8 Ideas for Improving my Freshman Comp Class

What I want to do is

  1. improve the level of useful information
  2. encourage more involvement, both emotional, mental, and academic on the part of my students for this class
  3. require a reasonable (based on what other teachers require) writing level
  4. integrate class time for student development
  5. increase student involvement in the school, the department, and the college

Things I can do to meet these objectives include

1. teach how to take notes

  • Demonstrate notetaking.
  • Explain notetaking.
  • Give multiple notetaking activities.
  • Give testing opportunities for the notetaking.

2. teach how to study for exams

  • Give the research
  • Go over the directions
  • Test over the information.
  • Test again later.

3. assign group work

  • Small tasks. Something I wouldn’t feel bad grading as a group.
  • Personal tasks, when they are working on opinions or about their lives.
  • Maybe small sections of a larger project where it is clear which portions belong to whom.

4. Choose the four most important, most interesting, or most often used writing assignments and work on those.

  • Definition/illustration paper, developed here
  • Research paper
  • Compare/contrast paper
  • Literary analysis, partially developed here
5. Tell them why.

I need to remember to explain my reasoning behind assignments. That made a HUGE difference when I was teaching cross-cultural English and when I was teaching how to express abstract thoughts well.

Hopefully it will encourage students to engage with the class if they know why an assignment has been made. Which means, of course, that I will need to have a reason for my assignments.

6. Assign the same number and type of papers that others in my department assign.

  • Find out by collecting syllabi.
  • Adjust number. (I used to have my students write 12.  Now they write 6.)
  • Adjust type. (My dept has a set of “higher level” essays students should do.)
7. If I want the students to write better, speak better, or think better, I need to allow time for that in class.
  • Model what I am looking for.
  • Have students give short presentations.
  • Create peer review sheets to help them think about each other’s writing.
  • Have them write.  Begin with small and build up from there.
8. Have assignments that require the students to get involved in the university.
  • Have them interview teachers who have been at university 10+ years.
  • Have them go to art gallery opening and write a descriptive paper over one of the works.

 

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