ENGLISH (WRITING)

Back to Table of Contents for the On Course I Workshop

1. Strategy: Jigsaw

Application: Developmental Writing

Educator: Stacey DuVaul, Faculty, Writing, University of Arkansas-Forth Smith, AR

Implementation: When learning descriptive writing, students often struggle to understand the importance of details; therefore, I use the Jigsaw to demonstrate this importance. I begin with the Mark Twain quotation, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

In Step A, I put students into home groups and have them choose to become their group’s expert in one of four areas:

Expert #1: Connotative Word Choices—understanding the difference between denotative and connotative meanings of words.

Expert #2: Figures of Speech—using similes, metaphors, personification, etc.

Expert #3: Sensory Images—adding details of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

Expert #4: Organizing Details for Impact/Effect—using emphatic order to build the word picture and create that dominant impression that IS descriptive writing.

Students then begin developing their expertise by studying their chosen area in the course text

In Step B, students join their expert groups and discuss what they are learning about the descriptive writing skill of their choice.

In Step C, experts return to their home groups to teach their skill to their peers. Home groups then write a descriptive paragraph using all four elements and present it to the whole class.

2.Strategy: On Course Self-Assessment Inventory

Application: College Composition

Educator: Peggy Walton, Faculty, English, Howard Community College, MD

Implementation:  For the past 3-4 years, I’ve been asking students in my college composition classes to take the On Course Self-Assessment Inventory at the beginning of the class. Over the course of the semester, I have students analyze their Self-Assessment results, set goals for improving 3 of the Inner Qualities of Successful Students, and take actions towards those goals. At the end of the term, they retake the Self-Assessment and then write an essay in which they evaluate their growth in their three goal areas. Students truly benefit from this practice of self-directed learning–the goal setting, the work at attaining those goals, and the writing/reflecting about the process.

3. Strategy: Desired Outcomes/Experiences & Success Teams

Application: Developmental Writing

Educator: Amanda Pierot, Faculty, Developmental English, York Technical College, SC

Implementation: I have students identify their desired outcomes and experiences for my developmental writing course (e.g., be able to avoid sentence fragments, write more complex sentences, feel confident as a writer, make new friends).  Next I place them in groups of 3 or 4 students and have each group complete the Success Team Constitution. I give the teams 10 minutes per week in class to meet and hold each other accountable and encourage one another to take actions toward their desired outcomes and experiences. The resulting sense of community and positive relationships builds the students’ self-esteem as writers and provides motivation for them to keep up with assignments.

4. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: English Composition

Educator: Shari Pergricht, Counselor, Harper College, IL

Implementation: I co-teach a special section of an English Composition class with a focus on Holocaust literature. In the past, it was often difficult for us to ascertain the level of students’ understanding or engagement with the material, and I proposed that we use the Silent Socratic Dialogue as part of a class journal activity in the course. I just finished reading the journals this weekend and wanted to share some of the very gratifying comments students made about this activity:

  • I noticed quite a shift of energy, from lethargic to energetic, once I was encouraged to go deeper.
  • My emotions got more involved as I went on. I became more and more into my own world. I felt more solemn and in a way, calm.
  • I was most intrigued by a question my partner asked me because it was something I wouldn’t have thought of.
  • The most important thing I learned was how to go deeper into questions that I have to answer. I have never been asked to do this before.
  • I was really into it. I went so deep that I want to know more.
  • This activity made me think really hard.

All of the comments were positive; one student said she didn’t like the activity, but added that she still thought it was helpful, in spite of her discomfort with sharing her journal with another student. I would recommend using this exercise whenever a class is particularly quiet. We found that our students became more talkative after they had done this exercise.

5. Strategy: Graduation Game (Ring Toss)

Application: Introducing a Term Paper

Educator: Sonia Delaquito, Transfer Specialist, Reading Area Community College, PA

Implementation: The purpose of this activity is to help students realize the importance of planning and breaking a large project like a term paper into manageable chunks rather than tackling the whole project all at once (like the night before it is due). After playing the Graduation Game, ask student to imagine that they had been given a 10-page term paper to write. Ask students questions such as the following: What would be a 3-foot toss in writing a term-paper? What would be a 9-foot toss? What would be a 30-foot toss? What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing a term paper with 3-foot tosses? With 30-foot tosses? How did classmates respond when the players took 3-foot tosses… or much longer tosses? How did peer response influence the players? How have you approached writing a long assignment in the past… are you a 3-foot tosser or a 30-foot tosser?  How has that worked for you? How will you approach the upcoming term paper? How can you apply what you learned here to other classes and your life?

6. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: English 101 or 100A

Educator: Amy Nawrocki, Faculty, English, University of Bridgeport, CT

Implementation: Utilize the Silent Socratic Dialogue early in the semester to familiarize students with the process. Provide a handout with quotations (e.g., any of the pages of Timeless Wisdom quotations from the On Course I Workshop book). Have students choose one quotation and respond to it with free writing for 5- 10 minutes. Pair students and guide them through the Silent Socratic Dialogue, emphasizing that their questions should aim to help their partner probe more deeply and critically into the topic. For homework, have students write a first draft of their next essay. In the following class, pair students (perhaps with the same partner they worked with in the previous class) and, using their first drafts as the initial prompt, guide them once more through the Silent Socratic Dialogue. As before, encourage them to ask questions that will assist their partner to dive more deeply into the topic of the essay. For homework, have students revise their essays, answering some of the questions that were asked of them in the Silent Socratic Dialogue.

7. Strategy: Success Teams & Desired Outcomes and Experiences

Application: College Composition

Educator: Dick Harrington, Faculty, English, Piedmont Virginia Community College, VA

Implementation: Place composition students into critique groups of four; these groups function as success teams for the course. For all major writing projects, have each student write three desired outcomes and three desired experiences on Post-it notes and place them on the inside front cover of their notebook. When students achieve a desired outcome or experience, they move the Post-it to the inside back cover of their notebook. Provide examples of possible desired outcomes and experiences, and encourage students to focus on ones they consider to be especially challenging. A desired outcome might be, “I’ll achieve a workable focus by the time I submit a first draft to my critique group.” Another might be, “The draft I submit to my critique group for the proofing session will contain no more than five proofing errors.” Another could be, “During the critique in the second drafting session, no matter how defensive I may feel, I won’t act defensive and will listen to feedback.” A desired experience might be, “I’ll achieve the experience of fluency by writing the first draft very freely, expecting to rewrite and rewrite freely.” Another could be, “I will experience total confidence when I present my essay to my critique group.” Occasionally hold class discussions in which students share the desired outcomes and experiences they are working on; in this way, students hear additional examples of outcomes and experiences that they may not have considered. The purpose of critique groups is to help all members to achieve their desired outcomes and experiences in the composition course.

8. Strategy: Victim/Creator Language

Application: Developmental English

Educator: Jessie Wrenn, Faculty, English, South Arkansas Community College, AR

Implementation: Introduce students to the concept of Victim and Creator Language. Place them in small groups and ask them to write short skits that demonstrate real-life situations in which people are behaving as Victims, showing strong Inner Defenders or Inner Critics. Provide time for students to practice their skits; then have each group present its skit to the class (encouraging them to present Oscar-winning performances). After each skit, lead a discussion of the characters’ words and behaviors, identifying victims with strong Inner Defenders or Inner Critics. Upon completion of the skits, have the class vote on the top 3-5 Victims in all of the skits. Have students choose one of these “winning” Victims, and write reports suggesting changes that the character might make to improve the quality of his/her life. Have students share these reports with the class.

9. Strategy: Expert Groups (variation of the Jigsaw)

Application: English 101: Writing Introductions

Educator: Anne Messner, Faculty, English, Chattahoochee Valley Community College, AL

Implementation: The purpose here is to help students learn to write effective introductions. After presenting information about the characteristics of a well-written introductory paragraph (perhaps including a homework assignment to read the course text about writing intros), have students form three groups. In Step A, each group is assigned to develop expertise in a separate area of writing an introduction. Group One members become experts at composing and identifying powerful “hook” sentences. Group Two members become experts at composing and identifying effective theses statements. Group Three members concentrate on effective transitional sentences that move the reader smoothly into the body of the essay. In Step B, each student submits his/her next essay for review by the various expert groups. Each expert group makes suggestions for improvement and requests revisions. Writers revise and resubmit to the expert group until the expert group designates the introduction as “good to go.” Students submit their introduction for review by the instructor only after they receive a “good-to-go” stamp of approval from all three expert groups.

