On This Page
- Notes from the FWS Classroom | #teachlikeabear
- 4.21.21 | Student Support: FWS Guidelines & Accommodations
- 4.13.21 | Student Support in Response to Trauma
- 4.12.21 | Academic Integrity & Preventing Plagiarism (11.24.21 repost)
- 3.23.21 | Kaur's Revolutionary Love in the Wake of Atlanta Shootings
- 3.18.21 | Resources on Sourcework
- 3.11.21 | Feeling Zoomed out?
- 3.8.21 | Wellness Days
- 3.3.21 | Free Download of Microsoft Office for You and Students
- 3.2.21 | Examining Linguistic Bias: Building Linguistically Inclusive Spaces for Teaching and Learning
- 3.1.21 | Spring 2021 FWS Instructor Workshop Series
- 2.25.21 | Teaching In Person During a Pandemic
- 2.19.21 | Workshop Teaching Materials @ the Graduate Writing Service
- 2.15.21 | Getting New FWS Students Oriented Quickly
- 2.12.21 | FWS Instructor Referral Deadline: February 19
- 2.8.21 | Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars
- 2.7.21 | Expecting, and Accepting, Fluctuating FWS Enrollment (9.8.20 repost)
- 2.6.21 | GoogleDoc Workarounds & Alternatives (9.4.20 repost)
- 2.5.21 | First Days & Icebreaker Ideas (9.1.20 repost)
- KNIGHTLYnews Archive
- FWS Instructor Resources
- Share your Ideas
KNIGHTLYnews Spring 2021
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Notes from the FWS Classroom | #teachlikeabear
Welcome to KNIGHTLYnews, an online forum for FWS instructors and other teachers of writing to swap and share ideas for best classroom practice.
Throughout the week, faculty at the Knight Institute meet with dozens of FWS instructors who have just left the classroom or are soon on the way. In these scheduled and impromptu encounters -- as we debrief, troubleshoot, plan, and celebrate discrete teaching and learning moments -- we exchange so much rich and useful information with colleagues. The notes we compile here capture and relay these weekly highlights.
The posts are, by design, brief and tightly focused. Our goal is to replicate a five-minute chance meeting in the hallway or over the water cooler -- because, as we all know, in such spontaneous encounters, we can and often do find the very serendipitous spark that can help us solve a problem, imagine a new possibility, or perhaps less tangibly, though no less powerfully, energize our teaching.
More specifically, weekly posts are designed to help teachers develop lesson plans and writing assignments, and respond to classroom challenges by introducing new teaching tools and sharing emerging pedagogical ideas. Posts also direct readers to program and campus resources that support teaching and learning, and provide opportunities for peer collaboration and mentorship.
Moderated by Tracy Hamler Carrick, PhD | Writing Workhop Director & Graduate Writing Service Director
4.21.21 | Student Support: FWS Guidelines & Accommodations
The tragic events of the past several days have overwhelmed us all, whether we think of our own campus or our fellow citizens in Minnesota, or Tennessee, or communities everywhere. The Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education has suggested that instructors can help students to navigate these traumatic times by taking account of their mental and emotional well-being and modifying plans and goals for the remainder of the semester. I offer here an outline of a template for some concrete steps you could consider taking in your First-Year Writing Seminar.
Under pandemic/online conditions, the guidelines for FWSs were already reduced to a minimum of four distinct essay assignments. Thus, your semester will already have been designed with some accommodation in mind. Moreover, at this relatively late point in the term, your students may already be working on a final essay or are about to start on it. You are not facing a binary choice of either jettisoning this assignment altogether in favor of something else or going forward exactly as planned. It is not necessarily too late to make supportive changes. There is nothing magical or infallible about any specific number of “essay assignments,” pages, or words. And there are not many class meetings left after the “wellness” break, so it is worth considering carefully the pressures accumulating on your students. We make no prescriptions here: we are only suggesting that you have the license and authority to rework your plans in ways that can support students’ well-being along with their learning. Among your options are scaling down/scaling back, or returning to previous work for further revision and reflection.
One unbreakable principle: no work should be assigned during the “wellness” pause.
