Student Learning Outcomes
In order to demonstrate their continuing development in college-level reading, critical thinking, and writing skills, English 90 students will
a. Read actively, in order to comprehend and summarize pre-college readings
b. Read critically, in order to analyze, evaluate and synthesize pre-college readings. Students will also explain how the social-cultural-historical context of both the reader and the text influence their meaning-making process
c. Write expository essays which integrate and synthesize course readings and are clearly focused, fully developed, and logically organized.
d. Compose their essays with sentences which display a developing syntactical maturity and whose meaning is not impaired by excessive grammar, usage and proofreading errors.
e. Gain an awareness of their own reading, thinking, and writing processes and monitor their learning.
My Grading System
English 90 develops reading, writing, and critical thinking skills through the process of writing. I believe that in order to assess student learning, reading, writing, and thinking assignments may be combined and evaluated as an overall learning process. Therefore, my grading system is heavily weighted on the essay with formative assignments that focus on reading and prewriting.
Final Essay and Writing Process: In general, I look for excellence in five areas of a final essay: thesis, development, support, organization, and mechanics. Because this course is geared to strengthen your writing skills, developing a personal writing process is critical to writing success. The writing process involves the multiple stages that you go through to achieve a final essay. These stages includebrainstorming, outlining, drafting, editing, proofreading, and revising. Essays are evaluated on quality of the final essay and the number and quality of the stages completed in order to achieve the final product.
Grading breakdown for 90
Rubric for "A" work
An explanation of "A" level work
Rubric for "C" work
An explanation of "C"level work
I follow the rubric that I establish on the first class meeting, looking for excellence in the five areas discussed in the grading system window. I also include a section that helps me evaluate the process work that students include with every formal assignment: brainstorming, clustering, freewriting, summarizing, outlining, and rough drafts.
What am I really measuring?
I am continually experimenting with methods to help students evaluate their own writing process. My overall goal is to enable students to develop a personalized writing plan that will work for them in the competitive environment of the University. With this in mind, I have tried an assignment in the transfer-level English class (English 100) that critiques the research process only. I will attempt to develop a version of this assignment that is appropriate for the 90 level that teaches students what an effective writing process looks like. What I do now is to collect each stage of the writing process and comment heavily on the developing essay. I am wondering if students might be able to achieve this for themselves because what I am really evaluating is process and not product.
This is a sample of the evaluation worksheet that I use to communicate written feedback.
This is a rubric that I developed to evaluate process for the research assignment. I am considering adding a similar rubric to the rubric I currently use in English 90.
Discussion boards are my primary method to provide feedback to students. I also utilize this tool to enable students to communicate with each other. As the semester has progressed, the electronic discussions have been less instructor-directed and more student-driven, which mirrors the classroom dynamic. For example, as students grow in their academic ability, I provide them a space to explore themes and related texts more freely. I ask students to post their own questions for discussion, regarding a specific text, participating as one of the group. In addition, I provide written feedback and require students to visit me in office hours at least once during the semester. Towards the close of the course, students are encouraged to provide additional feedback on drafts in the form of highly directed peer reviews. Finally, by "norming" sample essays, students gain a sense of what it means to write an effective essay.
Are my students using what I provide them?
I am still experimenting with online group discussions. I intend to hone this aspect of the course to include requiring students to post the stages of their process as part of an ongoing workshop. In this way, I think that students will see themselves as writers rather than students. Next time I would like to require regularly posting self-assessments of their work, perhaps giving themselves a number score for each major assignment or at least a portion of their assignments. At present, I ask students to write a letter indicating what they did well and what is still unclear in regards to an essay. I feel that I could make this a more central part of the "wrap-up" for each assignment.
This is a student example of the metacognitive process as it relates to the prewriting of the essay. The sample is taken directly from the electronic group discussion board.
Major Writing Assignments
Students write a total of 4 major essays, plus one in-class essay administered on the last day of instruction. These essays involve the multiple stages of the writing process and demonstrate a variety of strategies. The major essays range between of 800 to 1500 words in length, not including the process work which is incorporated into each assignment. The following are the types of essays explored: Summary/Analysis, Argument, Synthesis, and an In-Class essay. This semester the In-Class essay combines patterns using one rhetorical mode with two organizing strategies.