10. Strategy: Dreams and 32-Day Commitment

Application: English Composition

Educator: No name given

Implementation: The goal of this activity is to have students write two essays and 32 short journal entries that are personally meaningful. For homework, have students create a collage that depicts one or more of their dreams or goals. The collages should also depict inner and outer obstacles that could keep them from achieving their dreams or goals. For purposes of understanding the assignment, show examples of collages previously created for this assignment (or create one yourself). After students present their collages in small groups, have them write an essay explaining their collage (dreams/goals and obstacles). Afterwards, have students identify one behavior that, if they did more of it or less of it, would help them achieve their dreams or goals. Have them undertake a 32-day commitment to do/not do their identified behavior and keep a daily journal to record their experiences. After 32 days, they present a summary or their experience to a small group, followed by writing an essay telling about their 32-day commitment experience and their lessons learned.

11. Strategy: Jigsaw

Application: Introduction to Composition

Educator: No name given

Implementation: Have students get into groups of three. Each student chooses to become the group’s expert in one of the three parts of an essay: 1) Introduction, 2) Body, or 3) Conclusion. To complete Step A of the Jigsaw, tell students about the resources and time they have available to become their group’s expert. For example, available resources could be homework reading in their course text and sample essays provided by the instructor; available time could be 48 hours until the next class meeting. In Step B, have the three expert groups meet to plan how to teach their method to their home group members. Additionally, each expert group creates a rubric to be used to evaluate student compositions. The instructor reviews these rubrics for appropriateness (revising where necessary). In Step C, experts return to their home groups, teach their part of a composition (Introduction, Body or Conclusions) and explain the rubric that will be used to evaluate every student’s composition. The instructor answers questions about the rubric and has students practice using the rubric by applying it to an anonymous essay written in a past semester.

12. Strategy: Jigsaw (Variation on #11)

Application: Freshman English Writing

Educator: Joel R. Brouwer, Faculty, English, Montcalm Community College, MI

Implementation: When teaching the writing of the essay (descriptive, persuasive, explanatory), follow the usual jigsaw procedures for creating home and expert groups. Using material from the course text and class handouts, expert groups determine: 1) essential elements and 2) variations and options in each of the following areas:

  • writing an introduction
  • writing a thesis sentence
  • writing a supporting paragraph
  • writing a conclusion

Experts teach the skills to their home groups.  The assignment for the next class period is to write a simple essay where the essential elements are in evidence and options and variations have been used. Students submit their essays to their home groups, where the essays are checked for adherence to the principles taught in the group.

13. Strategy: Monthly Calendar

Application: This strategy can be used in any class that has homework assignments and or tests

Educator: Diane Raines, Faculty, English, Roane State Community College, TN

Implementation: Along with a syllabus, I give my students a “tentative schedule” that has all the dates the class meets. For each day the class meets, the schedule I provide lists assignments due and what we will be doing in class that day. I give students a monthly calendar for each month the class meets and have them fill in, using a certain color of ink (e.g., green) to indicate when assignments are due in my class. I have them complete this task during class so that I know they are doing it. I then recommend that they fill out their monthly calendars for the rest of their classes, using a different color ink for each additional class.

14. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: Composition

Educator: Amanda Jerome, Faculty, English, Saddleback College, CA

Implementation: I like the idea of having students respond to a profound quotation, so I have them choose one from a list and then free write in their journals. Then they exchange journals with someone else who writes a response and a question. Then they get their own journal back and write an answer. Next, students trade journals with a different student who reads the entire dialogue so far, adds a response and asks a question. Then the original writer gets his/her journal back, writes and answer, and then exchanges with a third partner, who reads the entire journal and writes a response. In total, students receive three responses to their original ideas, and they have practiced writing clearly and thinking critically.

15. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: Composition – Teaching the Process Essay

Educator: Supriya Draviam, Faculty, English, Cuyahoga Community College, OH

Implementation: After students are comfortable with one another, have them write a response to the question, “What would you like your life to be like ten years from now?” Then using the Silent Socratic Dialogue, have students ask each other questions that will enable their partners to think of a plan/road map/program for making that ideal future come true. In other words, what process will they use to create their desired outcomes and experiences? This activity prepares students to have adequate supporting details to write their Process essay with confidence. At the same time it enables them to come up with specific strategies for achieving the future life they want.

16. Strategy: V x E = M 

Application: Composition – Raising motivation by increasing Value of writing

Educator: Larissa Hill, Faculty, English and ESL, Glendale Community College, AZ

Implementation: As an ice breaker on the first day of class, have students create business cards that represent their work life in 10 years. The card should include their names, job titles, and company names and addresses. They then use their business cards to introduce themselves to the class. Next have students write letters to themselves from the perspective of their future self, the one in the job on their business card. In the letter, they tell their current selves about how the writing skills learned in this English class have been instrumental in helping them get and keep their dream job. Have them staple their business cards to their letter and collect them. If you need a diagnostic writing sample, use the letter for this purpose, but don’t mark on it (if you need to mark on it, make a copy). At mid-term, mail students their letters to revive their energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to their studies in general and to their English class in particular. Consider having them revise the letter as an activity to see how much they have learned about writing since they wrote the letter on the first day.

17. Strategy: Inner Voices – The Language of Responsibility

Application: Freshman English Writing

Educator: Joel R. Brouwer, Faculty, English, Montcalm Community College, MI

Implementation: When teaching narrative writing, have students read, discuss, and understand the inner voices of the Victim (inner critic, inner defender) and the inner voice of the Creator (inner guide).  Next, have students work in pairs to translate examples of victim language into examples of creator language.  Share some examples through whole-class discussion.  As a narrative writing assignment, have students write the story of an important moment in their lives, an instance of success, an instance of failure, or an “aha” moment, but altering the “truth” of what happened so that the main character responds to the situation with victim language exclusively.  Be sure to include both inner critic and inner defender.  Carry the story to some conclusion which may or may not be consistent with what actually happened.  As an essential follow-up assignment, have students use the same scenario to write a second narrative where the main character responds to the situation with creator language.  Follow the story to some conclusion which is not the same as in the first story and which may or may not be consistent with what actually happened.

18. Strategy: Success Teams 

Application: Sophomore English (Eng 1D: Critical Thinking, Reading and Writing).

Educator: Paula Sheil, Faculty, English, San Joaquin Delta College, CA

Implementation: In the 11th week of a 15 week semester, I asked students to fill out a 3×5 card indicating classmates they loved working with and a few they wish they had gotten to know better. I played with the information over a weekend and laid out the success teams on Monday, three weeks before the final research paper was due. First, each team developed a “contract” of behavior and each member signed it. They discussed the problems of nonparticipation, weak work, etc. They assessed personal strengths and weaknesses and assigned “experts” in MLA, grammar, transitions and metaphors. Students researched their subjects on their own and then the experts from each team met and shared ideas. When it came time for the series of peer reviews, each expert commented specifically on his or her topic.

It might sound odd … the list that I presented, but the research paper is actually a lit review on a chosen topic so there is less “creative” writing and more “he said, she said” in terms of pulling together topic analysis. Students write up succinct summaries of library database articles, analyzing claim, data, warrant backing, tone, audience, and rebuttal (if any). Then they prioritize and sequence their summaries into their first draft and “write through” their findings with appropriate transitional/connecting language. They write their own intro and conclusion and that’s where metaphor comes in. Often research papers are so dry, so I maintain that a good metaphor helps reader understanding. It’s a challenge for the “metaphor” expert to contribute meaningful material to team members who are researching water issues, immigration, drug use, drinking laws, etc. The feedback was positive. Students like teams where each person is accountable. This was particularly successful at the end of the term after many other group discussions and activities.  After so many peer reviews, the papers were 100% passing with a C or better. Only students who did not do the work failed and those two were already behind when this process began.