Before outlining a few concrete examples, let me state a set of priorities you might keep in mind as we move toward the end of this difficult semester. You can be explicit about these with your students. Consider emphasizing:
- Quality over quantity
- Consolidation/metacognition over breaking new ground
- Habits/strategies over word/page counts
- Process over product
- Engagement over “attendance” (Allow “video off”! Asynchronous work may relieve pressures.)
- Revision and reflection over new composition
- Lower-stakes over higher-stakes writing
- Response and feedback over “grading”
- Future writing: “transfer” and adaptation of skills into other disciplinary contexts
It may take some investment of time and ingenuity to recast an assignment prompt or invent an alternative. But it’s worth doing to support your students. Feel free to contact me (email@example.com) if you would like to consult on an assignment or strategy.
4.13.21 | Student Support in Response to Trauma
I hope you’ll join me to celebrate the life of our precious community member, first-year student Shawn West, who passed away last week. Here is an excerpt about this wonderful young man from Saturday's Cornell Daily Sun article:
SHAWN WEST, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, was from New York City. According to Cornell Vice President Ryan Lombardi, he was a promising young computer coder, who enjoyed developing video games, refurbishing vintage game consoles and was interested in the human impacts of technology and the relationships between users and devices. A resident of Ujamaa, a multi-year residential community for Black Cornellians, he was involved in several clubs and activities on campus, including the Office of Spirituality and Meaning-Making, the Skateboarding Club and Zen Meditation at Cornell. He also enjoyed photography and composing poetry on an old Royal typewriter.
Read more about Shawn West: First-Year Student Remembered as an ‘Engineer Poet’ and Compassionate Leader
Many of our students are grieving, particularly if they personally knew Shawn or have recently lost someone dear to them. I know that I am struggling to find ways to process my feelings of grief and sorrow. We have lost so many and so much this year.
Please think about the ways in which you might support your FWS students right now -- perhaps by excusing absences, extending deadlines, canceling or making optional assignments, or giving students time during class to conduct research or draft essays.
Campus-wide trauma-informed pedagogical responses like these, together with our compassion and flexibility can help lift students up and make it possible for them to successfully and more comfortably complete this ever-challenging semester.
Consider sharing with students, in an email or Canvas post, this document made by FWS student Katie Gorton. Her handout is a well-designed, two-page compilation of many of Cornell’s essential wellness resources: Cornell Wellness Resources Guide by Katie Gorton
If you feel that any of your students need additional support, please read for guidance the following repost from September 28, 2020 in which my colleague, FWS Director David Faulkner, offers advice on how to respond to students of concern.
Responding to Students of Concern (repost from 9.28.20)
Under normal conditions, FWS instructors often are in the best position to notice and respond to the signs of a student in distress: spotty attendance, subdued or evasive affect, obvious sleep deprivation, a sharp decline in the quality of work or contribution. Students are a little more likely to open up to an instructor who knows their name and sees them as an individual in a small, intimate seminar.
Pandemic conditions multiply the stressors; the online environment makes these signs harder to detect—Zoom flattens our intersubjectivity—and makes campus resources harder to access. In person, masks and distancing have similar effects.
There are no easy solutions, but here are a few starting points:
- Recognize that you are not alone, any more than is the student. None of us is obligated or even qualified to solve all students’ problems. We know that it is sometimes uncertain whom to contact. The answer is, anyone. Reach out to anyone for help: your adviser or course leader, your department chair, a member of the Knight Institute faculty. There are no inappropriate moves here. Follow this link to The Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars where we offer some protocols and procedures to follow if you notice a student who seems to be in trouble: Students of Concern: Protocols and Procedures.
- Contact Advising Deans sooner rather than later if a student continues to miss class sessions and deadlines. Advising deans can only direct students to support services and/or provide guidance about enrollment if they know what is going on. Keep the University drop deadline in mind. Students can drop courses up until April 5, 2021 to drop courses without a W appearing on their transcripts.
- Without other evidence or context, don’t automatically assume that a student who turns off video in Zoom meetings is in distress. (See separate posts here on “video on/off” policies.
