Engligh 204, Fall 2013: “Our Experiement”

At the beginning of each term, I try to write a new introduction to my syllabus for each class. One reason is that I like to think about the material we’ll be covering in some interesting and new way, and I like to share a bit of my first thoughts with students through this writing. Here’s an example from Fall 2013:

Our Experiment

For many years, community colleges thought that it would be best to have as many levels of math or composition below college transfer English to address the needs of students with different abilities. Some campuses, like CCSF, built 6 classes below transfer, which meant that it would take about 2 years just to get into a transfer class (and this assumes that a student would take all of the classes in order without skipping a semester, failing, or just giving up). A few instructors thought this seemed ridiculous and conducted a study. Well, not surprisingly, creating more classes and longer periods of time before getting into “real college” didn’t work; students failed, skipped classes, dropped out, and gave up. That model, which still exists on some campuses, is now considered a failure.

To combat this problem, these researchers offered a solution: accelerated learning. Rather than create more levels below transfer, they hypothesized that if they could create fast-paced, intensive courses that would move students to transfer-level as quickly as possible and with as much support as they could afford, students would be “college ready” faster. And, in their trials, they found this to be true. At BCC, the English department has taken this research to create English 204.

What makes this course special is that all students who assess below transfer, or who decide they don’t feel ready for English 1A will have 4 hours of classroom instruction and 4 hours of time in a lab with the instructor and tutors each week. They will be doing the same work that is assigned English 1A but with a great deal more support. At the end of the semester, along with every other English 1A & 204 student, you will turn in a portfolio of your writing that will be graded by two faculty from our department, and if you demonstrate English 1A competence, you can earn credit for that course.

As with all new things, along with all of the energy and enthusiasm we generate to make things work, there will be plenty of mistakes and confusion; I am asking for your patience and forgiveness to make it through the tough times, and for your energy and enthusiasm to help us achieve our goals.

Welcome to the class!

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“How Is That Helping Us?”

In The College Fear Factor by Rebecca Cox, Chapter 4, titled “How Is That Helping Us?” discusses this common problem that I see in so many students: unrelatability. Basically, it’s a form of not being able to connect the content of a class, text, or idea to their own lives. When students don’t see the connections, don’t feel like they can relate or connect it, then they lose interest along the way.

In community college, there might be some of the old school folks who demand that students work hard whether or not they connect or relate to a text, or then there are the newer school folks who will do everything they can to make things relatable. These are both interesting approaches to a bigger question: How does one build or practice the skill of relating?

I think different reading programs discuss this as connecting information to prior knowledge, which is exactly what students need to practice. Figuring out how they relate even if at first glance they’re not “feeling it.” What’s tough is that there’s some non-discussed emotional component to all of this, and I think that’s what I want to try to work on in the future!

How do we feel when we relate? How do we create that opening individually, in a classroom? How do we model it? How do we practice it?

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Beautiful Struggles…

As I was reading some of my students’ first bits of writing to me, I decided that there was some beauty in what they had written, and that I wanted to share it, anonymously, with the world, so I posted a few of them on Twitter under these hashtags: #beautifulstruggle #bccfearfactor. Enjoy!

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List of resources for writing essays using Diigo

I’ve been slowly gathering different online resources that would be helpful for students writing essays, and I just discovered Diigo has an outlining function that helps organize all of those resources into an outline. Here’s the beginning of my outline that I hope will help students looking for different resources:


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Eng 5 DIY-U Presentations from Spring 2014

Here are some of the Prezi-casts from my Spring 2014 English 5, Critical Thinking course. Students were asked to build their own post-secondary education system. Here’s the assignment: Unit 3: DIY-U

Scopetra — Nautica

Creating Universities that Actually Cater to Students — Elisha, Jackie, Azquena, and Farzana

Athletic Academic Academy — David, Phillip, William, and Albert

Increasing the Transfer Rate to Four-Year Institutions — Ed, Hyunjung, Ly, and Nate

The Twilight Zone — Annakaren, Alan, Chrissel, Doyeon

Industrial Network University — Meia, Haregua, Mike and Dan

Financial Problems for the Middle Class — Taylor, Louis, Yoori

Filling in the Gap — Gabrielle

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