As you work on preparing Spring classes, you may be considering changes to accommodate newly-enrolled students who did not take prep courses. CETL is bringing you some suggestions in on-going training, and in tips from Developmental instructors who regularly work with struggling writers!
Today Roberta Chamberlain (Communications, Gibbs) shares a laugh over a common frustration as well as ideas on how to present assignments and corrections for comprehension:
What is the primary writing problem you see?
Students do not understand grammar, nor do they understand basic instructions. Students need examples for every instruction or they tune out or just don’t do it. They all think they are writers and do not understand corrections.
If you could fix only one thing, what would it be?
Remove all cell phones and electronic devices from every one of them! ; )
What problem do you find runs a close second?
Comprehension of instructions and the task. Students struggle with MLA format, how to use Microsoft word, general use of the computer, and keeping track of their work.
Do you distinguish between clarity/expressions issue and grammar? Or put another way, between content and execution? And if so, how?
Yes, I go over each paper and correct mistakes, give examples on how to fix mistakes, and often show them how to rewrite their sentence, so that it is grammatically correct. I help them regroup their thoughts into a logical format.
Do you give 2 grades or mark down for one?
I give a holistic starting score between 1-5 (3 is equal to a C) and show students their grammar/ writing errors and how to fix them. Students have the choice of fixing their work and sending it back to me for a .5 higher score each time they rewrite. I will accept as many rewrites necessary to get an acceptable paper.
I require papers to be typed and sent as attachments to emails. This also lowers the frustration level because they type their paper once and make corrections to the same paper. I get them to correct their work several times which helps with the writing process and producing an acceptable paper. When students have to hand write an essay, and then rewrite the same essay, they will not make the effort or only rewrite it once. Rewriting once defeats the purpose of the writing process.
In the past, I have had several students who did not do a research paper. It was too much for them, so I modified how they can get a grade and complete the assignment. I break apart the grading; see attached – How_your_research_will_be_scored-1
Besides the Writing Center, do you have a particular resource that students find really helpful? Particularly for online or independent study?
What works is one-on-one assistance. Students do not take the advice if they do not understand the advice.
Any other tips or tricks you’d like to share? Mnemonics, memory techniques, visualization, metaphor, diagrams, song, story?
I show students an example paper of what I expect for each assignment and how to write it. I go over the example paper showing them all the parts and what needs to be written in each paragraph. I also get permission from past students to use their writing as examples. Of course I delete their name.
I use PowerPoints which I make available to students on Angel after I have gone over the information in class. I use movies that I have bought and videos from YouTube.
How do you address writing anxiety?
I give students several chances to fix their work to improve their grade. If the topic is too difficult, I modify it or let them modify it but the basic theme of the topic must not change. Example: Should teachers be allowed to carry guns? If they can’t write on this topic, they can change it. Do teachers have the right to protect themselves and their students? The topic of teachers and self-defense is the writing assignment. Students can manipulate that any way they want so that they can write an essay. When they have a choice in modifying the topic, then their anxiety level decreases. I only do this with severe writing anxiety students. In 8 years I’ve only had to make this modification twice. Both times the students were special needs students.
How do you encourage a reluctant student?
I try to make the topics fun, interesting and relevant. I use topics that I think all students can write about. If the topic is too difficult for them to write about, I tell them to make up a story. When I tell them that it does not have to be a true story, make – it – up, that helps them to be creative and write a story. When they do not have to write about themselves that will sometimes be a relief for them.
I believe they can all be successful if they try, and if they turn off that cell phone!