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?
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!
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:
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
In my English 5, Critical Thinking classes, I often ask students to find opinion-based articles in topic areas of their interest. I ask them to do this, so that they go out into the world and begin to look at topics as debates or discussions that they can then analyze to deepen their understanding of the issue and how each debate is being framed.
So, how do you do this?
To start, you need a general topic area and then narrow by choosing issues that are being debated an interesting to you. Once you have an issue, then start brainstorming the different people who might have different perspectives on an issue. For example:
- Topic: Professional Sports.
- Issues/Questions: How safe is playing football?; Should Division I athletes be paid? Why are professional women’s sports not watched or compensated in the same ways as men?
- Who might be interested in concussions: NFL Players’ Association, NFL owners, parents of high school football players, physicians, etc.
- Topic: Parental Leave for New Parents.
- Issues: How much time should be given to newborn parents to care for their children? How much should stay-at-home parents be paid to care for their child? Who should pay for that time? What are the emotional benefits for children? How does paternity/maternity leave affect the labor market? What do businesses gain (if anything)?
- What are the emotional benefits of parental leave for children? : Parents, educators, child psychologists, managers of employees, human resource experts, etc.
Now that you have some ideas of what issues you’d like to investigate and who might care about them, you can begin exploring library databases and other online forums to find people writing arguments about these topics. In some cases, like the parental leave issue, no one is going to say outright that it’s best for the child NOT to have their parents around for the first year, so you’ll have to think about other ways people ignore this issue or create a different argument to avoid it.
If you need help, please don’t be afraid to ask!