, Student Success, Teaching with Technology, Working with Sources
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Facebook Slashes Grades

posted: 5.9.09 by archived

The Times Online has an article about how students who spend a lot of time at Facebook do worse at school.  I’m sure that impacts our teaching as much as it does their studying!

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Gregory Zobel, Popular Culture, Student Success, Teaching with Technology
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Powering Up Student Learning

posted: 4.1.09 by Traci Gardner

Today’s print edition of Education Week publishes a story posted online last week: “Students See Schools Inhibiting Their Use of New Technologies.” The article describes the findings of the Speak Up National Research Project, which were released during a Congressional Briefing last week.

K–12 students reported in a Speak Up survey completed last fall that they are “generally asked to ‘power down’ at school and abandon the electronic resources they rely on for learning outside of class.”

That’s right. Within weeks of NCTE’s publication of Writing in the 21st Century, a survey of 1.3 million students tells us that not only are many students infrequently taught 21st century literacy skills but they are typically denied the opportunity to tap the out-of-school literacy skills that they bring to the classroom.

Sure, college classrooms often have wider access to technology and more tolerance for digital tools in the classroom. Still, I wonder how often students end up “powering down” just when they could gain the most from using the 21st century gadgets they have with them.

For the sake of argument, consider that Ed Week article again, and let’s say you have a group of colleagues or graduate students you’d like to share it with. Those of us who have the luxury of powering up when and where we want to can get to the article online a full week before those consigned to leave technology outside the classroom door.

Not quite the same situation that students face, but the point stands. When students are asked to “power down” as they enter the classroom, they are leaving critical thinking tools behind. So here’s a challenge: ask the students you teach two questions:

  1. What technology would you use now in this classroom that you do not currently?
  2. How and why would it make a difference to your work?

Their answers have the potential to revolutionize the classroom, and all it may take is powering up the technology they bring with them to make powerful changes in their learning.

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Categories: Student Success, Teaching with Technology
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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!

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Categories: Document Design, Learning Styles, Professional Conferences, Student Success, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Plagiarism Workshop

posted: 12.9.08 by Nick Carbone

Presented to the Cuyahoga Community College English Faculty

“Steal This Talk” Part 1 of 8
Losing Voice: The Threat of Plagiarism.

“Steal This Talk” Part 2 of 8: We Were All Freshmen
“Steal This Talk” Part 3 of 8: Plagiarism Statements: Do’s and Don’ts
“Steal This Talk” Part 4 of 8: Problematizing Plagiarism
“Steal This Talk” Part 5 of 8: Helping Students Not Hang Themselves
“Steal This Talk” Part 6 of 8: Research: What Might It Mean
“Steal This Talk” Part 7 of 8: The One True Source
“Steal This Talk” Part 8 of 8: The Benevolent Panopticon

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Categories: Plagiarism, Student Success, Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology, Working with Sources
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