19. Strategy: Affirmation Whisper 

Application: Sophomore English (Eng 1D: Critical Thinking, Reading and Writing)

Educator: Paula Sheil, Faculty, English, San Joaquin Delta College, CA

Implementation: I started by having students brainstorm qualities of success on the board. Then they wrote out their own affirmation cards expressing what they wanted more of. Then they dutifully did the walkabout exchange, stating their affirmation, getting the “Yes, you are,” response and following up with the “I know it.” As you can imagine, they took a while getting into the exercise and then I noticed students who actively swept the room, looking for students they hadn’t exchanged affirmations with yet. I thought I’d follow up the affirmation whisper the next class period, but the timing didn’t seem right. Class proceeded normally, with all the attention on research papers, documentation, writing, writing, writing. But I did set up their curiosity by having them make a name tag on a 3×5 card and handing out a big paper clip that I told them not to lose because they’d need to clip the name tag to the backs of their shirts. BUT I didn’t say anything else about my plans.

Then the last class came and it was then or never. They all completed a class evaluation, and I said we were going to do one more final activity and to keep their evaluations until they could comment on it. We set up the room with 13 chairs in the middle, students seated in those chairs and the other half standing behind them. I actually had the Enya music “Watermark,” because it was the music my husband and I chose for our wedding! With the same “Oh, what now?” attitude that I experienced at the workshop, they gamely began and completed the exchange of whispered affirmations. At the end, they were all smiling, some broadly, some self-consciously. I didn’t ask them to speak. I asked them to write about it as their final “evaluation” question. Then I opened up the floor. Few were willing to share, and those who did seemed to speak for the rest of them as there was a lot of head nodding.

The results make it worth the risk. Students overwhelmingly liked hearing so many good things about themselves. One student wrote that it was “like church and seemed out of place” but liked hearing the affirmations. One wrote that it was a game to match the voice with a face and was glad he knew all the voices. (This is in opposition to students who complain that they go through an entire semester without ever knowing the person sitting next to them.) If you’ve done the exercise, you know what you felt…and you probably thought it wouldn’t be the first thing you’d try. Well, guess what, it’s not. It is a culminating activity and it is like cake and ice cream at the end. Trust yourself and they’ll trust you.

20. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue 

Application: English Composition, Argument Essay

Educator: Valrie Martin, English Adjunct, Broward College, FL

Implementation: The desired outcome of this activity is that students gain strategies for writing an effective argument essay. Each student writes his/her topic and purpose statement on a sheet of paper. Partners exchange papers and write a thoughtful question challenging the partner’s topic and purpose statement. They exchange papers and answer/refute challenges to their position. The process continues for three five-minute exchanges. At the end, students are better prepared to write an argument essay now that they are able to anticipate the arguments or questions of the opposing position.

21. Strategy: Success Teams and Tracking Forms

Application: Research & Writing class, 20 students

Educator: Jim Kain, Faculty, English, Neumann University, PA

Implementation: In this research writing course, students work on one topic related to their discipline for the entire semester. They are required to complete five assignments (each a part of their total project) and one presentation along the way. The Instructor creates five Success Teams of four students each. At the Teams’ first meeting they share research topic ideas and personal information (contact info, academic goals, interest in their subjects, etc.). The instructor provides a Tracking Form which includes due dates for each assignment, any related requirements (such as worksheets, outlines, first drafts, etc.), dates for Team meetings during class-time, and room to add steps for each assignment. The Form also includes a box for Team meeting dates and accomplishments. The Form is available as a file, so the Teams can complete them or revise them as needed. Ask the Teams to generate a Team Constitution identifying their commitments to each other (examples: listen, share problems and ideas, writing tips, proofreading, help with searches, etc.), and establish goals for each Team meeting. Ask teams to provide a progress report (written and oral) after every other meeting. Allow some time once a week or so, for the Teams to get together in class. Check the progress of each group and, if needed, suggest some ways to improve their tracking form and results. Keep track and share all the Teams’ success rates throughout the semester (success at meeting the Team goals, not individual grades). Have a celebration when the final assignment is completed!

