Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stretching things out a bit

Stayed late again today, calling the parents of students who are currently failing my class.  It's about a third of each class, which is appalling to me.  It's all missing work.

I know about the discussion about no credit for missing work.  I actually don't let it affect the final grade in my regular classes, and my honors kids don't get their credit for the class until they complete all their assignments--I only grade about 10 assignments a term, and the daily work that is grade actually goes through editing and polishing.  For research papers, the kids outline first--I grade it and make sure they haven't hared off down a rabbit hole, and give them suggestions and guidance in terms of organization and argument.

This year I spread out the editing over a few days, more by accident by design, and I kinda like it!  I spread out the entire assignment over more time on purpose, and changed its timing in the term, as well.  The cool thing about spreading out the editing is that I told the kids they could revise every night if they wanted, so that the next day we would be editing a draft that is already better than the first.  With the extra time available, the kids also had time to check their paper on so they could find problems with citations/quotation punctuation/uncited paraphrase, etc.  I put the responsibility on them, and made it clear that a problem by the time it's a graded draft will mean a zero they can't afford.

I also liked the lead in to editing this time.  We started with the 6+1 rubric, and we looked at a crummy writing sample, a decent writing sample, and then an excellent example from my class a few years ago.  The kids vote on scores in each of the six traits, and we discuss the why for their scores.  On the last one, we also look at how my previous student set up his citations, both in-text and works cited.

The kids then highlighted their sentence beginnings while they were reading out loud quietly to themselves so they would notice repetitive sentence patterns and, in the words of Annie Lamott, who I adore, be able to "Hear what a jerk [they] sound like" and catch any awkwardness.

The next day, they swapped papers with their critical friends and I reminded them that, again in Annie's words, they "have a sacred duty to be genuine and tender" as editors, both honest and kind.  After their skim for spelling & mechanics, they edited using the ideas I found on the UC Santa Barbara English Department site.

Finally, we talked about phrases, and using participle and gerund phrases to spice up their sentence variety.

My first set of drafts for grading are due at 11:59 tomorrow night, and I look forward to seeing what the final results are.  Then, the next set, then rewrites for the kids who wants to earn a higher grade.

Adding to the list of topics to come: the conversation with a friend-colleague after school today (what I thought I was going to write about when I started this post).

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