Pre-reading for the novel

For research, the computers in my classroom were great. And I can see how a class on a novel would be interesting. “Search the net and find four articles that would be interesting/useful for someone who wanted to learn more about the background of this novel.”

Actually, now that I wrote that, I am thinking that might be a good pre-reading suggestion. We’re doing Frankenstein in Freshman 2. What if I gave that as a pre-reading assignment? That might really work.

Surfing in the Classroom

Ticklish Ears has a discussion up about surfing the web during class. He and Professor Flanders both were thrilled by that.

I’ve only had one classroom in a computer room full time. It was a remedial writing course. And my students surfed the web a lot. Normally for games they could play, rather than listening to the discussion about the grammar they were going to have to work with. Then they would ask questions, when they got to the work. It wasn’t because I didn’t explain or give examples. It was because they were playing games.

Now for research, the computers were great. And I can see how a class on a novel would be interesting. “Search the net and find four articles that would be interesting/useful for someone who wanted to learn more about the background of this novel.”

Actually, now that I wrote that, I am thinking that might be a good pre-reading suggestion. We’re doing Frankenstein in Freshman 2. What if I gave that as a pre-reading assignment? That might really work.

Teacher Frustration

Robert at Franklin College writes about the frustration of teaching students who want you to show them exactly what to do each time they do it. They don’t want to learn how to do it. They want you to show them.

I have been in this situation, but thankfully not often because Texas does not allow the college teachers to talk to the parents. And that is probably just as well. I got an email from a parent explaining why her child was not in class, but it was a different excuse than the one the student gave.

I grade them for showing up, even though it is college. Because I got so tired of people coming only to turn in papers and then asking me why they are doing poorly. Right now attendance is only 5% of the grade, but that is enough to make them pay attention.

My brother, a brilliant man but a horrid student, asks why I care if they come. But I do. If they are there, then maybe they will see when they need help and ask for it. If they aren’t, then the papers coming back to them are way too late to give them the big picture.

Pass them all!

According to the New Economist a study done in France in 1968 says that if you pass all the students in public school, that more of them will go to college. And if you make it easy for them to get in to college, they’ll stay there.

Okay. I didn’t read the study. But that’s been done here and I lived with the results for a while. (Thankfully not long.)

In 1979 Louisiana had a law. The law said that if you graduated from a LA high school, you were automatically admitted to any public LA college. Okay. I met my roommate after reading a note she wrote telling me she would be glad to “meat” me. She dropped out before the semester was over, as did half the freshmen, because they didn’t have the qualifications to be where they were.

And if, as the French group did, the first years at college were all passed, what good would that do to the students who get to the junior year and can’t read? Who can’t write? All it would do would be to make colleges get some money. And most public colleges are also public supported, at least in Texas, and that means I’d be paying for these kids to go to college, as well as high school where they aren’t forced to learn anything.

No. I think going to college does not prove that something was successful. Graduating from college and getting a job might be, but not going.

Note: I read later in some other blog that the students all graduated from college and got better jobs than they would have without college. So this isn’t exactly the same as La.

Teaching Writing

What Jenny D thinks she found:

“That in 4th grade, in our disadvantaged schools, kids who are taught writing have better reading achievement. What kind of writing? Syntax, sequencing, grammar, spelling, editing, rewriting. Not prewriting or practice writing.”

I am very interested in this, as I teach writing from grades 6 through college. But I am not sure, since I am out of academics, what exactly these words mean.

Note: I took my first quiz in my first PhD rhet and comp course. And I was ready for it, or as ready as I knew how. I had read all six of the articles multiple times. I had read every source quoted in the articles. I had read every source mentioned in the lectures in which we were given the articles. But I didn’t understand that all six articles were talking about the exact same thing, just using different words. So, while I have some meaning for those words (and hope that some of them are universal), I am not sure I totally understand.

Ha! I am not alone. She wrote in an earlier post, scrolling down, “Hell, we don’t even have an agreed upon vocabulary of words to describe teaching practices.”

Citing the Web

Since I teach college English, I often have students who have to cite things they've found on the web.

