Posts Tagged ‘grad students’

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Three Hour Peer Revision–Help?

posted: 6.20.07 by Barclay Barrios

OK, so the grad students will have rough drafts of their final papers this evening. We’ll work together to come with a rubric for grading them and then they’ll do peer revision. But the class is three hours long so I’m trying to think of some more (useful) activities I can do around peer revision to help them make the final push on their projects. If you had three hours for peer revision, what would you do? Any suggestions?

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Peer Review, Teaching Advice
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What Is It About MLA?

posted: 6.14.07 by Barclay Barrios

What is it about MLA citation that makes it so impossible for students to learn?

Alternatively, what is it about me that makes me such a good learner (or is that “so anal-retentive” instead?)?

I gave the grad students a little MLA practice sheet. Nothing fancy, mind you. In fact, it was designed to just be the basics: citation with quotation, citation with quotation when author’s name used in the sentence, paraphrase, etc. I handed them the list of tasks at the end of class with a Starbucks gift card prize for the first student to email me the answers with no errors.

The gift card remains mine.

On some level I can understand. I think there’s something fundamentally unnatural about citation–it’s just not the way people think or write. When I’m able to step outside of my own geeky brain for a minute, I can see how alien the whole thing is. I imagine I would feel the way my students feel if I were in a chemistry class, dealing with notations and formulae. And yet, that’s the thing about formulae, right? I mean, they’re formulaic, which means you don’t have to think about it ’cause all you have to do is fill in the blanks. On the other hand, the formula only works if you know it.

Clearly, my grad students don’t know it yet. I got missing quotation marks, I got commas between the author and the page number, I got citations after a period, I got it all. Clearly we’ll be spending some more time on this in class, but I don’t know how else to explain it without making it dead dead boring. Anyone got some ideas?

I’m not fussy but perhaps I am fastidious. OCD? Nah. Anal? Perhaps. I’m not sure what it is in me that lets me learn how to do all this so correctly or maybe it’s better to say I’m not sure what it is in me that makes me learn how to do all this so correctly. Clearly, an issue for therapy and not for Bits. 😉

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Categories: Citing Sources, Classroom Challenges and Solutions
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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…

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Genre, Learning Styles, Teaching Advice, Visual Rhetoric
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