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Supporting The Struggling Writer

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First, a couple of notices:

Tomorrow,  Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 1:00pm ET, Dr. Bernard Bull, will share strategies for developing online courses that short circuit the potential for plagiarism. Register today for Stemming the Tide of Plagiarism in Online Classes,  brought to you FREE by TurnItItn.


Campus-wide  ‘MASTER YOUR CAPSTONE PROJECT’ to be held at Allstate Center October 24, from 6:00 – 8:30 P.M. in Lab Rooms 101 & 102 (First Floor) – If your students need to complete a Capstone Project, regardless of program, see Press Release for details or email Rasor.Carol@spcollege.edu no later than October 23, 2013


Mrs. Judith  Macdonald, MANOW for this week’s review, we discuss writing challenges, beginning with a review by Judith Macdonald (Communications, Clearwater) of her 2012-2013 CETL grant for self-paced supplement learning in English.

Describe your project.

For the mini-grant project, I designed a collection of self-paced English language lessons using SoftChalk for students enrolled in the English for Academic Purposes program (EAP) at SPC. It is titled SPC-ELL (Self-Paced Collection of English Language Lessons).

What was the chief accomplishment of your project? What problem did you solve? What program did you implement?

A couple semesters ago, I was looking for a way to provide extra support to some of my intermediate ESL students who were struggling in a few specific areas. I attended several of the WITS workshops and came away with lots of new ideas about how to incorporate video and audio into my course. I then tried embedding some videos and audio recordings that students could access outside of class, and they were very popular, but it was hard for me to know whether or not students were learning from them.

Then (thanks again to WITS) I learned about SoftChalk – a software program that lets you create your own lessons that can incorporate audio, video, and many other interactive activities (such as sorting, drag & drop, quizzes, and more). Over the course of a couple semesters, I began building a collection of English grammar lessons.

My students have found them to be very helpful because they can watch and listen to the lessons on their own time, at their own pace, and as often as they want. The interactive activities give them immediate feedback so they (and I) know if they are learning. SoftChalk lessons can be linked to the Angel gradebook, so when my students complete a lesson, I get their score automatically. No more wondering if they just clicked their way through a PowerPoint!

What were the results? Did you see a numeric increase, a qualitative improvement? Can you describe it?

I think the best unexpected result is that these lessons have allowed me to differentiate instruction and provide individualized support to students. For example, if I know a student is having trouble with one particular grammar topic, I can direct him/her specifically to that lesson and I don’t need to spend class time on it just for one or two students who may be struggling.

Each semester, I survey my students to find out if they feel these SoftChalk lessons have been helpful, and the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Many students access the lessons five, six, or more times throughout the semester on their own. The other benefit is that by incorporating audio, video, text, and hands-on interactive activities, the lessons are more likely to engage all kinds of learners. Not everyone likes to read pages and pages of text, and not everyone learns by watching a video or listening. With SoftChalk, you can create multi-modal lessons for all types of learners.

Here’s a link to a sample lesson – http://it.spcollege.edu/spcSoftChalk/macdonald.judith/PartsofSpeech/

Did YOU learn anything from the project? Did you make any changes to your teaching style or content?

As it turns out, I have been flipping the classroom since using these SoftChalk lessons. Basically, students experience my presentation at home before class, and then they come to class prepared to engage in group work to practice and apply the concepts they learned about. Class time has become more interactive, fun, and interesting.

Can another teacher use your project? How can they implement your learning?

One goal of my mini-grant project was to make the lessons available to other instructors (both ESL and non-ESL) as well as to students after they leave my class. With the help of Karen Fritch from WITS, the lessons will be made available soon to any faculty or students who want to access them through the SPC Libguides. My hope is that faculty who teach “regular” classes (non-ESL) will provide a link to these lessons in their courses for any non-native speakers enrolled in their classes. Many times, these students just need a quick refresher on a certain grammar topic to significantly improve their writing and presentations.

Do you have plans for a follow-up project/additional research? If you did a grant again, what would you change? What would you do differently?

I am hoping to apply for part ii of the grant to add 5 more lessons this year so there are 10 lessons in the collection.

Thank you, Professor Macdonald, for sharing your experience. Share your experiences or questions about developing and implementing supplemental curriculum with your peers in the comments section below!

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