Retrospective S15 Stretch FYC 1

106 is a stretch course. Students complete the assignments for the first semester of first year composition over the course of two classes, two semesters.

I think this class went well. I had some of the same students I had in the spring for 003, but not all of them. There were also a significant number of new students (or at least new to me).

We had some challenges to overcome. We had three students who should have been taking 003. All of them were international students. Two of them were athletes. Unfortunately with only three students, an 003 class did not make. What we decided to do, which worked for this semester, but would not be a good idea all the time, is that they would be in 106 and if they passed, they would receive credit for 106. If they failed, but completed all the work and made a reasonable effort, they would receive credit for 003. All three of the students passed. They were highly motivated, worked hard, and came in for additional help.

On the subject of athletes, while I’ve had some of the best students as athletes, one this semester in this class never found out what the work was ahead of time and always turned it in late. It didn’t destroy their grade, but it was a poor choice on their part. I tried to encourage a change; it did not take.

This semester’s literacy videos were good. Some stood out for excellence.

The visual rhetoric paper went much more smoothly this semester, after having adapted the parameters to not allow for poor choices to wreck the essay. (This was a change based on last spring’s classes.)

This class worked together well in groups.

Oddity:
This may not be an oddity. I may just perceive it that way. None of the essays (or the grammar) were consistently higher. The very different tasks in the three essays and in the sentence-combining exams meant that everyone shone in their own particular sweet spot. There was not an incremental improvement in grades across the semester.

Issue:
The most difficult part of this class was the grammar. We used a book which was supposed to be presenting grammar and writing options in a narrative (which it did) that was accessible to the students (which it was not). They struggled with the ideas, the vocabulary (which was not particularly well explained), and the application. Pedagogically grammar exercises are not as helpful/enriching as they should be. Students know the rules but are not adept at applying them to their own work. Obviously with exercises it isn’t even their own work.

Note: Last year the grammar grades, despite their difficulty, were most often students’ highest grades. This semester that did not happen as frequently. There were perhaps 5 for whom the grammar was the highest of their big weighted grades.

Resolution:
The Director of Composition knew that there are problems with the direction we have gone and solicited my ideas.

I suggested to her that we use Webster’s style enhancement guide. From previous teaching experience, I know that these are easier to apply to your own writing, so you see immediate results, and they do increase the level of sophistication in the writing—which is part of the goal of the grammar/writing options book we are using now.

I am not scheduled to teach 106 in the fall, so I will not be implementing the change in my classroom. I hope I will be able to use it in the spring of 2016.

Idea/s for next time:
Next time I teach the course I would like to use the 4-minute writing exercise in this class. I think that connecting the writing to the tasks for the day, as discussed in the 112 retrospective, would be very helpful. In addition, any writing that 106 students can do is good for them, imho.

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