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

Don’t Get Me Started on How Important Reading is in a Writing Class.
Don’t Get Me Started on How Important Reading is in a Writing Class. avatar

Unit 5 Reading and Discussion.

Reading is important. As much as I think of my classes as writing classes, they are, in fact, reading classes as well. When I first started teaching, I would assign four essays on a topic, and then expect my students to discuss it in class. Boy, that did not work. Students could give their opinion on the topic–say immigration or gun control, but discussing the readings didn’t really happen. Luckily, I was fortunate to be invited to the Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiatives (CAPI) Summer Institute in 2003, which morphed into Reading Institute for Academic Preparation (RIAP) Summer Institute in 2005. The basis of the work in both of these summer institutes was reading–more precisely working with texts. It really gave me some tools to help my students learn to read college-level texts well enough to write about them.

I learned to slow down and really work on one reading at a time helping students understand what they read. The big push was “Charting the Text.” This was used to help students (and ourselves!) understand what the text was saying and doing. Part active listening (saying) and part teaching the writer’s craft (doing). I was hooked. In my classes, students not only understood the readings better, we also got to talk about what the writer was doing–his or her craft Or as the RWS Department calls it, rhetorical strategies. Why does she begin her essay with this story? Why does he use this quote here? This gave students tools for thinking how to write their papers.

I went on to be a mentor teacher for the English Department at Santee High with English Curriculum Alignment Project (ECAP) from 2009 to 2012 through SDSU/Grossmont Union High School District project. The English teachers at Santee and I worked on Assignment Sequences that brought in an expository texts to work with their literature curriculum. For example, several teachers were using Romeo and Juliet in their classes. We found a fabulous essay about love versus infatuation (I wish I could remember the title!). We created an Assignment Sequence that worked through both the play and the essay leading up to a paper where students had to argue whether or not, Romeo and Juliet were in love or infatuation.

I digress. Back to Warnock and reading. Chapter 7 “Readings: Lots of Online Options, But the Book Is Not Dead.”

Guideline 18 & 19

For years I have put together a reader through the SDSU and MiraCosta bookstores. It’s less expensive ($20-$30) and we use all of it in class. AND, both bookstores take care of all the copy-writes. When I started teaching online at SDSU last summer, I had students all over the place, Germany, Seattle, …. How could they buy a reader that was only at the bookstore on campus?

I put my readings on Blackboard– Some were online, so I put the links. I also made printable PDFs of each (took out the pics, numbered the paragraphs).  While I liked the online version so they could see the essays in their original forms,  I wanted them to be able to print them up easily. I agree with Bentley! I read much better with the reading on paper in my hand. I also put all my handouts online.

“How do We Know They Have Read” (63)?

Roll questions (f2f classes) I use roll questions for attendance. Sometime it’s something general, “Favorite place to eat.” When readings are due, I ask a roll question like, “What is your favorite quote from the reading and why?”

Not only do they know they will be accountable, but reading quotes from the reading at the beginning of class allows us to listen and think about the  reading before we start. (Thank you Marla Williams for sharing your great idea of Roll Questions!) Now–how to do this in an online class? I don’t know and I am open to suggestions.

Quizzes Yep. Online. Like my friend in the Art Department at MCC, Gracie Adams, quizzes are leaning tools. So I give them multiple attempts. I want them to learn the material.

Discussion Board Homework. More on this later.

Student Led Class Discussion/Reading Presentations/Charting the text (f2f).

Honestly, I got bored and frustrated with the traditional charting that I learned in the CAPI and RIAP Summer Institutes. I had to make it work for my class, teaching, most importantly, my students. I started Student Led Class Discussions which is a form of charting done in small groups and are presented to the class (the group leads the discussion of their section of the reading). So for example, for reading Mark Slouka’s “Quitting the Paint Factory,” students were assigned groups and each group was assigned 3-6 paragraphs. Then they had to do the following first individually as homework, and then together in class with their group:

Instructions for Student Led Class Discussion/Reading Presentations

Student Led Class Discussion/Reading Presentations: You will be put in a group and will create a reading presentation for the class and lead the discussion on your assigned paragraphs.

