Replacing the Classroom Circle with Digital Pedagogy

Silence was the thing I used to fear most as an English teacher: the discussion falls flat, none of the students do the reading, or it's simply the 8am or after-lunch lull. My tools to combat silence have been formed over the years: spontaneous group work, an on-topic YouTube video, or rearranging desks into a … Continue reading Replacing the Classroom Circle with Digital Pedagogy

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A Story for the Frustrated English Composition Student

This is a story for the frustrated College Writing student, the slow reader, the one who thinks she's bad at writing because she ever struggles and is discouraged. I grew up loving the arroz con pollo my au pair made for me in our tiny house in Miami, Florida. Irene, or "Ree-nee," as I called her, … Continue reading A Story for the Frustrated English Composition Student

Education is the Practice of Freedom

"The vast majority of our professors...used the classroom to enact rituals of control that were about domination and the unjust exercise of power. In these settings I learned a lot about the kind of teacher I did not want to become." -- bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress When my observer asked me about letting my students … Continue reading Education is the Practice of Freedom

Learning Drama, Writing Drama

In my second-level composition course, students have the option of doing extra credit, due the day we finish reading Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The assignment is to write a script that answers the question: "Whatever happened to Christopher Sly?" The play-within-a-play begins with the drunkard Sly who is tricked into behaving like a lord. … Continue reading Learning Drama, Writing Drama

Teaching Consent, Revisited

The sad thing about teaching a composition course in which sexual violence is the major topic, is that it is always still relevant. An updated report from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Education Department says that there are now 306 sexual violence cases being investigated at 225 schools in the U.S. These investigations result from the … Continue reading Teaching Consent, Revisited

Use Secondary Sources in College Composition, But Use Them Wisely

About to begin teaching my favorite second-level composition course for the sixth time, I can safely say that I know every required secondary reading has a clear purpose in the syllabus. I look forward to how each one will inform and pivot in-class discussion, deepening our understanding of the primary texts and how they've been … Continue reading Use Secondary Sources in College Composition, But Use Them Wisely

Many Students Don’t Know What Scaffolding Is

First year instructors are often told to scaffold assignments. Scaffolding, loosely defined, is the process of building cumulative assignments from "low-stakes" to "high-stakes" in a syllabus. Heck, most instructors at any pedagogy conference are told to do this, so I've been doing it for over three years. I believe scaffolding is extremely useful as a … Continue reading Many Students Don’t Know What Scaffolding Is

Using Reacting to the Past to Teach English Composition 101

When I asked if I could use Reacting to the Past (RTTP) in my new English Composition 101 class, and the answer was "yes," I could barely contain my excitement. It can be difficult to convince someone who hasn't seen game-based learning that role play enhances student performance, yes, even in formal writing. I've been trained by … Continue reading Using Reacting to the Past to Teach English Composition 101

Ask Students to Write the Final Exam

Asking the right question is no easy task. Teachers spend years fine-tuning questions and lesson plans. But when students get these questions, it's for the first time. According to my students, the hardest paper assignment I gave them was for our poetry unit--but not because it was on poetry. I asked my students to explicate a … Continue reading Ask Students to Write the Final Exam

Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” & Star Trek

It's the end of the semester, and we've finally arrived at our poetry unit. After wrapping up Chopin's The Awakening, we spent two days on Dickinson, discussing death (in an unintentional transition from Chopin's controversial ending), the im/materiality of Dickinson's imagery, and, of course, the metaphorical meanings in Dickinson's punctuation, her masterful dashes. I introduced Dickinson and … Continue reading Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” & Star Trek