Hearing From Our Students

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the 17-week semester and the middle of the 8-week semester (yikes!), I’m thinking a lot about how my students are doing and how they’re engaging with the reading and their writing.
 
A couple weeks ago in my asynchronous ENGL 202, I posted a short video of me talking about “critical thinking,” and below, I embedded this google doc asking students to share what comes to mind when they think about “arguments.” At the end of the week, I embedded a wordcloud generator that asked students to share “where you’re at” as they wrapped up the week.
 
This week, I’m reading and responding to the first set of essays submitted in my asynchronous ENGL 100. One category in the rubric asks students to respond to my comments after I’ve graded their essay. I don’t mark that category until they respond. When they do, they get 10 more points, and I get a chance to have an asynchronous conversation with them about their writing.
Hearing from my students in these different ways–sharing their knowledge as I introduce a new topic, sharing their confidence and uncertainty at the end of a busy week, and sharing their questions and goals about their own writing in response to my feedback–not only fosters a sense of comradery and belonging in the class, it allows me to value my students as collaborators and leaders in our shared learning experiences and writing processes.
 
So, how are you hearing from your students right now in Canvas, in Zoom, and in other ways? Below are a few ideas to consider, and if you would like, please share more tips and tricks here.
 

Hear from your students

This is a great moment in the semester to check-in with our students to get the pulse of the class. How easily are students finding things? Is the pace of assignments nuts, too easy, or intriguingly steady? Is there anything are students feel we could be doing that we aren’t doing yet to make participation more accessible and engaging?

Share the results

Hearing from our students is so valuable to our teaching. Sharing back what we hear from them with the class can be equally valuable to their learning.
 
Embed Stuff
Most tools offer an embed code option with the < > symbol. If they don’t, you can use this html code to embed just about anything, even editible Google Docs! To embed the results of Google Forms, you can follow this dorkey tutorial.
 
Curate Stuff
Many of us create class playlists from the content students share. Make a regular place to spotlight student generated conctent in your weekly announcements, your instructional content, and your Zoom meeting activities.
 

Listen, lighten, and illuminate

Creating and managing formative feedback loops in my composition classes is THE ultimate goal. Sometimes these channels of communication are critical to the work of revision, and some time they are just plain necessary to helping each other get through challenging moments.
 
Incentivize Responses to Your Feedback
Create Ticket-out Activities (totally stole this from Chad)

We’re Establishing Routines

At the end of Week 2, as I finalize my rosters and settle into the emerging rhythms of another weird but promising semester, I’m thinking about how an asynchronous, classroom culture is forming and what I and my students are doing to shape it.
 
I’ve spent much of my time this week communicating with students. I’m messaging students who have missed a routine deadline or an important assignment with a quick, “Hey Susana. Did you intend to submit this assignment? Would you reply to this comment or email me to chat about how the class is going?” I’m using Canvas’ Rubric tool to grade early assignments quickly. I like to change the title of that 0 column from “No Marks” to “Please Resubmit” and sometimes “Please Email curry.” That way, there’s an invitation to a positive action communicated along with that low grade.
 
I’m also taking 15 minutes per class to identify student generated content from the week to showcase in my next Weekly Announcement. I’ve created an equity-minded roster that lets me promote students who are already showing signs of feeling overwhelmed or who may seem intimidated by writing or whom I identify as a student in a disproportionately impacted group. I begin the announcement celebrating an idea, a phrase, a structure, or connection to what we’re studying to honor that student’s knowledge and language and value their contributions. I keep a record of students whose work I have not yet promoted, so by mid-semester, everyone gets that spotlight.
 
Many of us do these sorts of things already; here’s a few great ideas from Mary, Chad, and Jade! These early interventions help us to cultivate a class culture and establish the routines we and our students will respond to going forward. Below are a few ideas to consider, and if you would like, please share more tips and tricks here.
 

Assignments You Value = Assignments Your Students Value

We all have certain assignments and policies that we tell students are important, and then we have certain assignments and policies that we show students are important. This is the week when students start to realize what they need to prioritize and what they can let slide based on what we grade, call out, ignore, put off, and simply forget. So which assignment or policy has the greatest potential value to your student writers and readers? What can you do at the beginning of next week to show students this value?
 
