My Final Post
My Final Post avatar

Hi All,

It was lovely to be able to learn from you all. I have enjoyed reading your posts, thinking deeply, and talking back and forth. I look forward to fall and more discussions.

I think the big take away for me from all of this is how amazing it is that a community of educators can come together and share such great insights and that you have all created such a wealth of resources and things to think about. The one other central theme that stand out from my posts and the discussions in general is that our students benefit from the flexibility that online technology offers, and we have the ability to create such rich spaces of engagement with the tools at our disposal. It is exciting and a bit overwhelming, but I think we are all up to the challenge.

Here are my posts:

Post 1- Technology in the WC

Post 2 My Framework

Post 3 Student Centered Learning

Post 4 process and Feedback

Post 5 Reading in the Writing Class

Yes, the essay assigned is based on a reading from class.
Yes, the essay assigned is based on a reading from class. avatar

In a writing class, the essay is almost always based upon class readings. So when students come into the writing center and ask why they need to mention the book, I usually ask them, “why do you think the instructor had you read the book?” and “How might the book help you write your essay?” these questions are usually followed by several beats of silence and deep thinking on the part of students.

When I was teaching writing at Sacramento State and Sac City College, I focused heavily on reading. I embedded modelling of how to read a text, created reading cohorts, did jigsawing, forced students to reflect on their reading process at the end of each paper they turned in. Their portfolio cover pages almost always had a nod to how often they re-visited a book or article, what type of notes they had to make to understand the readings.

Today, I tend to ask students who come into the center metacognitive questions about the reading for their class essay:

What part of the reading fits best into your intro paragraph? Why does that quote work as a hook and not the quote from your second body paragraph? So if a hook draws us in, how do you know that quote is hook worthy?

How did you come to choose this quote to back up your view that X is…..? How does this quote go back to your topic sentence?

What did you have to do to understand this article? Why did that reading strategy work for this novel? Did it work for the ted talk you watched on this topic? No? Why?

While I agree with some of what Wornock says about quizzing, I personally hate reading quizzes. One semester I asked students to create their own reading quiz questions based on some criteria I created. Then after they wrote them on the board, we revised the questions together and tightened up the “quiz” and each group gave their reading quiz question to another group. It was fun and it worked because in order to ask a really good, nuanced question meant they had to open their book and skim the reading again, think about how they would answer the question in order to write a good quality quiz question that made the reader think. I imagine it could be used in an online class.

But back to the meta questions. I think students need more practice reading and using meta questions as they read. They can create those questions both about their reading process and the content of the reading itself.


Auf Wiedersehen, not goodbye!

In German we have this wonderful word that means, until we meet again (in the Fall). So, it truly is not goodbye.  First and foremost a special thanks to Curry and Sullivan and the team for helping us navigate through the adventures of online teaching.  Secondly, thanks to all of you, my classmates, for your creative insight and feedback. I’ve certainly learned some great new methodologies, practices and ideas that I plan to implement into my online teaching.  Thank you and I wish you all a wonderful summer and I look forward to part two!

Below are my reflections on our class discussions:

“The Cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.” JC
“The Cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.”   JC avatar

Once again I will point out that I have not yet taught an exclusively on-line class, yet. However, I have begun the process of migrating my onsite strategies into the online instructional environment in the form of a hybrid class or an onsite class heavily supported with a content management system.  As I reflect on teaching the writing process for this week’s assignment, I am going to discuss how I approach a writing assignment for one of my Adult ESL intermediate reading and writing classes.  Although this is a f2f classroom, it is an example of a class I support with an online classroom. I integrate the use of content management systems to expose students to the online environment, as many of them are unfamiliar with using these types of interfaces. Not only will this benefit them in future classes academic /non-academic courses, but it also is a useful workforce skill.  So, that means all materials including support articles, presentations, videos and other additional resources can be found online in the virtual classroom. I also require them to use the message board for responding to prompts as well as discussions.

As the language is still challenging for many of my learners (not to say that it is not for some of our more advanced learners), the thought of having to put their ideas on paper can be a frightening endeavor, to say the least. So, my first challenge is to create an environment in which they feel they will not be embarrassed. In Teaching the OWI Course, Warnock provides us with an example of high-stakes vs low-stakes writing environment.  With the diversity of my students’ backgrounds and educational levels, it is essential for me to create a low-stakes writing environment allowing them to explore and engage with the writing as they learn to incorporate academic writing conventions into their texts. My secondary focus is to guide them along the process of writing as I work with them on content, fluency, finding their own voice, peer review/feedback and revisions.

