2012 Fall Fact or Fiction Teaching Collectives

English :: Ventura College Fall 2012 5 Units
Instructor Gwendolyn Alley gwendolynalley@yahoo.com

Students will be in a Teaching Collective to investigate and present to the class about one of the following statements (or one of your own with approval). Continue reading

Highlights of “The Writing Revolution” by Peg Tyre from “The Atlantic”

3rd shelf, left bookcase, writing resources

3rd shelf, left bookcase, writing resources (Photo credit: Yvesanemone)

How can students become betters learners? Writers? Thinkers? The success of a writing across the curriculum program in Staten Island indicates that writing, writing frequently, and writing about challenging topics leads to improved test scores.

As a college teacher, instead of giving quizzes to show that students completed the required reading, I have my students write 2-3 page reading responses about what they read: They must summarize, analyze, and respond with their own opinion; they must include quotes about the readings to support their ideas. The students then read and respond to each other’s brief essays, then I do. Over the course of a semester, they compose (and I read!) 20 or more of these 2-3 page papers. As much as the students complain about them, they also give credit to these assignments for helping them to learn how to read, write, and think critically. Each class we tackle a new element of how to write these (from citing sources to writing a thesis) while they are grappling with conveying their ideas in writing.

So you could imagine that I was pleased to read Peg Tyre’s article The Writing Revolution (published in October 2012 issue of The Atlantic as well as online) to learn about a writing across the curriculum program on Staten Island that has some wonderful results. Here are a few hightlights from the article:

According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2007, the latest year for which this data is available, only 1 percent of all 12th-graders nationwide could write a sophisticated, well-­organized essay. Other research has shown that 70 to 75 percent of students in grades four through 12 write poorly. Over the past 30 years, as knowledge-based work has come to dominate the economy, American high schools have raised achievement rates in mathematics by providing more­-extensive and higher-level instruction. But high schools are still graduating large numbers of students whose writing skills better equip them to work on farms or in factories than in offices; for decades, achievement rates in writing have remained low.

In the coming months, the conversation about the importance of formal writing instruction and its place in a public-school curriculum—­the conversation that was central to changing the culture at New Dorp—will spread throughout the nation. Over the next two school years, 46 states will align themselves with the Common Core State Standards. For the first time, elementary-­school students—­who today mostly learn writing by constructing personal narratives, memoirs, and small works of fiction—will be required to write informative and persuasive essays. By high school, students will be expected to produce mature and thoughtful essays, not just in English class but in history and science classes as well.

Teacher surveys conducted by Arthur Applebee, the director of the Center on English Learning and Achievement at the University at Albany (part of the State University of New York system), found that even when writing instruction is offered, the teacher mostly does the composing and students fill in the blanks.

“Writing as a way to study, to learn, or to construct new knowledge or generate new networks of understanding,” says Applebee, “has become increasingly rare.”

Classroom discussion became an opportunity to push Monica and her classmates to listen to each other, think more carefully, and speak more precisely, in ways they could then echo in persuasive writing. When speaking, they were required to use specific prompts outlined on a poster at the front of each class.

“I agree/disagree with ___ because …”

“I have a different opinion …”

“I have something to add …”

“Can you explain your answer?”

Rachel Carson Center’s New Blog Sees the Forest

Rachel Carson’s landmark book Silent Spring turns 50 this fall (read an except here of the chapter “The Obligation to Endure”).Douglas's review contributed to the success of...

The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society just launch its blog, Seeing the Forest: http://seeingtheforest.org/ to demonstrate the relevancy and importance of humanistic and historical perspectives in discussions about today’s environmental challenges.

By providing context to reveal the bigger picture, or “the forest,” the blog shows the

long and complex relationship between humans and nature, and serves as a resource and forum for those invested in and curious about the environmental humanities.

The blog welcomes contributions from scholars, students and professionals in the environmental humanities field.

Mom thrown in jail for letting kids play outside

Exploring the creek

Exploring the creek (Photo credit: Jeremy Cusker)

Mom thrown in jail for letting kids play outside on their front lawn–while she was out there with them!

This is why we have  what’s being called “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

We need to let kids –of all ages–get out and play in nature.

Punctuation Matters: Commas Save Lives

Let’s eat Grandpa.

Let’s eat, Grandpa.

Norman Rockwell? Or Norman Bates?

Have a Happy Punctuation Day!

Punctuation Matters

Are you an average North American?

How many Africans do you consume?


What went wrong here?

And how would you make it right?

For more examples, check out Grammarly on Facebook–that’s where I found this one.

And to see what’s wrong with your text, check out Grammarly’s website.

Just don’t ask about the word “grammarly.”

Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness…

Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.

~ President Barack Obama, 2011

Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2012. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I wanted to get some painting done on my house before I headed midday to the college where I was teaching. I called my dad, an early bird, and asked him if he wanted to come over and help. He declined, saying he had some other projects to work on. Then he called me right back with the news about 9/11–and said he’d be right over to help me paint. School was cancelled the next day, and again I spent it painting; it was calming to do something outside, normal, physical. I didn’t watch any of the news footage but listened on the radio for more news. Once that I heard that twin sisters, close friends of mine since 7th grade, who worked for United and American often flying from their home base in NYC to LA, weren’t on those flights, I was greatly relieved. I know many people lost loved ones that day. It changed us all.

I wrote this poem the morning school was back in session as I tried to negotiate going back to “normal” life.

What are your 9/11 memories? How did that day change you?

art predator

In Friday’s Ventura County Star, Karen Lindell wrote about “how seven local residents – two painters, two sculptors, a digital artist, a songwriter and a poet-artist – channeled their particular variation of mad, sad and overall helplessness after 9/11 into creativity.”

And Art Predator is the poet-artist featured in the article: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/sep/09/the-art-of-coping/#ixzz1XbEXNMYu

In March 2011,  en theos press published my 3:15 experiment poetry collection Middle of the Night Poems from Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son,in print and ebook; it’s also at Amazon.com, and in stores including The Best of VC Marketplace in Santa Paula where I will be signing books Thurs. Sept. 29.

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Music Video: Literacy in the Digital Age

This video is Adam Freidlander’s response to a request for his favorite writing style at Cornell University.

A fellow community college writing teacher and writer Liz Gonzalez shared the video on Facebook. It started playing there as well as on youtube so I originally thought he had intentionally produced a mash-up to illustrate the cacophony of literacy in the digital age. I suggest you try it that way too by playing both at once!

Since my students are also working on their first writing assignment, one that invites them to write about their own literacy and education in the context of one of the readings by Mike Rose, Sherman Alexie, Malcolm X, or to write about culture, race or gender using readings and/or their own experiences like Judith Ortiz Cofer, N Scott Momaday, Maxing Hong Kingston, Alice Walker, and Gloria Anzaldua, I thought they might enjoy this student’s take on a similar assignment.