What you need to do for your Group Reading Presentation:

    1. Explain each key term in your section (for example materialism, narcissism, etc…)
    2. Explain each person mentioned and/or quoted in your section. (for example Maslow, Ryan, etc…)
    3. Explain the key ideas of each paragraph assigned to your group.
    4. Indentify claims and  sub-claims (if any).
    5. Come up with two things Kasser is doing as a writer (strategies/rhetorical strategies).
    6. Answer any questions other students may have about your section.
    7. You can organize your presentation in a way that makes sense for your your group. Each person in the group my speak during the presentation.

Group 1–>Paragraphs 3-7

Group 2–>Paragraphs 8-12

Group 3–>Paragraphs 13-16

Group 4–> Paragraphs 17-20

Group 5–> Paragraphs 21-23

Group 6–> Paragraphs 24-29

I have yet to translate this to my online classes, but I have a few ideas. I know a friend who has students write a wiki entry (on Bb following the guidelines of the wiki genre). That way, students from the class can access them. I am open to suggestions!


This is a nice segue to Warnock’s Chapter 8 “Conversation Online Course ‘Talk’ Can Become Writing.”

You probably know by now that I love using Discussion Board. in my I’ve used discussion boards with my f2f classes for years, but in my f2f classes, we also had class time for discussing ideas as a class or in small groups, time to write, ask questions, etc….This is what I feel is missing in my current online class. There is a gap here that I need to think about.

Guideline 24: “To get the most out of your message boards, make sure your instructions and expectations are clear and detailed.”

Warnock is correct that this is extremely important. Not only is it on my syllabus, but I remind them in each discussion board. I also found that I explain the purpose of the discussion board–the purpose of this discussion board is to make sure students understand key ideas from the reading before moving on o writing the essay, or the purpose of this discussion board is to help you come up with a topic/write your rough draft, etc…

DB HW #9 “Brainstorming topics for Paper 3: The Lens Paper” (Eng 101 f2f MiraCosta Sp 2018)
The purpose of this homework is to help you work through a topic or two to see if it works. It also gives you the opportunity to read other student topics and get feedback on your (if you post early).Post a pic of your artifact.1. Explain in a paragraph your artifact (what you are going to look at and analyze). Be specific.2. Explain briefly how you would apply the lens to your artifact. Does your artifact encourage narcissism? How or how not?

2. List three-five quotes from Kasser that you are thinking to use.

4. Explain what you want to get across to your audience. What are the main points you want to make?

As always, you need to read and respond to three student posts for credit.

Students are drafting parts of their papers on discussion board as well as giving and receiving feedback in the process. I leave all discussion boards up during the for the full semester so students can go back if they want to use something from discussion board in their papers.

I post exemplary student posts for others to see (even though they can see it on DB). I did this at the beginning of the semester, and the student whose work it was emailed me, “Wow! This just made my day. Thank you!! Stephanie”

She later told me during office hours that she has never felt she was a good writer, and that my posting her work made her feel like she could write. That made my day, too.

Bye for now. I look forward to reading your posts.


Writing Process/Assignment Sequence Unit 4
Writing Process/Assignment Sequence Unit 4 avatar

Hi Everyone,

The quote from Warnock’s “Teaching the OWI Course” that resonates most with me at the moment is from Joanna Paul “I think it’s important not to overload ourselves with graded writing to review” (166). Right now, I am swamped and behind in grading! And I am going home next weekend for a family friend’s memorial so this week is crunch time.

I am also a huge fan of low-stakes writing and meta learning as Warnock asks “Why is low-stakes writing important in encouraging students to work on meta aspects of writing” (166)? You will see how I build in low-stakes writing for students to reflect on their learning and writing in my assignments in the video below.

Luckily, I have been using the writing process as a way to scaffold my writing assignments, or as I call them, assignment sequences. So I have been able to migrate what I have done in my f2f classrooms over to my online classrooms for the most part. There are still parts of the f2f group and whole-class discussions that I don’t feel I have been able to replicate in my online courses.


Here is my video–I tried to keep it to 3 minutes!

Here is my google doc with more details of my assignment sequence I discuss in my video.

Warnock Chapters 4 & 5
Warnock Chapters 4 & 5 avatar

Hi All,

Well, I was rushing to get this done and realized that we have until March 26th. But I have the readings fresh in my head, and even made a video showing how I use discussion board as well as, how, with the help of Katie Hughes (SDSU) and Marla Williams (SDSU & MiraCosta), I have revised my syllabus and calendar for my online classes.