As mentioned above, for many the thought of putting ink on paper (or keyboard stroke to screen), it is something is something to be dreaded.  My first challenge is to try and overcome this and get students motivated enough to actually be excited about sharing their ideas on a subject and to write them down.  In any new writing assignment I focus on strong pre-writing activities aimed at providing learners with confidence-boosting experiences and essential vocabulary.  As I do this, I try to find subjects that will allow me to incorporate some of the students’ backgrounds so they can activate their prior knowledge and draw information from a familiar place as they take on these new challenges.

Below is a sample of one class in a larger unit on narrative writing.

Assignment: Narrative Writing Assignment

Telling Stories to Incite Writing – Re-telling a story, Summarizing.

The Cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.”
Exploring the Hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell)

  1. The pre-writing activity begins with a question prompt, What makes a hero?
  2. I ask students to work with a partner to discuss their understanding of the word hero and what defines it. I often will post a prompt like this online on our message board (Canvas or Google Groups) prior to the class meeting so that students will have responded to it prior to the lesson.
  3. We collectively explore some of these ideas that students have presented and then I ask them to work in small teams to create a graphic organizer, mind map, or other diagram to visually express the idea of the question prompt. Students then share their maps either f2f or post them online, to which other groups are to respond to and provide some feedback or ask questions.
  4. I follow up on this pre-writing activity with a secondary prompt, “the cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.” Having already worked on the ideas of what defines a “hero”, students often make a correlation between these two prompts in their responses.
  5. Following this, I introduce the theme of the writing assignment, to explore the Hero’s Journey in literature and culture. My introduction draws on, naturally as a total Star Wars geek, Luke Skywalker, but also Frodo, Indiana Jones, and the wizard boy himself, Harry Potter! We then explore the arc of the Hero’s Journey as defined by Joseph Campbell.
  6. We then analyze written synopsis of character development in Star Wars (and some Pixar movies) and we work on identifying the transitions that occur to the hero. Students use a Hero’s Journey worksheet to take notes of the transitions as they try to identify them.

  7. The following videos are either posted on the CMS (or shown in class):
    1. Ted Ed: What makes a hero?
    2. Netflix’s Myths & Monsters: Joseph Campbell & The Hero’s Journey
    3. Every story is the same:

Students are then asked to think of a hero in their own culture and using the Hero’s Journey worksheet, map evolution of that character’s arc.  This worksheet then serves as an outline for them to work on their first draft of the narrative writing assignment, writing about a hero from their native culture.

The class goes on from here as we work through the writing process, planning, organizing, writing, editing, revising.


Behind the Scenes of Online Teaching
S. Gutiérrez


It’s That Time . . .

As a class this semester, we explored various topics including tools for online teaching, the gamification of online classes, the migration process and modalities, best practices for discussion forums and grading, and even shared lens perspective assignments and approaches to keeping students engaged and learning/reading in the online setting. English Professors, John Warnock, curry mitchell, Jim Sullivan, and Tony Burman, facilitated these discussions, laying the groundwork for future online teaching. After completing this Spring 2016 sequence, I am inspired us to explore synchronous activities and, perhaps, to resuscitate my online avatar (I used a couple years when I was teaching online introductory composition). Most importantly, I discovered I did not have to comment on ALL my students posts and replies. (I am still feeling nervous about the latter one.)

What follow are my reflections this semester:

“Online Teaching? I Felt Like Jumping Out of a One-story Building” (Unit 1: A Framework for Teaching Online)

“The Locura or the Simplicity of Online Teaching” (Unit 2: Exploring Technology

“So You Do Not Understand the Directions . . . Hmm” (Unit 3: Developing Content)

“There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Feedback!” (Unit 4: Teaching the Writing Process Online)

“Do Online Students Learn? READ? WRITE? YEP!” (Unit 5: Reading and Discussion)

Not bad for a digital immigrant! 😉

Sequence 1 Wrap Up
Sequence 1 Wrap Up avatar

It has been such a pleasure working with all of you this semester. I really have enjoyed learning about what you do in your classrooms. I feel honored that you shared this with me.