- Reaching out regularly to students need not be either intrusive or overly time-consuming, and it’s just good pedagogy in online teaching. A quick e-mail check-in or a 10-minute Zoom meeting, on a personal rather than teacherly note, can provide insight to you and a lifeline for a student.
- If these invitations are refused or you sense deeper issues at stake, you will always find a sensible, reliable first resource in contacting the advising/student services office in the student’s college. If they are struggling in your seminar, they are likely struggling elsewhere (in larger, more impersonal classes), and it remains the case that you will have been the first to notice. The advising office is best positioned to see the larger picture and help the student holistically, with both academic and emotional support. You will find the student’s college listed in your course roster; the contact information for student services in each college can be found here: Students of Concern: College Contacts.
- You should also submit a confidential Student of Concern/Early Intervention Report. You can access this form from your Canvas Dashboard by selecting the ? at the bottom of the left bar menu. When the "Help" pop-up window appears, select "Students of Concern" at the bottom of the menu.
- Cornell Health has developed several online resources for instructors:
- A video titled "Notice and Respond: Assisting Students in Distress" presented Catherine Thrasher Carroll and Katherine Goldberg.
- A Canvas course for members of the Cornell community. The course takes approximately 30 minutes. To enroll, follow this link: Notice & Respond: Assisting Students in Distress.
- A companion course (10 minutes) can be found here: Cornell Health Overview Fall 2020 Edition. Together these short courses will orient you to the best approaches and resources available in the current environment.
- A quick reference guide to share with students (or post on your course Canvas site) is available here: Resources for Student Mental Wellbeing & Health.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, David Faulkner, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to any member of the Knight Institute faculty.
4.12.21 | Academic Integrity & Preventing Plagiarism (11.24.21 repost)
In the final weeks of the semester, FWS students typically work much more independently to complete writing assignments. This transition is especially true now given our unique semester calendar. For many students, their final writing projects involve at least some independent research – whether they are charged with locating a single source to build upon course readings or building a robust bibliography to support a full-scale research paper.
I’ll note that is not too late to connect with a librarian. Cornell Libraries offer superb instructional support for FWS teachers and students. In my FWS, librarians have
- Run synchronous, online sessions;
- Customized materials to assist my students asynchronously, such as videos, library research guides, or self-guided tutorials; and
- Held one-on-one research consultations with students in my FWS.
- Follow this link to Request Class Instruction
I require FWS students to conduct independent research in my FWS for many reasons – the most compelling being that I am inspired by their curiosity and enjoy seeing how they use writing to deeply explore a question or idea seeded in course material and class discussion.
Educational researchers Thomas S. Dee and Brian A. Jacob found in their study, “Rational Ignorance in Education: A Field Experiment in Student Plagiarism,” that students who completed an anti-plagiarism tutorial before submitting scholarly papers were substantially less likely to plagiarize. If nothing else, please consider assigning one or both of the superb options below. I work with students in class to complete the CAS Plagiarism Tutorial and then assign Indiana University’s Certification Test for homework.
- Cornell University College of Arts & Sciences Plagiarism Tutorial
- Indiana University’s How to Recognize Plagiarism Certification Test
For more ideas on teaching research, follow this link to a real time GoogleDoc | Teaching Research in FWSes to learn more about these topics and for lesson planning ideas and resources. Join other FWS instructors to post ideas for additional classroom activities and instructional tools that you have tried or are considering.
3.23.21 | Kaur's Revolutionary Love in the Wake of Atlanta Shootings
Last night, the Cornell's Office of Spirituality and Meaning-Making hosted a talk by author, attorney, filmmaker, and civil rights activist Valerie Kaur.
In the wake of last week's horrific shootings in Atlanta, Kaur created a sincere and open space for participants to sit quietly with each other to acknowledge our emotional responses to this and other recent traumatic events, and to contemplate that ways that histories of targeted violence impact us individually and collectively.
In her beautiful talk, titled "See No Stranger" based upon her memoir and manifesto of the same name, Kaur both explored the darkness of trauma brought on by acts of violence (fear, grief, rage, numbness) and found hope in our togetherness (through the Revolutionary Love Project which defines love as the choice to labor together).
