Teaching: Reading and Writing

At the community college, I always have the reading for the class period listed in the syllabus. We don’t read the whole thing. I hit the highlights and give personal examples. Some of these are creepy (on purpose) because I know the creep factor on a thing increases its memorability. For example, I am sure you can ask my students about “esophagus in the pocket” and find out what I mean. Or ask them about murder confessions. Or secondary O rings.

I wonder, sometimes, if using the books in this way is a good idea. But I always figure that if they have the readings and they didn’t understand what I said, they can go back and puzzle it out from the book. I doubt many of them do.

One new thing I am doing this summer is Journaling. They have to answer questions over the readings we do in class. So they either have to listen or they have to re-read the works. And I get a much clearer sense of their writing ability.

I already know who is going to have trouble with this class, even if they give it their all, because of their lack of understanding about grammatical writing. I don’t have grammar exercises in the class, per se, but I may begin offering bonus points for answering additional questions without the grammar problems. Or I might require that they fix their problems. Unfortunately, it is very easy to fix what I mark. The student knows exactly what is wrong.

But I’m not sure they could find the problems if I wrote “six misspellings, four fragments, three comma splices, and two run ons” on their papers. It’d make it a treasure hunt of a different sort.

I might try that, though, at least once, on their journals. It might encourage them to at least use the spell checker on their computer. (On the paper referenced above, that would have gotten them 12 points higher on their grade.)

Most of the students are attempting to and succeeding in answering the questions. The problem is their grammar. That’s new, actually. More often I have the problem of most people not turning in their work. I have one student who hasn’t typed anything, which has cost him 45 points so far, but he’s done the work. Even most people who missed the second assignment went back and did it, for 20 less points.

I want to teach these students well. Any suggestions on what worked for you?

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