Today we were talking at home about the fact that a fourth grade son of a friend had to cite works he used in a paper and didn't know how to cite the web.

(There's a story in how when you talk about something it turns up. I've tried writing it. Maybe after my novel's done I can redo it better.)

Then today I was looking at one of the blogs I read and he talked about citing on the web.

Anyway, MLA citation rules for the web are here. They don't, you will notice, tell you what to do when you don't know whose site it is. (Common problem for my students.)

So, now that I've put it on my blog, you'll be having people asking you about citing sources off the net.

(MLA is the proper format for essays and research papers. It's the English version of rules for writing papers. There are others: journalism, psychology, etc.)

NOTE: This is a different site. I couldn't get the other to open either.

6 Types of Questions for Creating a Test

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create different questions.

1. Begin with the simplest. Remembering.

These questions would use words like: Acquire, Define, Distinguish, Draw, Find, Label, List, Match, Read, Record.

For freshman comp, for example, this would be: Define two kinds of papers we wrote in class.

2. Understanding.

This is where you had to read/listen and make sense of the information.

The questions would use words like: Compare, Demonstrate, Differentiate, Fill in, Find, Group, Outline, Predict, Represent, Trace.

For comp and lit, an understanding question would be “Compare the treatment of women in Glaspell’s Trifles and Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour.'”

3. Applying.

This is where you employ information in new situations.

These questions would use words like: Convert, Demonstrate, Differentiate between, Discover, Discuss, Examine, Experiment, Prepare, Produce, Record

A sample question might be “Discuss how you could use your expertise in art to connect to the college community.” (It’s a useful idea and most of my lower income students were artists.)

4. Analyzing.

This is when you separate the whole and determine how the parts relate to one another and to the whole. It requires organizing.

Analyzing questions would include words like: Classify, Determine, Discriminate, Form generalizations, Put into categories, Illustrate, Select, Survey, Take apart, Transform

A sample question would be “We read four papers on feminism. How would you define feminism based on these works and how do the works illustrate feminism?”

5. Evaluating

This is when you make judgments based on criteria.

Words for these questions would include: Argue, Award, Critique, Defend, Interpret, Judge, Measure, Select, Test, Verify.

A sample question might be “Argue either for or against the inclusion of English writing classes as a requirement for all majors.”

6. Creating

This is where we put things together, reorganizing them to form a structural whole.

Possible wording for questions include: Synthesize, Arrange, Blend, Create, Deduce, Devise, Organize, Plan, Present, Rearrange, Rewrite

A possible question of this type would be: “We learned that Glaspell and Gilman had personal experiences that effected their stories. Using “The Story of an Hour” what can you deduce about Kate Chopin’s experience with marriage?”

Class-Based Value Differences

taken from JZ’s work, part of the whole. She said she doesn’t want her name on it yet. (And she still said that in 2007.)

Another Cultural Diversity Issue in the Classroom

The often unspoken personal hierarchy of values drives decision-making, and student responses to education. If we are to retain students from homes with generational poverty values, we must understand conceptual barriers to success. Community college teachers must plan strategies to optimize strength and bridge differences in order to release hostility and build trust. Understanding does not connote tolerance of unacceptable behaviors, as one of our unstated missions is to help students function positively in an academic and /or business environment dominated by middle class values.

From Melvin Kohn (1969) is this gem: “the essence of higher class position is the expectation that one’s decisions and actions can be consequential; the essence of lower class position is the belief that one is at the mercy of forces and people beyond one’s control, often beyond one’s understanding.”

In other words cause and effect obvious to middle-class may not be visible to persons from generational poverty. Middle class persons may label lack of action by persons from generational poverty as a personal deficiency such as “lazy” or “unmotivated” or having “low self esteem.” Persons from generational poverty may view middle-class community college culture as hostile and untrustworthy.

Possible scenario based on value differences across classes:
Teacher: “Come and ask me if you have problems.” (Values achievement)
Student has problems but never comes. (Values politeness and conformity, feels powerless over destiny)
Teacher labels student failure to ask for help as personal deficiency (Values self direction).
Student views teacher as hostile and drops class (Values relationship over achievement).