Hey all! Sorry for the break – it’s been a last bit of school into summertime with a toddle chaos. One of my goals this past year was to really figure out what our students needed to know about literacy. We always seem to preach that “you’ll need this in college!” but are we truly teaching what they need for college? My focus was on writing skills in particular and I targeted a local college (my alma mater too!) to start the conversation. I was lucky enough to schedule a coffee chat at the library in town with the Freshman Writing coordinator and lead professor. Below is a breakdown of what I gained from the first of my college professor conversations and how I hope to implement specific changes in my own classroom.
One of the first parts of our chat was getting to know what we taught – I learned that this college has had a significant increase in the number of students who are entering with a lower understanding of literacy skills. Now this could be a matter of students with disabilities who need additional resources and support or students who struggled with literacy concepts but are not considered a student with a disability. She also noted that students were scored by a number of professors in the department before being placed in either class. The support class a few years prior was a non-credit class but has since changed. This college professor brought along TONS of goodies for me to use in my own classroom and explained that many of the required texts are the same for both class structures but the expectations for students differ.
The meat of our conversation was centered around my questions and particularly, “what are students doing well? what are students struggling with in terms of writing?“.
She listed the following for students who are doing well:
- they read the question carefully which in turn means answer the entire question (not just the first part)
- they provide a clear answer to the question
- they ask what the expectations are for the assignment and what the instructor expects for the assignment (few accept “first, second, third” as transitions)
- they use transitions as topic sentences
- they paraphrase well or use direct quotes with significant analysis (no “quote bombs!”)
- they pay attention to particular words – either those that are overused or content specific vocabulary
- they use details and sources well – overuse of one source is avoided
When asked what are the characteristics from students who tend to struggle with literacy, she noted a few items:
- they do not see the benefit in reading or do not enjoy reading
- they struggle to come to a clear answer and tend to provide both points of view instead of selecting one
- they tend to stick to one idea throughout an entire paper
- they often repeat the question – either within an answer or as a part of transitions
- they use very basic transitions that do not connect well with topic sentences
- they are not clear with details and tend to overuse a few general sources
The point of our conversation about students who struggle wasn’t to bash but instead to see what I need to do as a teacher to ensure that my high school students are getting what they need to do well at a college level.
I’m going to be using two of the resources she provided directly in my classroom – they are “The Everyday Writer” by Andrea A. Lunsford and “They Say, I Say” by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. These focus on the specifics of writing with careful attention to how to skillfully craft an argument. I’m also going to be reviewing and practicing more MLA style pieces and also throw in an APA style assignment for my Honors students. Both of these resources are super high school student friendly and I honestly felt like I won the lotto! This professor also provided a college publication of some of the best written pieces for the year – I’m going to be amping up the modeling and using these pieces to help students determine what was done well, what could be improved upon, and how they can use some of the techniques in their own writing. This will be combined heavily with the “Semester Writing Goals” assignment that I posted about HERE.
My students last year noted on their end of the year surveys that they wrote more in my class than in their ELA class – I don’t foresee that changing but I do predict that my own teaching methods will gain momentum!
What are you doing for your summer teacher assignment? Have you use any of the books listed above? Have you hit up Target yet for the unnecessary classroom decor and supplies yet?