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

Let’s Revisit This Plagiarism Thing…

*Student names and identities have been thoroughly changed*

I know what you’re thinking: Another post about plagiarism. We get it. We’re using Turnitin. Let’s move on already.

But here’s the thing. I’ve been teaching in academia for over ten years and last semester, I had a case unlike any I had ever seen before. Without getting into too much detail, I will say that it was blatant and that the student had many creative excuses and spent a good amount of time fighting my decision. The story itself could be its own blog post, a cautionary tale about what happens when you choose to spend your time trying to get out of a situation caused by you not managing your time intelligently in the first place, but I digress…

The reason I really want to talk about this is because I didn’t “officially” report this student to the conduct office the first time. I did what, I think, many of us do: sat down with the student, instructed him on the correct way to cite the source, gave him the benefit of the doubt and required a rewrite of the assignment in question. In my mind, I had emailed him regarding all of this and I had proof of the match, so I figured that doing this was enough and if something came up later, I had what I needed.

I didn’t report him officially because I didn’t want him to get in trouble with someone outside of our class. I work hard to make sure my students know that our writing classroom, be it physical or virtual, is a safe space, a place where they can be free to make mistakes and learn from them. In a sense, I was afraid for him, felt protective of him. But I should have reported him.

Why? Well, if we report a student for something like this, unless we recommend it, the punishment for a first offense will be pretty similar to what we would do on our own, actually identical. The only difference is that someone in the conduct office sits down with the student as well and I have to think that doing so must be really effective in essentially scaring the student into not doing it again.

But I still find myself reluctant. I want to use these moments as teaching moments, but the student in question later showed himself to lack any motivation for improvement or movement toward an understanding of what he did wrong. The ethics of the situation were lost on him. He was more worried about getting out of it than she was about comprehension of the “crime” and possibly learning from it. If I had reported him the first time, perhaps he would have been more likely to understand the seriousness of the situation, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to betray him.

This loyalty is possibly misplaced, but I like to have this connection to my students. It’s just that even now, I recently discovered that a student copied small sections from a website into an early assignment. I am going to give her a chance to revise with citations and hope that she just didn’t know she had to formally cite a source in an early assignment. But do I report it? What would you do?