Here’s the Link

Best, Cara Owens


Keep It Simple Sister (Kiss)
Keep It Simple Sister (Kiss) avatar

Hi Everyone!


I have had a love/hate relationship for the last ten years with Blackboard (Bb). On one hand Instructional Technologies Services at SDSU have used my Blackboard sites examples of how to set up a class on Bb, as well as have me come in to demo some of the things I do on Bb to other professors. On the other hand, I find Bb clunky and limited like a 1997 website. Over the years, I have figured out (with a help from others and on my one) many workarounds to do what I wanted to do.

Adopting New Technology

Warnock’s Guideline 9 states “Don’t be more complicated technologically than you have to be’ (19). I am pretty good at just trying out on thing at a time. For example, a couple of semesters ago when I started teaching online, I reluctantly started using Turnitin. In my f2f classes, I loved my writing workshops and wasn’t sure in using PeerMark would suit my students’ needs. For what was key was setting up the questions students were asked to answer when they read and gave feedback on each others papers. I believe the questions I have them use asks for specific concepts/ideas inherent to the assignment and to what learning outcomes they will be graded on. Generic questions or questions in “teacherly” lingo don’t work well in my experience.

For my RWS 305W at SDSU and Eng 100 at MC, my students first paper is a memoir/narrative. It helps build a writing community, gets me to my students and their writing. I work a lot on topic selection, narrowing their topics, being specific, using concrete details, and understanding at prompt and audience. I also, though out this, get them to think about how these concepts apply to their academic papers as well. Here are the PeerMark Questions I have my students answer for the papers they review.

I have to say that I still miss my writer’s workshop in my f2f classes, but I have been very happy with PeerMark overall. Students like it, too. What I found most surprising is that my students have told me on many occasions how reading and responding to other student papers helped them to rethink their own paper. Of course this is music to my ears!



I am using Canvas for the first time this semester after going to a couple of workshops and took one of the online courses. I think I will like it better than blackboard. Again, I am keeping it simple. I organized it similarly to my Bb but I am sure that will change over time. I am not using Turnitin and am trying the Canvas assignment peer review. Still getting used to it. I am playing around with creating pages but have not ventured in to html (so scary!) Here’s one of the pages I created for my second paper in Eng 100.



I have my juniors and seniors in RWS 305W create a blog. I have not done this yet with English 100 at MC. I used to let my students pick their own blog platform, but that was hard since I didn’t know all of them. Since last semester, I am using edublog since it is free and it’s the educational version of wordpress. RWS 305W is an upper-division course and as its title says, “Writing In Various Settings.” Students are asked to write a blog about something they are interested in.  I also blogged with them this semester so I could get to know the ins and outs of edublogs. Here is my blog--which has the assignment and posts about troubleshooting.  I also did zoom videos during the semester on how to create your background, reorder your posts on the free version, and the like.

Here are some of my student blogs from RWS 305W

Studying Abroad in Loreto

Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez

Favorite Diner


I don’t think that I would have my freshman create an open-ended blog like this for many reasons. I have had my freshman post their papers on a class blog for their final paper. Here’s the link so you can see it. I liked having them post it since we were writing about technology, but I wish I could link it up to Speed Grader.

I don’t think I would use a blog for an entire class site. I really like having the features built in to a CMS like Canvas and Blackboard. Plus, while I am digitally curious and willing to try new stuff, I don’t want to overwhelm myself nor my students. Right now I can’t even log in to our blog Writing with Machines nor figure out how to post my profile pic and pics on my post.

Baby steps…..

Thanks for letting me share this with you!


First Post–Thinking about My Teaching & Teaching Online
First Post–Thinking about My Teaching & Teaching Online avatar


Hi Everyone,

My name is Cara Owens.  I am excited to participate in Writing with Machines to see how all of you teach and teach online. I believe it’s always good for me to get out of my teaching bubble.

A little about me: I started teaching for MiraCosta a year ago–English 49 and English 100. I have taught at SDSU in The Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies as a lecturer since 1998. I started teaching RWS 305W online Summer 2017 and am currently teaching three sections of RWS 305W Online at SDSU, and one section English 100 at MiraCosta.

