Question of the day: What do you do on the last day of class?

Here’s a question (or a set of related questions) that should be particularly relevant for all of us at this point in the semester:

What do you do on the last day of class? What do you do during the mandatory exam period? Is there anything you have tried that has worked particularly well (or gone really poorly)?

Inquiring minds want to know. Please comment below.

Question of the day: When students don’t read

Since it’s been a month since the last one, here’s a Question of the Day that pertains to something presumably all of us have experienced:

“What do you do when the majority of your class (or all of them!) have not done the reading for the day, especially when all your activities were planned around working with the reading(s)?  Do you switch to something else? Try to work with it nevertheless? Yell at them?”

Please respond below…

On the “Edge” of Writing: Embodiment in Writing Practice


When I think about writing in my classroom, I often imagine the figure illustrated above: a head for “thinking” and arms for “writing.” But writing is a physical act; our bodies make writing possible. Our bodies are sources of knowledge, containers of collected memory. Our bodies think. Our bodies feel. So why does the body feel noticeably absent when we “think” about writing?

This is something I’ve been wondering about a lot lately. I come to these questions not only as someone who teaches First Year Writing, but also as a theater-maker (with an interest in the body, training, and performance), a student exploring the Feldenkrais Method (an “approach to human movement, learning and change”), and as a recreational runner (The Feldenkrais Institute). All of these practices rely on, develop, or question the use of the body in action. So I wonder, by extrapolation, if writing can’t be part of this conversation, too. Can we borrow from the performance and athletic fields and incorporate embodied knowledge into our teaching and writing practices? Is it possible that we could become more dynamic, deliberate and effective writers and teachers if we learned how to utilize our senses and sensations, if we allowed writing to be an embodied experience? My purpose is to put forward the questions in the hopes that we can start a conversation together, and begin to explore the “spaces in between” thinking, sensing, and writing. Continue reading

Combating Student Apathy workshop

For those of you who couldn’t make it to yesterday’s workshop on Combating Student Apathy, here’s a copy of the handout that Erica Dolson and I put together for it.

We had a great discussion, with the attendees coming up with a number of excellent suggestions, ideas and activities that I am planning to try out, so I hope some of them will share in the comments below.

Combating Student Apathy
There is, of course, no one way to combat student apathy, because there is no single type of apathetic student or individual situation where one deals with it. These strategies, tactics and approaches are only some ways in which one can attempt to prevent its appearance or deal with it when it manifests.

Pre-emptive moves: Continue reading

Question of the day: How do you engage your class?

To kick off the coming week, here’s another question (or set of questions) from Michael Laser:

“What activities have you done with your students that yielded the most interest, the most engagement? How do you get them talking, and even enjoying the class? Are there activities that you can share that have accomplished all this? If so, please reply with a description!”

Please weigh in below…

Mind-Mapping as a Teaching Tool

As I planned out the first unit on Scarcity for my Introduction to College Writing course, I realized that the text presented a unique challenge. It seemed to me that the authors’ extensive research and personal examples served to clarify the concepts while at the same time complicate the relationships between ideas. While reading Scarcity myself, I found that I needed to track how the central themes related specifically to the examples found in any particular chapter. This experience made me realize that I needed to find a better way to support my students in identifying the various concepts and how they related to the arguments presented in Scarcity. I decided that Mind-Mapping was the most appropriate tool for handling the complexities within the text. I spent two class periods teaching the basic concepts and methodology of Mind-Mapping; much to my chagrin, it seems to have marvelously affected the quality of my students’ first essay drafts.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Mind-Mapping, Brian Weller and Tony Buzan developed the concept in the 1970’s (for more information, see: Essentially, Mind-Mapping is a methodology for linking written notes, pictures and colors to memory that is, according to research, more effective than traditional note-taking methods. The process of Mind-Mapping arranges info-graphics (combinations of words and images), picto-graphics (pictures that tell a particular story), and meaningful phrases, keywords and symbols organically on paper in order to capture ideas. Continue reading

Question of the day: What do you do during peer review?

Michael Laser and Tavya Jackson suggested that we feature questions about some general teaching situations on the blog, so that we can get input from varied quarters and discussion of some of our common classroom challenges.

To kick things off, here’s one from Michael:

“Today we did peer review of my classes’ 1st drafts. While the students read and commented on each others’ work, I occupied myself at the front of the room. Instinct told me that a great teacher would have been doing something different – engaging and helping somehow. But I didn’t want to intrude on their concentration and conversations.

Any thoughts? What do you do while they’re reading and taking notes on each others’ work?”

Please weigh in below.