Policies
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Resubmitting revised work
  • Visiting office hours
  • Seeking Campus Resources
Assignments
  • Low-stakes Reading Responses/Quizes
  • Discussion Posts and Replies
  • Active Participation in Zoom
  • Essay Drafts
  • Metacognitive Reflections

Spotlight Student Work

We know the most powerful ways we can increase retention is to foster real, meaningful connections with our students. We have the chance this week and next to do that proactively and with equity. Who in your class right now could use a boost? For whom would a simple positive message or shout-out of their work make the difference? We know there is something to celebrate in every students’ work–an idea, a phrase, a structure, a reflection, a triumph. Let’s get into a routine for doing that this week and next.
  • Shout-out students by name or by their work in your weekly announcements
  • Start Zooms session with “What’s Great from Last Week”
  • Integrate student generated content into your assignments and instruction

Turn Around Time

Quick, encouraging communication with students this week and next can be the thing that alerts them to take action within their abilities to meet your expectations and succeed in your assignments. We all want to provide comprehensive, formative feedback, but maybe what students need this week and next is a simple encouraging check-in. How can we be more efficient and timely in our communication with individual students?

Culturally Sustaining Feedback and Equitable Grading

Hello, Letters family!

If you missed the Writing with Machines professional development workshop on culturally sustaining and equitable feedback and grading of student work, check out the following Google slideshow with embedded readings, videos, and other resources, as well as the recording of the Zoom session. Add your own ideas and questions to the comments!

Create a Reading Journal in Canvas

In my English composition classes, I really, really hope to promote reading as an essential step in the writing process. Since I started teaching, I’ve relied on low-stakes writing assignments–journaling, in-class writing, annotations, etc–to promote mindful reading habits linked to larger writerly tasks. When I started teaching online, I simply adopted a digital journal inside the LMS, that is, until we switched to Canvas, which does not have a journal tool. Time once again to bend Canvas to my pedagogical will.

In this video I share two approaches that provide students with a space to explore texts and experiment with ways to value the act of reading; space that also provides me an opportunity to intervene, celebrate, and nudge students as their develop their own unique reading process.

Here’s a guide for how to highjack Canvas’ Discussion tool to create a reading journal:

1. Navigate to the People tab and create a new Group Set

2. Title the Group Set, select the “I’ll create groups manually option,” and click Save.

3. Find the tab for the group you just created and then click the +Group button. Create a group for every student in your course. Once you have a group for each student, drag their name into their group. This may take a little while…

When your students log in, they will see they have access to a link under Course Groups. When they click on this link, they will have access to their own space in your Canvas course where they can upload files, create pages, etc.

Here’s what that looks like on a desktop

Here’s the view using Canvas’ mobile app

I find it a little hard to find everything students include in this space, so to make things a little more simple, I create a Discussion board and set it up as a group assignment.

I place the link to this discussion on the home page, and when students click into the discussion, they only have access to their own contributions.

Once they access the Discussion link, they simply click the “Reply” button and add their latest journal notes and reflections. This space becomes a repository for their ideas throughout the semester. Check out minute 2:06 in the video above for what this journal-discussion-Canvas-thing looks like for students.

Engaging with Students in SpeedGrader

The tools and features in Canvas’ SpeedGrader allow students to respond to instructor comments. This creates the possibility for one-on-one conversations with students about their writing and about our feedback on their writing.

Here is a simple, additional requirement I have added to the major essay assignments in my ENGL 100 class that promotes the potential for these conversations.

To meet this additional requirement, students must complete three steps. Here’s the language I use:


Respond to Instructor Feedback

After your essay has been graded, review the feedback you received and write or record a response that identifies 1) one comment you found helpful, 2) one comment you plan to work on or that you found unclear, and 3) please state if you plan to revise or move on to the next project.


The additional 10 point I assign to this requirement amounts to 3% of the total course grade, which means a student who chooses not to complete this additional step is not penalized and can still earn an ‘A’ in the course overall. 

