assignments ENGL301 Writing & The Teaching of Writing:
Research in Teaching Diverse Students
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Crowd-sourcing Comments from Book Club Presentations: Another way to comment on work that is more assessment than evaluation is by collecting all of the feedback data you have from students and presenting it as one evaluation of all of the presentations at once. This way comments that are rough sting less, and everyone benefits from feedback so that their next presentation is stronger. This is one way to give feedback to a class about presentations that makes the class the loudest voice in the assessment. Also, this kind of feedback makes the audience besides the teacher matter and demands that the audience be attentive and thoughtful. What follows is a collection of observations about the book club presentations.
- None of you mentioned this except I think one person, but I wrote this over and over again—I’m not sure why people spent that much time on summary of the book when we all read the same book. I’ll take the hit for it. It’s in the assignment. I mentioned in class that it wasn’t necessary since we are all reading the same book, but lesson to me, lesson for all of us, if it’s in writing students will do it. If it’s not, they won’t.
- People uniformly appreciated the use of technology from the group whose students had ipads. Literally every single person liked the idea of using the app in class (and I agree—if they have the technology it makes sense to use the technology).
- A majority of students had concerns about a focus on communities—dividing students up into different groups from the book. Amelia F pointed out the worry that over half the class expressed: that students would build their profiles based almost exclusively on stereotypes, which doesn’t help with reading the text or the world. And I had that exact same concern.
- The role of historical context was interesting. Most people really liked it and liked that the group made such a point of talking about it. There were a few folks who felt like it was too much dumping of information—or that students didn’t need that much historical context to red the book. I think it was Greg who said that students could figure out how to find out a lot of that information on their own, and I tend to agree: the less you give students, the more you make them do, the better off they are. It builds resilience and independence and figure-it-out-iveness.
- Related to this, the collaboration with the history department was a big hit. That kind of stuff is a lot of work (that’s me talking), but worth the effort if you can make it happen. History is a good ally because they are often the only other department that takes the work of teaching writing and research seriously. There was a dissenting voice who did not think this would be helpful. They didn’t elaborate though.
- People liked the food idea by and large. The class identified what the group also identified as the reason for it: it gives folks a way to talk about the book, bring in student’s own experiences, and in some ways avoid talking about all the difficult issues the book raises. What I liked most about this was the idea that you could have students bring in food to the class—family food that is meaningful to them. You could even do like a parent’s night thing. It would be a pain in the rear for working mothers, but since I wouldn’t ask them to do it all the time, maybe it would work. Or maybe I’d just have to cook a bunch of different dishes from places that represent what I know about my students. Either way: a chance to eat in class.
- On the other hand, I would say about a quarter of the class pointed out that avoiding talking about race was perhaps not really the point. Amelia W. did a good job of summarizing that concern. And I agree with that too. In my own notes I wrote “Anne Frank.” For me, that’s a cautionary tale: I once saw a teacher ask students to write “about a time they felt trapped” and, of course, many kids wrote about being grounded or accidentally locked in a room. So as way to understand how Anne Frank probably felt about not being able to pee all day because the Nazi’s might here and gas your whole family, well, you can see how that’s not really what you want to do. So it’s tough. It’s a difficult and important balance to strike.
- Some of the other things that appeared occasionally: some folks mentioned the speed meetings. I LOVED that. I do a version of that with thesis statements. Several folks liked the time line (though some people were confused by this). Learning stations got a shout out too, and I love that idea as well. A larger group of folks voiced appreciation for movement in general in the classroom. Moving is good. Oxygen to the brain, that sort of thing.