First Day of Class (Chronicle Article)

Here’s a good article from the Chronicle on teaching an effective first day of class. It’s fairly long but has a lot of useful details and illustrative examples (one of them being for a composition course).

How to Teach a Good First Day of Class (Advice Guide)


ESL/EAL resources and practice

As you may have noticed, the recent FYW Newsletter contained these links to resources for helping students who need ESL/EAL support:


Since this is a very large set of resources, here are a couple follow-up questions (from Mike Laser) about experiences with using them:

Have you had especial success using any of these (or other) resources? Which ones did you find particularly useful? Which ones were most user-friendly (for faculty and for students)?

Please post responses below or email them to me and I’ll post them here.


Syllabus Day

By Melissa Adamo

Syllabus day. That magical time when professors read the syllabus at students until their eyes glaze over. No wonder they never remember anything from the syllabus or feel motivated to look back at it ever again.

Over the past couple of years, I have tried to make syllabus day more interactive. I’ve told students to highlight specific policies that they knew they’d personally need to remember (for example, late policies for those who struggle with punctuality). I told them to take notes, reframe parts in their own words, jot down questions as I go through it with them. I wanted to show them that the syllabus was a text like any other we would read in our class and to have them start practicing active reading skills on day one. Although this lesson was more helpful in engaging students compared to when I simply read through the syllabus quickly (boring even myself), I could tell I was still losing their attention.

This year I tried something different.

Inspired by Lisa Blankenship’s professional development last semester, when we worked in groups to examine language on a syllabus that might excluded some students, I asked my students to critique my syllabus in a similar fashion. Continue reading

Two Terms: A Retrospective on Writing Program Work (Season 2, Episode 6 of The Write Mode)

After six years as the director of MSU’s First Year Writing Program, Jessica Restaino is moving on (to take over as director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program).

Henry Margenau and Dayna Arcurio interviewed Jessica for their podcast, The Write Mode, about subjects such as (quoting from their website): “What does she see as the most important work she’s done?  What lies ahead for the FYW Program and the Writing Studies Department?  … multimodality, running a writing program, eating muffins, and all kinds of stuff.”

Here are links to their podcast and a transcript of the interview.

Interview at The Write Mode

TWM – S2E6 – Transcript

Thanks for everything, Jess!

Behind the Magic Rubric Curtain: Allowing the Students to Peek at the Grading Process

By Jennifer Daly

This semester, one of my comp 1 classes requested a rubric. I utilize the guidelines set forth by FYW, but the only other rubrics I have created and used were for multimodal assignments. When these students requested a rubric, they gave answers such as “I am an adult student who hasn’t been in school in a while and a rubric will help me guide my writing” or “my high school teacher used one so I am used to them.” They made valid points, and I believe that when a student requests a tool that will help them, if it is in my power, I should give it to them.

I did what any educator does—I read articles about rubric construction, read rubrics from community colleges through Ivy League schools, and came to, what I thought, was a happy median. Proud of this creation that I spent hours stitching together, I presented it to the class for agreement. All was settled then—I was using a rubric and they cleared the final draft for use.

Then, I graded the first batch of essays. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  I wasn’t just disappointed with the quality of writing; I was disappointed in the grades I was giving. It was there, spelled out with math, but these grades were horrendous. And, I felt terrible writing them in. I could hear the sighs of freshman souls escaping and hopelessness seeping in…yes, it was that bad. But, like any other educator, I brainstormed to find a solution. That solution is outlined below; please feel free to use any/all of it.  Is it the “right” answer? I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to these sort of dilemmas, but this helped my students.   Continue reading

Rhetoric, Rhetorical Sensitivity, and Teaching for Transfer

By Lisa Ede

I want to say how pleased I am to be here with you today, and I have to say that from my perspective you have a huge amount to celebrate.

— Not that you didn’t before.

— Your writing program has always been unusually strong, as evidenced by the program’s recognition with a CCCC Writing Program Certificate of Excellence, the highest form of recognition that CCCC offers.

But as you know better than I do, in the past few years you’ve negotiated the rocky bureaucratic shoals of academic restructuring. Fortunately, the movement of the writing program out of the English department into its own freestanding Department of Writing Studies was something that you wanted to do. And now here you are with your own departmental identity, a new chair, a lively and responsive curriculum, and strong faculty development opportunities. In preparing for this workshop today, I read a number of articles in your blog “Deep Down in the Classroom,” and I was impressed.

So kudos to all of you! And I want to be sure to tell you that I, the other coauthors of Everyone’s An Author, and Marilyn (whose vision for EAA sustained and inspired us) are honored that you chose to include our textbook as a primary text for your course. Thank you for including EAA in your curriculum.

Continue reading

I Let My Students Grade Me!

By Jennifer Daly


My first semester teaching was an incredible learning experience, as every semester is. It was also the first semester we required the multimodal project as the final project. Having taken Digital Rhetoric as a grad student, I felt super prepared and excited for the students to experience composing an argument in this way. I felt comfortable with this type of composition—but it was only after the whole uncomfortable process of stepping outside the comfort of alphabetic text in Digital Rhetoric. Because many of the students seemed extremely uncomfortable with the assignment, I decided that, in true democratic fashion, we would take a vote. Would they like me to work alongside them? I would even allow them to grade me! So, the tables had turned…

After they almost unanimously voted yes, I had to set up parameters. I would offer extra credit in the form of 2 points added to the final project of their choice if they followed the instructions presented for each of my drafts and graded each one (totaling 3 graded assignments in all). The assignment is as follows:

“I will work alongside you throughout the entire project’s process. Your due dates are my due dates. I will post my project in the discussion board, and you must grade it before the next draft is due. You must include the following criteria:

  • 1 piece of positive criticism: what is working and why? 2 sentences minimum.
  • 1 piece of constructive criticism: where do I need to clarify or what do I need to work on? 2 sentences minimum.
  • Give me a grade: utilize the grading rubric we created together and grade my project. 1 sentence minimum explanation.

If you grade each draft in time, totaling 3 grades, email me with the project you want your extra points added to by the due date of the final portfolio.” Continue reading