Posts Tagged ‘handbook’

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Choosing a Textbook—or Not

posted: 10.22.10 by archived

As my fellow procrastinators know, you can wait until the morning of the first class meeting to finalize much of your course design. Some pesky details, like the titles of the essays you will read or the particulars of assignments, can be set or changed midstream. Not so with textbook orders, which generally need to go out no later than a few weeks before the semester begins. As I wrote in a blog post three years ago, my default mode had been no textbook, but it’s a decision I revisit each semester and for each different course. When doing so, I have to consider the following factors.

The student perspective. In my regular-track first-year writing class this week, I asked students if they read their textbooks; one student raised her hand and the others laughed. So, when I’m preparing this developmental class, I have to wonder whether requiring a textbook will give students practice in a skill they need to develop, or will simply require them to spend hard-earned money on something they won’t use. [read more]

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Categories: Community College issues, Holly Pappas
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Err-O-Meter

posted: 4.28.08 by Barclay Barrios

In my classes, some kinds of errors are more serious than others.  Errors that impede meaning (such as sentence fragments) are for more detrimental than the occasional missing apostrophe.  To help your students understand different degrees of error have them work collaboratively to create a “Err-O-Meter” that measures the seriousness of different kinds of errors.  If you have them create these scales in small groups you can also have a discussion about why groups chose different errors as more or less serious.  Use this exercise to then create a guide to the most serious errors, having students include tips for checking for the error and listing the section of the handbook that addresses it.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Punctuation & Mechanics
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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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Bad Cover Letters

posted: 3.18.08 by Barclay Barrios

There are a number of sites on the Web with examples of bad cover letters. Have your students review the material on cover letters in the handbook and read these examples of what not to do. Use this to prompt a discussion about the important elements of a cover letter or ask your students to revise a bad cover letter to make it more effective.

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Categories: Business Writing, Document Design, Revising, Teaching with Technology
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Wikipedia Manual of Style Check

posted: 3.4.08 by Barclay Barrios

Have your class review Wikipedia’s style manual. Ask them to look for areas that seem to depart from general grammatical usage or areas that seem particularly important. Have them compare these areas to the handbook and then use this to start a discussion about the socially constructed nature of grammatical rules in general and the reasons why a project like Wikipedia would be invested in a particularly uniform style.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Teaching with Technology
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Attack of the Grammar Nazis

posted: 2.25.08 by Barclay Barrios

Ask your students to hunt down grammatical errors in the real world: business signs, newspaper articles, song lyrics, and more. For each error they locate, they should also locate the section of the handbook that addresses the issue. Use this also as an opportunity to discuss the contexts that make error-free writing most important.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Business Writing, Grammar & Style, Popular Culture
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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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Write for Wikipedia

posted: 2.15.08 by Barclay Barrios

As an exercise in collaborative writing and as a way to have students deepen their understanding of a text, have your class work collaboratively to propose, update, or modify an entry about the current essay or author for Wikipedia. If your handbook has information on collaboration, you might first ask students to read that section. You can also use this as an opportunity to discuss plagiarism—why is it OK to collaborate on this kind of writing but not on a paper? You can broaden the conversation to include the role of Wikipedia in academic research and writing.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Plagiarism, Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology
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5 ways I help students with organization

posted: 1.31.08 by Barclay Barrios

I find that students often have trouble writing papers with strong organization. Sometimes, in fact, it feels like they could swap around all the body paragraphs and it would be the same paper—they don’t logically lead one to the other. Here are some exercises I use to help students focus on the organization of their papers:

1. Paragraph to Paragraph Transition
The most solid transitions, I suggest to students, comes from a statement that directly ties together two paragraphs. Start by having students review the material on transitions in the handbook. Then try this exercise. Have students take two paragraphs from their drafts. Ask them to write a one sentence summary of the first paragraph and then another one sentence summary of the second paragraph. Students should combine these two sentences into one, forming a strong and specific transition.

2. Rearrange the Order
Strong organization is self-evident. That is, when a paper is well-organized each paragraph clearly has a place in the whole. Have students test their organization by bringing in a draft for peer revision with the paragraph order switched around. If their peers cannot reassemble the original order then they need to work on transitions and organization.

3. Model Transitions
Have students locate examples of effective transitions in the current reading. Discuss what makes them effective—is it just the use of transitional words and phrases or is there a sentence pattern at work here? Have students apply what they learn by modeling one of these effective transitions in their current drafts.

4. Trail Markers
Trail markers make sure you don’t get lost in the woods; students can use the same technique to mark the trail of their arguments in their papers. Have students underline key sentences in each paragraph that “point the way” to the larger argument and/or to the next paragraph. If they can’t find sentences that work in that way, then that paragraph might represent someplace their readers might get lost.

5. All Outta Outlines
The strongest organization feels inevitable. Help students to locate that level of organization by having them produce multiple pre- or post-draft outlines, each with a different possible organization; you might in fact ask them to outline until they can’t outline any more. Do some points always need to come before others? Do they need to introduce a term, for example, before discussing it? Looking at multiple organizations can help students see the one that makes the most sense, the one that seems most inevitable.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Grammar & Style, Writing Process
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What’s Missing?

posted: 12.31.07 by Barclay Barrios

At midterm, ask students to review the work they’ve produced so far and also the handbook being used in class. What errors have they made and what problems have they experienced in their writing that the handbook hasn’t addressed? In small groups, have them share these lists and then as a collaborative project ask students to write material to address these concerns. Share the results with the whole class in order to extend the handbook.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Handbooks
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