I discuss the major benefits of this assignment in the video above. In addition to these, I also find that I am

  • leading students directly to my feedback in Canvas with instruction on how to use Canvas’ tools
  • dialoging with my students about their writing and my feedback in the same space their essay drafts reside
  • understanding who in the class is really benefiting from my feedback and who is not accessing my feedback, which helps me to be more effective in my intrusive practices and to use my time more efficiently

For tutorials on SpeedGrader, check out

Online Design, Student Work, and Feedback

In the video below I discuss how to create a consistent course that both satisfies regular and effective contact hours and allows you to still be creative and flexible.  Maybe there’s something in there that can benefit you as you think about further developing your online courses?  Oh, and I give a shout out to the Talking Heads! Why? Why not. 

WritingwithMachines Discussion: Unpacking the Semester & Designing Week 1 Experiences

Our final meeting of the fall semester was mellow. Nothing to read or prepare beforehand. We simply used the first half of the meeting to share the highs and the lows of our experiences teaching online this semester, and then we dedicated the second half to looking ahead at the next semester, specifically on how to design community-oriented and relational activities during early on.

We enjoyed a rich exchange of cool ways to facilitate first week experiences.

Watch an archive of the discussion:

Questions and topics we explore:

Which of your core pedagogical values are expressed in Week 1 activities?

How do your Week 1 activities reach out to and equip

  • new online students?
  • new college students?
  • students of color?
  • working students?
  • students who might feel intimidated by English coursework?

How do your Week 1 activities introduce students to experiences with skills, concepts, technologies, routines, etc. that are important to your course?

Can you draw a direct line from the experiences your Week 1 activities offer to the outcomes you hope to see performed in your mid- to end-semester assignments?

Review our notes from the meeting and more resources from our S2019 FLEX Week Workshop on Early Semester Assignments

Tools, Tricks, and Transitions: Teaching Online Made Me a Better On-site Teacher!

Hello all! I can’t wait to interact with everyone’s ideas this week!

Ever since I started teaching online, I began to change the way that I provide feedback to students in my onsite classes for the better. I truly believe that when you teach online you become a better onsite teacher! I used to provide feedback using Canvas or the Turnitin system in various learning management systems to leave notes in the margins of students’ papers and longer letters to them. Basically, you can leave track changes or comments just as you would in a Google Document in almost any LMS these days. I used to like the Turnitin system many years ago because it had many go-to templates saved that you could easily insert into students’ writing that would also provide them with additional reading, examples, and resources. However, my own beliefs about Turnitin have changed over the past few years that I have formally studied plagiarism, and I no longer use the system to provide feedback. However, I believe that technology has changed my feedback practices and philosophies for the better. Some tools that I have used include typed letters, screencasts, and audio feedback.

In my onsite classes, I mostly provide feedback to students in the form of a typed letter that I e-mail to them and ask them to print out along with the scoring rubric. I have a very fast typing speed (I am a pianist and played Mavis Beacon for hours upon hours as a child), and I can provide end or global comments very quickly by typing. As Warnock (2009) explained, students often like typed comments over hand written comments because they might be hard to read. Admittedly, my handwriting is not the best, especially when I am trying to limit the amount of time I spend responding to writing. Students also receive some hand written notes on their drafts, but for the most part I refer to paragraph numbers and pages in my global remarks to them.

In my onsite and online courses, I also make an effort at least once in a semester to provide voice comments or screencasts. I do find that leaving voice comments and screencasts takes me longer than typing comments, but I like to expose students to both types of feedback (typed and audio). Then I often let them try both types of feedback with classmates in an online peer review (in onsite and online courses). Voice comments and screencasts take me longer because I still need to think about what I am going to say before I start recording. When I write, I am more easily able to process my ideas. Writing to learn is a writing threshold concept that most everyone can relate to. However much I like typing my feedback, I understand that many students are both auditory and visual learners (as am I). Thus, screencasting is one of the most informative ways to provide feedback to students that I have found. The ability for students to listen to my commentary as they see my cursor moving across their writing mirrors what we would do together in person. I have found that students enjoy using screencasts in online peer reviews, and really value the detailed feedback that they receive. I typically have students use the free version of Screencast-O-Matic to record and upload their screencasts. I also provide a video tutorial about how they can use the free version, and they can see my face down in the corner as I am explaining the tool to them. I know that many of the colleges I teach at offer other screencasting programs in the library for free, but I like students to try out the free version of Screencast-O-Matic so that they might use it again as a resource in the future off campus. By the way, when you use the free version of Screencast-O-Matic and you save your video and try another one the program threatens you that your old video will be deleted if you use the free version again. However, it is a lie. Just click the yes button, and you can use the free version as many times as you like for up to 15-minute videos. There is a small watermark in the corner on the free version, but it in my opinion it is not distracting to students or wider audiences. I attached one of the tutorials I have made in the past at the end of this blog post.