22. Strategy: Jigsaw

Application: Developmental Writing

Educator: Janet Castilleja, Faculty, Developmental Writing, Heritage University, WA

Implementation: In home groups of four, use the Jigsaw to study sentence structure. Items to be studied are 1) the complete sentence, 2) the sentence fragment, 3) the comma splice, and 4) the run-on sentence. Give each student information and examples for their chosen topic. Later (perhaps at the next class meeting), have the expert groups get together to discuss their understanding of each structure. Ask students to write three examples of each structure. Then have them return to their home groups and teach the structure. As an exercise, have students identify the structures in sample papers. The same method could be used as a test of their knowledge, or you could have them identify and correct sentence errors in their own previous papers.

23. Strategy: Peer Success Teams

Application: Transitional Writing

Educator: Jennifer McCann, Faculty, English, Bay College, MI

Implementation: Establish Peer Success Teams during the first week of the course. First, briefly discuss the value of teamwork and interdependence. (e.g. Mention that professional writers have editors who help them identify questions that need to be answered and/or rough spots in their style that need to be polished.)  Have each team write a constitution that outlines the group’s collective and individual goals for the semester. (You may wish to have a class discussion about possible goals.) Next, have each group identify the strategies (behaviors) members agree to employ to assist each other in reaching their goals. Have students sign the constitution and make copies for each team member. Have students work in these groups throughout the semester on group projects, group quizzes, and peer review. At the end of the semester, have students write an evaluation of the impact that their success team had on their classroom experience and course outcomes.

24. Strategy: Draw Your Dream

Application: Developmental Writing

Educator: Sharon Lockett, Faculty, Developmental Writing, Lee College, TX

Implementation: Supplies: White cardstock sheets (one for each student); colored markers.

Step 1: Give each student a sheet of cardstock and scatter colored markers on the front table.

Step 2: Have students envision themselves in five years. Ask them to think about their dreams regarding what they want at that time to have, do, and be?

Step 3: Have students draw a picture (in whatever way they wish) of what their achieved dreams will look like.

Step 4: Provide the following three writing prompts for students to respond to as they reflect on their drawings.
A) Describe the journey you will take to realize your dream; what will this journey be like?
B) What challenges do you foresee encountering?
C) How will you overcome these challenges?

Step 5: Have students keep their pictures in their notebooks where they will see them on a regular basis. If they use a 3-ring binder with a view cover, they can slide the picture into the plastic sleeve so that it becomes the cover for their binder.

25. Strategy: Success Team

Application: FYE or English Comp 1

Educator: Jim Hilgartner, Director, Staton Center for Student Success/Assistant Professor of English. Huntingdon College, Montgomery, AL

Implementation: The purpose of this activity is to have students create a Who’s Who of Faculty and Athletic Coaching Staff, thus helping them make wise choices in future course selections. Divide list of faculty/coaches among success teams. As a group, each team interviews and writes a profile (100 to 200 words) of their assigned faculty members/coaches. For example, the profile might contain the faculty member/coach’s philosophy of education. Students collaborate in revision process and all receive same grade for the group’s final product. When profiles are finished, they are collected and, if needed, group edited once more, and then assembled into a Who’s Who booklet or web site of faculty and coaches. Copies or URLs are distributed to all students in the class (and to each faculty member and coach).

26. Strategy: Self-Management Tools (Calendar, Next Actions List, Tracking Form, 32-Day Commitment)

Application: College Readiness Writing Course or Student Success

Educator: Alexandra Harvey, Program Coordinator, Intensive College Readiness Program, Midland College, TX

Implementation: Teach the students about the four self-management tools in a mini-lecture format. Then, ask students to choose which of the four will be the most beneficial to them. Next, have them write a short essay on why they chose the tool they did, how they will implement it, and how they think it will affect their lives. Check grammar, content, etc. and have students put the paper into their portfolios. Each week thereafter, encourage students to continue using their self-management method, or, if the one they chose is not working for them, have them choose another. Toward the end of the class have students re-read their original papers and write a response paper. Did the self-management tool they chose tool help them the way they thought it would? Did they even use the tool, and, if not, why not? How will using the self-management tools help them once they actually begin college? Once the response paper has been written and corrected, have students compare their original writing sample and see how far their writing skills have come during the course.