Puente's approach to writing:Focus on writing as a processStudent centered; teacher's role is to become a model or coachStudent generated-topics within context established by the teacherWriting done in class: process of generating ideas, beginning drafts, responding to drafts, and learning editing skills in the context of a paperWriting for a variety of "real" audiences, particularly outside of the class: peer group responding and editingSeveral drafts are required so process can be evaluated and discussed
What's not working?
The last essay, Synthesis, has been the most challenging skill for students to master. However, I know that this is where I want to begin next semester with this group. I realize that I need more effective scaffolding for this assignment, which makes me revisit the idea of teaching Comparison/Contrast as a rhetorical mode.
They Say: Summary/Analysis
"They Say" is an assignment that helps students accurately identify arguments and practice representing those arguments in a combination of paraphrasing and quoting
They Say/I Say: Argument
"They Say/I Say" is an assignment that builds on the previous skill of accurately capturing what the writer has to say. Students are taught that to write an effective argument requires writers to respond to some other person or group following the formula They Say/I Say
Making Connections: Synthesis
Students are asked to utilize the skills of the previous two essays to draw conclusions about a theme using the arguments of two authors. This essay pushes students to support positions, using information that is outside of personal experience
Writing Process Assignments
As noted in the section titled "My Grading System," the writing process involves the multiple stages that you go through to achieve a final essay. These stages include but are not limited to brainstorming, outlining, drafting, editing, proofreading, and revising. However, I encourage students to develop a personal writing process, stressing that most writing is rarely a streamlined process. My larger goal is to provide scaffolding so that students have the confidence to begin and finish assignments.
The essay is achieved in steps with various supporting exercises taught as needed. These steps are often combined, interchangable, or omitted according to assignment guidelines:
Think SheetActive ReadingPrewritingSummaryQuoting and ParaphrasingMaking an ArgumentOutlineSloppy CopyRevisionProofreading
Supporting worksheet for proofreading step
Determing what you say
To introduce argumentation, I utilize templates that enable students to formulate a position on an idea presented in the text
This is the latest version of an outline workshop, a workshop that usually varies from assignment to assignment in which I include student outlines as examples. This is STEP 3 for most assignments
Variation of Sloppy Copy Prompt
This is a more advanced prompt for the sloppy copy step
Compose a Sloppy Copy
After significant scaffolding, discussion of the drafting process begins. This is an example of a typical prompt
Read Actively Worksheet
This worksheet scaffolds the active reading process and is completed as an in class reading workshop
Read Actively with SQ4R
SQ4R is a variation of a reading method that scaffolds the process of active reading. This is STEP 1 in all major writing assignments, stressing that effective writing begins with effective reading
Example of argument templates
This an example of a thesis template for the argument essay
There are several different prewriting activities introduced to students. Regardless of which method students choose, some type of prewriting is required for the final assignment. This is STEP 2 in all major writing assignments
This worksheet encourages students to envision the entire essay from start to finish
Quoting and Paraphrasing
As part of understanding what the author has to say, students are taught to correctly quote using the quotation sandwich
I begin each assignment with a Think Sheet that requires students to look carefully at the writing task
If available, I include student samples as part of the drafting process
Peer Review Workshop
If student samples are used, students are required to complete a peer review worksheet, using the student sample. Students are asked to assign a grade and use support from the essay rubric available through in the syllabus
Revision and Proofreading
This is an example of the instructions for the revision step for each essay
Revising and Editing Worksheet
Supporting worksheet for the revising and editing step
As needed, I incorporate a summary step, emphasizing the importance of understanding the text before you write
Critical Reading and Analysis
Students read at least one, but no more than two book-length works during this semester, with a formal essay assignment linked to this text. Additional writing assignments are linked to the articles and essays assigned in this course. For this reason, developing reading strategies that enable students to read effectively is critical to success. Reading preparation is evaluated in the Class Activities and Participation section of the grading breakdown for this course.
Reading competency is also evaluated as part of the writing process for each essay. Class discussion, regardless of content, always begin with a focus on the main ideas and responses to those main ideas. I incorporate significant scaffolding, encouraging students to own the text. Part of this process is to challenge students to approach the texts by suspending their own beliefs and by getting them interested in author backgrounds with supporting content such as videos or websites.