When I first began teaching English language teaching certificate courses online, I sent each student a personalized e-mail with feedback on their discussion forum responses during week 2. What I realized from providing such feedback during week 2, was exactly what Warnock (2009) argued when he wrote about the importance of responding to students a lot in the beginning of the course. I find that when I spend plenty of time during the second week providing typed feedback to students I see higher quality writing throughout the course on discussion forums. The same holds true for onsite courses that I teach although I have different weights for discussion forums in online courses as compared to onsite courses. Like Warnock (2009) advocated, I also require much more weekly work on discussion forms in online courses than I do with onsite courses.

Finally, when I write feedback to students about their discussion forum responses via the form of an e-mail I am very careful to integrate my thoughts about the score by also referring to my scoring rubric. I might say something like the following: You are doing a great job talking about your personal teaching and learning experiences in relation to the question, which meets the criterion 4 and 5 on our scoring rubric. However, I would like you to carefully integrate quotes or paraphrases from our weekly readings and video lecture with page numbers or a time stamp (see my example responses in week 1) in order to meet criterion 2 and 3 on the discussion forum rubric. I’ll share that rubric below so you can see what I am talking about here in more detail. Then I go on to provide an example of what I mean for students so that they can actually see what I mean by connecting to their prior experiences or integrating a source. I most often have students write me back in the same day to ask further questions, or confirm that they have understood my suggestions to them and will try to implement them in the next week. As Warnock (2009) recommended, I then respond to students to always get the “last word” in e-mail conversations. I have found that always having the last word does help to develop a much more robust relationship with students in online and onsite courses.

Discussion Form Rubric Example

Assessment –Online Discussion Forum There are grading criteria for your responses(both types). The criteria for your responses are: 1.Actively contributes to the Online Discussion Forum discussions 2.Provides evidence of having completed the required reading 3.Understands key concepts and ideas introduced in the course 4.Relates ideas to own experience 5.Demonstrates originality of thought Please ensure you are meeting all criteria with each response. For more information,see the rubric below.

Tutorial of Online Peer Review Using Screencast-O-Matic

 

Resources

Warnock, S. (2009). Teaching writing online. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Do Online Students Learn? READ? WRITE? Yep!

Scott Warnock’s chapters, “Readings: Lots of Online Options, But the Book Is Not Dead!” and “Conversation: Online, Course ‘Talk’ Can Become Writing,” present approaches that produce positive results (and pitfalls) in online teaching.

This week’s material has allowed me to reflect on the issue I was attempting to grapple two weeks ago: Am I providing too much feedback? Again, the answer that online professors suggest is that too much feedback can muffle students’ voices, and it makes sense. If a student always gets too much criticism (feedback), then why would he or she want to write a response?  Hmm Shockingly, Gilly Salmon’s commenting guidelines are the following: “enough, but not to much, intervention” (qtd. in Warnock 76). Warnock then adds commenting “should be not more than one in four messages from you” (76). I do recognize now that I need to back off a bit since I assumed, prior to reading Warnock, that responding to all my students was part of the online teaching methodology.

I was surprised to learn Warnock provides extra credit to diligent and active members of conversations (81). I found that practice a bit troubling.

Shoudn’t all online students be treated equally? What message is being sent to students who do not meet Professor Warnock’s expectations?

