Thursday, October 5, 2017

Poetry & Pedagogy: Prepping for an In-Class Essay

To prepare students for an upcoming in-class essay, we did a version of “reciprocal teaching”. The essay prompt asks students to use two scholar’s theories to make sense of a phenomenon. In this case, the theorists are Paulo Freire and Jean Anyon, two educational scholars. The object of study is a classroom of their choice - perhaps one they remember from elementary or high school, or one they are currently enrolled in here at college.  We’d done multiple “draft readings” and several pre-writing activities to unpack the scholars ideas, but the “moment of truth” was upon us, and I wanted to them to rehearse. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Brain Dumps, Summaries, and Collaborative Writing

Today in two of my classes, we did a brain dump, where both class went the whiteboard and “dumped” everything they had in their brains about two of the major readings we’ve been analyzing. By “dump" I mean list absolutely everything they knew about our two readings. Half the class worked on Paulo Freire chapter “The ‘Banking Mode’ of Education”. The other focused on Jean Anyon’s “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum.” We’re working on a big writing project based on both readings, and I wanted to do some retrieval practice and to compose summaries - a key element of their essay.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Spotlighting Student Voices Using the Author's Chair

I finally attempted the “author’s chair” activity, something I had experienced at San Diego Area Writing Project. This protocol calls for students to take a seat in the front of the room to read a piece of their writing, typically a work in progress. I never had the nerve to try before. What if no one volunteered? What if students didn’t respond? What if students weren't interested in each others' ideas?

On this particular day, students had completed a mini-essay, a flash draft. I set up the room, explaining the process. I reminded folks about one of our “class agreements”: No apologies! What we write in class are first drafts, sloppy and scribbly, so there’s no need to say “I’m sorry".  I want students to be be okay with the natural imperfections of an early draft. I want them to develop the nerve they need to share works in progress. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Previewing & Pre-Writing: First Year Students Dive into Freire

I’m rediscovering how important it is to provide students with multiple “ways into a topic” when approaching a new text. I admit that I used to simply assign a reading and then be upset with myself and students for not understanding the text. 

Starting last year, I took intentional steps to to solve the problem of preparing students to read. My particular challenge this semester? To access prior knowledge and to provide background knowledge before plonking them into chapter two of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Feeling the Burn of Mentor Texts & Mea Culpas

Teachers should  learn from students. This statement has become so axiomatic as to become cliche. Tired, even. And yet, it’s a home truth, one that I subscribe to because of my study of Paulo Freire and bell hooks On an intellectual, theoretical tip, I get it. Teacher-student. Student-teacher. Resolve the contradiction between those roles. 

A recent pair of episodes, however, hit me at an experiential, gut level. What happened in class taught me, in a new way, important lessons. Students modeled how I can “practice what I preach in terms of the kind of person I want to be and the kind of writer I aspire to becoming. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Debriefing DACA in the Writing Class

When given a chance, students testify to their desire for meaningful lessons. As one student wrote in an exit ticket, “Teachers can help us learn . . . about real life.” In an online discussion, students agreed they want to know how to deal with issues they encounter in their lives. They want relevant lessons that apply to their lived realities. That and the fact that our campus is located in Chula Vista, a stone's throw from the border, compelled me to discuss the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA). As a college professor, I have a duty to address an issue that affects so many in our community. I am also obligated to show students how a critical thinkers might approach these kind of issues.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Experiments with Digital Annotation

I wanted to help students comprehend assigned readings. So I felt excited to give, an online shared annotating/note taking program, a try. I’m still getting acquainted with the program and all its functions. But I can already attest to the value of digital annotating. Students can highlight as they would on actual paper, and they can jot down notes, or add links and images. Since everyone in class can see and comment upon everyone else's digital notes, students can start discussion threads anchored to readings.

The big goal here isn't to learn to highlight for the sake of highlighting nor to use digital tools out of a commitment to technology. Instead, I wanted to provide students a way to engage in meaningful reading and dialogue to develop content for their essays.

So I uploaded readings them onto, “seeding” them with highlighted notes about content and structure. I introduced the texts to students. And I demonstrated in class, devoting laboratory time for students to sign up and practice.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Chopping Up" Pinoy Psychology: AXES Illustration Paragraphs

The above clip features psychology Professor Kevin Nadal (he also does stand-up - talk about renaissance man). I like how Nadal illustrates Filipino American psychological phenomena using humor. I use his text book Filipino American Psychology in a composition class I teach. Why? For one, the class is part of a Filipino American Learning Community, so the subject matter is right on time. Secondly, the book features rhetorical modes typically found in college textbooks. And one of the big lessons I hope to teach is how to recognize and replicate those types of writing.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

P.O.W.E.R. & Thriving: Formulas for Success

We’ve been studying various ways to explain growth - leaning on traditional models of student development like Perry and Kohlberg. We also examined racial identity development models (see beverly Daniel Tatum's "Talking About Race, Learning about Racism"), another crucial area of growth. Movement through developmental models (ethical, moral, racial) can lead to an overall state of flourishing. 

One formula that measures how students flourish is what education professor Laura Schreiner calls the “thriving quotient.” Her formula accounts for the kind of growth we’d like students (and ourselves, as life-long learners!) to achieve. Schreiner breaks up her formula into five common sense factors: Social Connectedness, Positive Perspectives, Academic Determination, Valuing of Diverse Citizenry, and Engaged Learning.

She describes those ingredients in her essay, "The Thriving Quotient.” Social Connections speaks to fostering social capital and “soft skills” we need for collaborative work. Positive Perspective refers to positive psychology theories like Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” and Angela Duckworth’s “Grit.” Academic Determination has to do goals, attitudes, and skills for growth. Value for Diverse Citizenry isn’t only about the ability to work well with different kinds of people. It’s about hope and the spirit of optimism that intergroup collaboration makes a difference. Engaged Learning accounts for actively participating in one’s learning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Podcasts & Classroom Conversations

As is my habit, as I drove home from work, I was listening to a podcast, Slate’s Audio Book Club. Because we are in the middle of studying Ta-Nehisi Coate’s recent book Between the World and Me, I wanted to supplement my reading with the opinions of Slate journalists that I respect: Jamelle Bouie, chief political correspondent, Katy Waldman, a staff writer, and Meghan O'Rourke who writes about culture, and she has recently published a memoir about her mother’s death Their podcast conversation was smart. Erudite. Insightful. The journalists manifested a breadth and depth of knowledge that added so much to my reading of Coates’ epistolary memoir. 

Listening to them reminded me of being in graduate school seminar, where we tested our ideas, took (and changed!) tentative positions about an author’s content, and sought to find the significance of the texts before us.