Because the Puente Program focuses on Mexican-American/Latino themes in literature, the reading that I have selected is crucial to sustain interest and create social awareness. Examples of texts that I have assigned are Pat Mora's "Desert Women" from Nepantla, Jimmy Santiago Baca's Martin poems, Judith Ortiz Cofer's "Myth of the Latin Woman," Sheryl Luna's Pity the Drowned Horses, and Javier Huerta's Some Clarification y Otros Poemas.
As stated, I strongly believe that writing and reading are uniquely connected. As a writer, I find that reading comprehension can be reinforced through the process of imitation. For this reason, I have experimented with auxiliary writing assignments in which students write poems as "imitation" of assigned poets.
How should I select appropriate readings?
As I begin to plan a course, I struggle to select just the right reading for students. Moreover, I am required to teach Mexican-American/Latino literature, which means I can not rely on established reading lists for most colleges. This fact has pushed me to begin carefully looking at the language, story, and themes of narratives that I chose. Developing a system to measure readibility is something that I will develop in subsequent courses.
Learning from textbooks
This website provides an introduction to learning from reading
Question Stems worksheet models question writing and is used with the Conversacolor exercise
How to mark a section of your textbook
This website illustrates effective annotating for students
College Reading Strategies
This website provides college reading strategies with a workshop included
Cornell Notetaking Method
This worksheet provides an overview of the Cornell method of notetaking
Remembering what you read
Tips for remembering what you read
This exercise has been pivotal in transforming class discussion and teaching students to read actively to create questions for both oral and written discussion
Self Portrait Writing Assignment
This assignment requires students to write a narrative poem in the style of Jimmy Santiago Baca's "Martin" poems
Strong Lines Reading Exercise
Reading exercise that helps student with comprehension of poetry
At the end of major writing assignment and units, students are quizzed on the larger issues covered in the texts assigned for that unit. I find that a mixture of questions such as true/false, fill-in-the-blank, and short-answer most effective in discovering what students have grasped from the text and class discussions. For this reason, I point out that it is important to participate, to take notes, and to review all class handouts as it will make passing the quizzes that much easier. Recently, I have tried changing my quiz formats to include reading quizzes. Reading quizzes are practice for in-class essay exams. Students are given a reading and asked to respond in an essay format. These quizzes are typed and formatted like any other writing assignments.
Example of Reading Quiz
This is most recent quiz format.
Example of quiz format
Unit 1 Quiz
Throughout the course and as needed students are guided through basic grammar concepts such as using independent and dependent clauses, identifying subjects and verbs, avoiding run-on sentences, avoiding fragments, making subjects and verbs agree, making simple and complex sentences, as well as, introducing commas and quotation marks as related to writing effective direct quotes.
I rely heavily on websites and powerpoints with accompanying worksheets to give students ample grammar practice. I prefer using game formats to keep students interested.
One of my favorite grammar websites put together by the BBC of all organizations
An online workbook that is organized into intuitive chapters leading to Mastery Quizzes to reinforce concepts presented
Grammar Quizzes from Commnet
Fantastic (and corny) powerpoints are available through this website
Run ons powerpoint
Example of a powerpoint from Commnet
Run ons worksheet
An example of a grammar worksheet
The Puente Program was launched as a grassroots initiative to address the low rate of academic achievement prevalent among Mexican-American and Latino students. The Puente model responds to low-performing patterns with three components: rigorous language arts instruction, sustained academic counseling, and mentoring by members of the professional community.
A Puente student is encouraged by the combined efforts of both the Puente instructor and Puente couneslor. The intensive focus on individual students assists with intellectual growth and emotional development. This model allows me to contact the counselor, for instance, in cases of excessive absences or low performance in the classroom.
How can I make Puente more successful?
The Puente model is a structure that pushes students to create a community of learning. Once a community is established students begin to rely on each other for academic and emotional support rather than the instructor and counselor. In this way, the creation of community serves to become a tool for personal empowerment. Using the concept of family, an idea that is central to this student group, Puente encourages students to create "learning families" with the belief that they will more likely transfer. Puente at Los Medanos College is growing. I realize that the more I can collaborate with college departments, the more resources I can provide to students; the more I know, the more my students will know.