On How to Produce Well-Crafted Responses

Warnock’s approach to grading in Teaching Writing Online will be morphing into my rubrics and prompts. I noticed the nonconducive pattern the author refers to occurred this last week in my online class. Warnock provides the following solution to avoid copycat posts: “My rules include posts should contribute to the overall conversation. If I post and opening prompt that asks a question, and seven students simply respond to it in similar fashion, by student seven I am giving 8s, even on otherwise good posts. This is one way students are building on the conversation” (88). My guidelines state that students must present at least five sentences (Recent change). From now on, I will specify “critical” sentences that do not simply repeat their classmates’ comments. I will consider a word count since “Me too!!!”  (qut. in Warnock 80), of course, “does not qualify as an ‘official’ post” (80). And surprisingly, students do write these responses under time constraints. For instance, this this past we concluded Whole-class Workshops in my online class. A student wrote three sentences, and one of them was “Great work!” Sigh. (FYI: I overlapped the research paper due date with the last Whole-class Workshop. I will do my best not to replicate that issue.)

No-no in Online Teaching

My goal as an online instructor is for every activity to prepare students for their essays. I might even be crafting assignments that are to closely related to the class’s essay prompt. Because I want students to succeed, I include several application paragraphs for their last essay, since in my eyes, the material can be difficult to grasp. However, Warnock critiques this approach by warning, “If all posts are extended essays in response to my prompts, the message becomes a series of disconnected essays responding to the instructor’s questions than a conversation (82). I will revisit my online discussion forums and will see if my prompts need revisiting since I present rather complex prompts compared to Warnock’s message board one-sentence questions/prompts (86). To be honest, from a critical student’s perspective, I would expect a professor to write more than one sentence (As a student writer, I observed and appreciated my professors’ rhetorical approaches). As a college student, I never took online classes prior to teaching online, so unfortunately I do not know what most online English prompts look like.

Contemplating Synchronous Activities

Another topic Warnock shares in chapter 7 and 8 is an introduction to synchronous approaches even though he prefers asynchronous message boards, which I rely on in the online setting. In the next few weeks, before the start of my summer online class, I will be contemplating at least one synchronous activity I can repeat throughout the semester.

Lens Perspective Writing

For my online critical thinking and writing class for Mt. San Jacinto College, I have to teach five essays. For Essay #5, I present two prompts—one for students who are interested in analyzing a film and the other for students who are interested in writing about two texts. For Option I, students will apply WEB Du Bois’s the double consciousness/the veil to Jennifer Baszile’s The Black Girls Next Door. What follows is Option II lens perspective assignment:

NOTE: I will be returning to film in my f2f classes; that is why I selected this assignment.

Films through a Lens Perspective Discussion Board Forum in Preparation for Essay #4

For this activity, using Seger, Hagedorn, Omi, and/or St. John’s as a critical framework, analyze the representation of a specific character in a film of your choice. Be sure to include detailed observations and an intellectual analysis. That is, based on Seger, Hagedorn, Omi and/or St. John’s lens perspective, how does the director depict the character? What is the director’s purpose? How does the director’s representation of the character affect the viewer? Add a screenshot of a scene that includes the character you selected, so your classmates can follow your keen observations. Post your semiotic analysis by Saturday, April 28, 2018, at 10:30 PM, and reply to two of your fellow classmates’ posts by Sunday, April 29, 2018, at 10:30 PM. (10%)

Length: One paragraph (AXES)

Check-Off List:

  • Does your assertion include the name of the film and your argument?
  • Have you presented a vivid description of the character to support your claim?
  • Did you include a lens perspective?
  • Have you provided your rationale?
  • Does the paragraph follow a logical spatial order using prepositional phrases and/or transitions?
  • Have you carefully proofread your work, including spelling?
  • Does your bring the paragraph to a satisfactory close?

Writer’s Tips:

NOTE: Summary is not critical thinking.

        Discussion Forum Post Rubric

Full credit

Presents a limited topic, a lens perspective, well organized central supported idea, an abundance of telling details, apt word choice, sophisticated sentence structure, and mastery of grammar and usage conventions of standard English.

                    Replies

 

Two replies made prior to the due date. Both replies demonstrate thoughtful feedback.

 

Partial credit 

Presents a limited topic, a lens perspective, some organization and inadequate development, a general word choice, and some distracting errors in grammar and usage.

   

Two replies are made prior to the due date that reflect little to no effort to provide thoughtful feedback.

 

Not passing

Missing an argument and a lens perspective, a lack of organization,  inadequate development, a vocabulary that is too general, sentences without much subordination or parallelism, and serious errors in grammar and usage.

 

0 points

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