Challenge: English at my new school was significantly different from any of the courses I had taught previously. I had never taught the four required papers. There was one option and I had taught that, so I chose to use it. It was the definition/illustration essay.
Success: I introduced abstract and concrete nouns using web sources on the projector, though students with mobile devices opened their own and bookmarked them.
I gave examples of definition/illustration papers, both off the net and from previous students. These helped my freshman understand what I was looking for. The classroom blog had numerous example paragraphs for definitions and illustrations and I provided links to these.
Tech: Students looked up definitions for abstract nouns on their mobile devices in class. They looked up three sets of definitions for three different abstract nouns and chose one of the abstract nouns to write their papers on.
To do: I was so involved with the technology aspects of the class (blogging and web searches), that I did not use any of the excellent activities which I have created over the years to introduce the definition/illustration paper. I think that using the riddles, at least, would be a helpful addition to my next 111 class.
Also, I assumed (wrongly) that they would already know how to write bibliographic entries. Next time I will spend part of a class period explaining MLA style BEFORE the paper is due.
Hurdled: Once the definition/illustration papers were turned in, and I realized they did not know or understand MLA style, I treated the paper as a first version. I gave the papers significant comments, passed them back graded, and allowed students to rewrite for an improved grade.
Tech: I introduced an evaluation websites unit and the students had to find a website in an area of their expertise which was poorly done or had problems based on the criteria from Cornell, NMSU, and Berkeley. These were presented in class in one to two minutes.