Coping With Stress
Basic advice about dealing with stress
Visualization and Relaxation Exercise
Visualization and relaxation techniques
Keys to Being a Great Writer
Gems for good writing
Reading and Writing Center
Students are introduced to the Reading and Writing Center
The Puente counselor works in collaboration with the Puente instructor to help students create an Education Plan and to provide emotional support
Transfer Center Information
A primary goal of this program is to assist students to transfer to 4 year colleges and universities
Before any major assignment, I motivate students to continue to succeed despite the "spirit crushers." This lesson also asks students to express their "vivas," or what they are grateful for
Insights from Students
Both at the beginning and at the close of writing assignments, students are asked for feedback on their general understanding of concepts. For example, when students submit an assignment, I ask for a brief note explaining what they believe they did well and what is still unclear. I strive to maintain a supportive environment with the hopes that students will openly communicate concerns. These concerns are expressed via email or in person during office hours.
How do I incorporate insights into future assignments?
Data collection is important for the Puente program. In order to more accurately capture student insights, I intend to interview students about their first-year experiences. These interviews will then be transformed into Podcasts for a wider audience. Surveys and questionnaires are also underutilized in my classroom. Gathering student insights are a priority in the next phase.
I ask students to write me a note explaining what they feel they did well and what is still unclear.
I enjoy how gender plays into student responses.
This is something that I've tried in previous classes to bring the course to a close. I hope to incorporate this exercise into the 90
Puente's interdisciplinary approach combines acclerated academic writing and intensive counseling to provide a focused, sustained, stimulating learning environment. Community building is central to the Puente approach and should go beyond the classroom. For this reason, many of the activities engineered build spaces for students to interact and become independent. Student events and fieldtrips faciliate this development.
Puente's goals are to
Increase the number of underrepresented students who enroll in four-year colleges and universitiesEnable underrepresented students to earn college degrees and return to the community as mentors and leadersEmbrace a variety of social and cultural learning-styles to develop an environment that focuses on underrepresented student learningImprove college success and accessibility
In addition, I've incorporated discussion boards to provide alternative spaces for students who are reluctant to engage. Group pages are a way for students to meet others in a virtual space, to pose questions, and to discuss reading and writing.
How do I allow for student voice?
Student voice is difficult to develop, and I think that the key is to help students see themselves in others. With this said, I'd like to somehow combine the community building aspect of Puente with the discussion boards. I am hoping that this would be a way to integrate activities from the Personal Development course that is taught in conjunction with the English course. A private space to express anxieties, observations, or news in the form of a student directed website is a potential goal.
Student Leadership Retreat
Student Leadership Retreat flyer
Poet Speaks Event
This is an event hosted by Puente and a number of other campus departments. "Poet Speaks" is a two-day workshop and reading put on by an area poet. I strive to find individuals who are relevant to the Puente experience.
Puente Motivational Conference
The Student Motivational Conference is specially created for Puente students from various community colleges
UCLA Informational Presentation
Students from Puente joined students from Honors to attend the TAP conference hosted by UCLA. This is an informational presentation about UCLA put together by students who attended
Blackboard Group Pages
This is a screen shot of LMC's virtual classroom or Blackboard. This aspect of the course encourages students to interact beyond the classroom
This is an example of a group discussion board. Students respond to a question posted in the forum and respond to each other
Blackboard Home Page
This is the portal to the Puente online classroom. Through this function, students are able to communicate with the instructor and communicate with each other
Discussion board instructions
Collaborative Group Exercise
Jigsaws are another version of a collaborative exercise
Learning to Speak
This is an opening day exercise where I ask students to express the difficulties that they have experienced "learning to speak"
At the beginning of the course, process work is presented in the form of "steps" and are uniform for all students. I model what each step should look like through group exercises and workshop time. This is an example of a typical student process for the argument essay. At this point, the process has become more personalized.
Example Think of Sheet
Student Think Sheet
Draft, Final, and Evaluation
This is a student essay from draft stage through final essay and evaluation