After reading over my posts, I really have realized how much I miss interacting with my colleagues and talking/reading/writing/thinking about teaching. For the last five years, I have really just focused on being in the classroom with my students, which I love, but I see how most of my writing has been directed to my students.  I really want to work on my writing–with and for– my fellow/sister teachers.

For example, my writing sounds like giving directions to students and/or my about experiences in the classroom. Which is fine, but I need to get back to writing about the theories which have always informed my teaching. Theories that have become so part of what I do (Freire for example, theories about creating real writing situations, the benefits of making student writing “public,” and my MOST favorite–using mentor texts in the classroom to teach writing strategies that real, published writers use).

This makes me start going to conferences again and thinking of writing for publication.

I realize that despite my love for working with my students, I really also love working with other teachers.

Thank you for waking this part of me up!

Kind regards,

Cara Owens

May your grading be swift and your summer long and leisurely.

Unit 1 “First Post-Thinking about My Teaching and Teaching Online”  2/19/18

Unit 2 “Keep it Simple Sister” 3/1/18

Unit 3 “Warnock Chapters 4 & 5” 3/20/18

Unit 4 “Writing Process/Assignment Sequence” 4/9/18

Unit 5 “Don’t Get Me Started on How Important Reading is in a Writing Class.” 4/25/18

Thank you!
Thank you! avatar

It is not often that we get an opportunity to play and share ideas on pedagogy and I am so very grateful for the knowledge that I have gained from each of you this semester. I am thankful for the creative, non-judgmental and wholistic space created by Curry and Jim. I have grown tremendously from the insights you all shared and my teaching tool kit is full to overflowing with new techniques, technology and approaches. I truly wish to continue the dialogue with you…even though I must admit that it was time consuming and sometimes difficult to make the deadlines. Whooohoooo! I am glad we made it to the end of this sequence. Happy summer y’all. Here are all my posts:

Post 1 – Framework 

Post 2 – Use Tech, Don’t Let it Use You

Post 3 – Video – Backward Design

Post 4 – Teaching the Writing Process – Thesis Journey

Post 5 – Print Book Need Not Fear

Reflections in the Data Stream

Rereading my posts highlights one key objective: to migrate my pedagogy, teaching, and assignments into accessible, easy-to-understand online courses. I seem to have focused primarily on creating a dynamic space which appeals to all seven learning styles. To that end, I’ve tried to visualize how I can variate my activities as much as possible while also maintaining strong scaffolding and plenty of interaction (both peer and instructor). But, an undercurrent to this desire is my goal to make lessons graspable for students of all backgrounds. It is important that I find the balance between a fun, interactive, and progressive class and one that minimizes confusion and frustration. It was a bit of a jest, but as I mentioned in my first post, “I have grandiose daydreams of humble farmers in Nebraska, metropolitan business people in Chicago, lobster fishers in Maine, and tech-savvy entrepreneurs all taking an online English course of mine, commenting on each other’s posts, and coming to new and enlightening revelations about the world we all inhabit!” Perhaps this is a bit eclectic, but the theme is there: a compelling class people of all walks can enjoy and learn from. Striking the balance between dynamic and accessible is going to be a fun challenge, but I’m game!

My deepest gratitude to all of you for your thoughts, support, advice, and encouragement. This was a great experience, and I’m excited to put some of these many ideas into action!

My posts: 1. Principles for OWCourses  2. LMS and The Perplexed Instructor 3. Content Creation for the Online Class 4. Online Lesson Plan for English 100 5. The Wonderful World of Reading and Discussion

Final wrap-up
Final wrap-up avatar

As I reread my posts over these few months, the most dominant theme I see is my stress (ha!). Generally, the prospect of creating an online class makes me very overwhelmed, so I need to remember to use only the tools I need (at least at the beginning) and avoid overcomplicating the class. Oddly enough, I’m also curious about new technologies and creating a completely new experience for online classes. The other point I keep coming back to is the very specific task of online discussions, as they are very important to the tone of the class, my goal of using student generated content, and being the most challenging to replicate in an online environment. Overall, this process has been very helpful, allowing me to understand my priorities, test out and struggle with some interesting technological tools, and get awesome advice from my colleagues here. Thanks so much for all your thoughts, recommendations, and kind words. See you around!

Here are the links to my posts: 1. goals, 2. tech overload, 3. questions, 4. introduction lesson, and 5. readings and discussions.