27. Strategy: Success Teams

Application: General Studies (Communication Skills) or Any Course

Educator: Jennifer McIntosh, Faculty, General Studies, Fox Valley Technical College, WI

Implementation: I decided to have students in two of my classes develop Success Teams this semester. My goal was to create interdependence within the class and increase student retention. Once success teams were established, student participation and attitude dramatically changed. They support each other and reach out to their Success Team members for answers and assistance.  On the first day of class, I introduced the concept. I facilitated several ice breakers and group activities, so they were able to “get to know” their classmates. I told the students to take note of other students they may want on their Success Team. I encouraged them to identify classmates they had something in common with and/or classmates they thought would support them.  At our second class meeting, I gave them some time to choose their teams, get together, and introduce themselves. I then had them identify three expected outcomes and three anticipated experiences. I gave them some examples, but I required that their #1 outcome be to pass the course. Just as in the On Course I Workshop, I had them create a contract detailing the things they will do to help each other. I gave the class some examples, and they came up with some interesting original ideas such as:

      • Meet for 10 minutes after each class to discuss the assignment (and yes, they really do this!)
      • Wear Packer jerseys on speech days
      • Become Facebook friends
      • Meet at Connections for coffee once a month
      • Carpool on snowy days (I had one student offer to pick up his other group members on bad weather days)
      • Call another group member if you have car trouble (So everyone can get to class!!)

I’ve used the Success Teams as groups, too. It is so easy for me just to tell them to discuss a concept with their success team. Overall, students just have more fun when they have others they can count on. I’ve already seen them encourage each other to read aloud and present in front of class. It is a lot easier to do something when you have a group of people encouraging and supporting you! This is really been a great experience so far.

28. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: Writing

Educator: Lauren Suehring, Faculty, Prep Writing, Fox Valley Technical College, WI

Implementation: Students often have difficulty getting started in any writing activity, so using the Silent Socratic Dialogue is a great way to get them writing immediately. Have students pair up with another student. Provide a prompt, such as the Broken Escalator video, and ask the students to do a quick write about their reaction to the video/prompt, especially as it relates to their own life experience/observations. After five minutes, have students switch papers. Students read what their partner wrote and write a question. Continue switching back and forth for 3 sets. Debrief the experience and have the students write a short paper on the prompt/video. Since the students have already written on the topic, getting started is much easier.

29. Emotional Intelligence

Application: Development or Basic Skills English Composition Course

Educator: David Sheftman, Faculty, English, Cabrillo College, CA

Implementation: Have students read the brief article “A Traffic Light is a Brainless Machine” by David Schoenbrun. Have students rate the emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management) of the French cab driver who breaks the law but justifies his choice to his American (Schoenbrun) passenger. Have students share in groups of 4 their ratings and the average EQ score given the cabbie. Then each group makes a brief report to the class. Have students write a short paper discussing the cabbie’s EQ in choosing to break the law, and how they feel about the choice the cabbie made. If they support the cabbie’s choice, say why; if they don’t, they give advice on what a wiser choice should have been.

30. Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: Writing Courses-Persuasion/Argumentation

Educator: Darrin Johnson, Faculty, English, Washtenaw Community College, MI

Implementation: Implementation: Provide a controversial topic as a focus for students to argue (brainstorm) in writing either for or against (e.g., teenagers needing to get parental approval in order to obtain contraceptives).  Have students write an initial response to the topic, then pair them up with another student.  Have students exchange their writings and have the partner ask a question about what has been written.  Repeat the exchange and continue for approximately twenty minutes.  Afterwards, give students the opportunity to reflect on the activity, and then use the results of their work to create a final draft of an argumentative paper.

31. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: English Composition

Educator: Kim Laffont, English Adjunct, Broward College, FL

Implementation: The goal is to have each student develop a truly powerful thesis statement. Pair students (A & B). Make sure each student has enough paper to write and exchange 3 times. Have students develop their initial thesis statement and exchange with their partners. After reflecting on their partner’s thesis, student write a question to help each other “drill down” into the topic. Students then exchange papers and respond to the question by revising their thesis statement. Student exchange and repeat this process a total of three times. At the end, students re-write their thesis statement and share with the class (popcorn) both the initial thesis statement and the final thesis statement.

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