I like that you are asking us to think of a framework for teaching online. When I first started teaching online last summer, I was so worried about how to transition my class over and how to work with some new technology, that I overlooked this question for the most part.

So here are a few of my key principles for my teaching and online teaching.

1. Creating learning/writing community. Students often come in to my class not feeling safe sharing their thoughts and writing. I do Roll Questions in my f2f classes such as something general, “What is the last movie you watched?” to questions about the homework, “What was your favorite sentence in the today’s assigned reading?” or “What is the title of your paper.” This gets students comfortable in class.  I also have all of my students homework on Discussion Board (Bb and now Canvas) even in my f2f classes.

My first discussion board post is always “Getting to Know You.” Students have
to post a picture of themselves standing in front of my office. However, for my
Online classes this doesn’t work so I just have them post a pic of themselves
as well as tell us about themselves. For all my discussion board homework,
students have to read and respond to at least three student posts to earn full

2. Writing as a Process. For each paper my students write, I guide them through the writing process by creating a series of reading/learning/writing opportunities. So basically, my calendar is set up to mimic the reading-thinking-writing (and back and forth since it is not so linear) process. I hope is that by doing this four times over the semester, they will have an idea of what they need to do when they are assigned a paper to write in their other courses.

3. A Safe Place for Risks and Mistakes. I try to lower my students affective filters by talking about my struggles with reading and writing. For example, I don’t read an text and get it the first time. In fact, many of the texts I assign my students to read, I have read multiple times over many semesters, and I still need to read it again every semester. And every semester, I get a new view of the text.

Same with writing. I talk about my procrastination and fears. How my house
gets clean when I have something to write, etc… I always have my students
start their papers before they know they are starting their papers. My
discussion board homework typically has questions they must write on
directly related to the prompt for the paper. I tell them “ Don’t worry about
perfect grammar and punctuation. Just get your ideas in writing–we will work
on the other stuff later.”  By the time they have done their discussion
homework assignments (3-5), they have enough writing to actually use for
starting their rough drafts.

I also tell students hat no one writes an essay/paper/letter perfectly their first
try. In fact that Ernest Hemingway rewrote/revised his ending to Farewell to
Arms thirty-nine times(some say forty-seven times?). Depending on what I
am writing, I may revise six, seven, eight times or more; until I am sick of it or
there is a deadline. (Thank God for deadlines!)

This relates back to Writing as a Process. Writing a paper really starts out
with when we start discussing a topic and read a text. The reading and
thinking, the mistakes and misunderstandings are all part of the process that
leads to an understanding.

4. My Role as Co-Learner. Warnock quotes George Collison and his coauthors as “describ(ing) three key facilitator roles tht you can take in an online  environment: guide on a side, instructor or project leader, and group process facilitator (33)” (3). I think this on the right track, but for me there is something missing from these roles. I really think of myself as a lifelong learner. I am not an expert, but I do have a lot of experience in reading and writing! I set up a series of learning experiences in my classes that lead my co-learners/students through our courses. I guide and facilitate, but I also learn alongside my students. And, most importantly, I learn from my students.

Ideas I connected with from Warnock:


“The continuous writing environment makes it ever possible for students to learn through their own work in a studio-like environment (Grego and Thompson 8)” (xii)

“I think that most dedicated teachers–writing or otherwise… go through periodic moments of malaise during which they suspect that everything they are doing is wrong… “ (xv).

“…I realize the humanistic potential of this environment. Writing teachers have a unique opportunity because writing-centered online courses allow instructors dn students to interact in ways beyond content delivery. They allow students to build a community through electronic means” (xix)

Chapter 1

“Initially, I felt very unsure about what kind of persona–what kind of voice–I would have as an online teacher” (1).

In the online writing class, you might be surprised to discover that (possibly for the first time) you are a real audience for your students’ writing” (3)

“Students no longer write just at assignment time. They must always be thinking about their writing practices in their course interactions” (4).

“Because the students don’t actually see me, I try to create links between us, not just to develop a sense of camaraderie, but to create an audience for them” (8).

“‘Setting up an appropriate learning climate is key to establishing a successful learning experience’(qtd in Conrad and Donaldson 46)” (9).

Here’s a short video of my online course at SDSU–RWS 305W (upper division writing requirement)