A recording of the webinar is not available, but many of Kaur’s lectures and workshops can be accessed on YouTube. Here are links to two of Kaur's recordings that I find especially honest, kind, and hopeful. Please consider sharing them with your students.
- Valeria Kaur — 3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage
- Valeria Kaur — Breathe! Push! The Labor of the Revolutionary Love
3.18.21 | Resources on Sourcework
Teaching FWS students how to engage with and effectively write about source material can be one of the most important things we do as FWS instructors. From documentation to voice, from selecting passages to deciding when and how to paraphrase or quote them, from summary to analysis, etc., it can be difficult to know where to start and when to end the lesson, and how to best frame sourcework as the kind of conversation that assuredly extends beyond a single writing course that is situated within a specific discipline as yours and mine are.
I have linked below two of my favorite online resources, resources that I hope you'll share with students so that they can return to them semester after semester as they contemplate the ways that their work with sources changes when they write in different disciplinary, professional, and public contexts and as they become different thinkers.
I also hope that you will consider if and how you might use these resources to design classroom activities that give students opportunities to work with you and each other to explore and reinforce strategies and best practices. The most challenging aspect of teaching sourcework at the college level, I have found, is not providing adequate training in mechanics (although that is what is most often taught and often exclusively taught), but rather helping students make the transition to a different mindset, the scholarly habit of mind that requires them to not (just) "write about" source material, but to "write with" source material.
- Harvard Guide to Using Sources Find here a concise, yet fairly comprehensive web-based textbook.
- Quoting & Paraphrasing (University of Wisconsin - Madison Writing Center) Find here a PDF handout with detailed guidelines, pro tips, and examples of effective and failed attempts to paraphrase and insert direct quotations.
3.11.21 | Feeling Zoomed out?
Are you feeling zoomed-out, too? Stanford News shares some reasons why and some really useful fixes: https://news.stanford.edu/.../four-causes-zoom.../...
Until we’re back in person, we need to find all of the small hacks we can to make online learning better!
3.8.21 | Wellness Days
Tuesday, March 9 and Wednesday, March 10 are Wellness Days.
If it is not yet Thursday, March 11, please close this window, and begin/resume your Wellness Break.
Be kind to yourself and be well.
I posted this entry at 10:00pm EST on Monday, March 8.
3.3.21 | Free Download of Microsoft Office for You and Students
Did you know that you and students can download Microsoft Office for free?
Follow these links for details:
Microsoft Office for Students: https://it.cornell.edu/software-licensing/microsoft-office-students
Microsoft Office for Faculty and Staff: https://it.cornell.edu/software-licensing/microsoft-office-faculty-and-staff
3.2.21 | Examining Linguistic Bias: Building Linguistically Inclusive Spaces for Teaching and Learning
DON’T MISS THIS EXCITING OPPORTUNITY!
The Merritt Writing Program at the University of California, Merced is very excited to remotely host Dr. Alyssa G. Cavazos (University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley) as part of our speaker series focused on supporting multilingual students. All are welcome!
"Examining Linguistic Bias: Building Linguistically Inclusive Spaces for Teaching and Learning"
Friday, March 12th from 12:00pm - 1:30pm EST (9:00-10:30 am PST)
Zoom registration link: https://www.tinyurl.com/AlyssaCavazos
Institutions of higher education and the education system in general often privilege English as the language of communication and instruction. We inadvertently stifle multilingual students’ learning, meaning-making, and communicative potential, and we stifle our own abilities to use our language resources as we learn with our students. Through a series of personal anecdotes, we will explore how linguistic racism prevails in educational spaces and how we can challenge it. We can all work collectively to build more just and inclusive languaging spaces across disciplines, professions, and communities by 1. reflecting on and identifying our own linguistic bias and how we may be contributing to English-only ideologies in education and 2. identifying a concrete action we can take today that centers on building linguistically inclusive spaces for teaching and learning.
Dr. Alyssa G. Cavazos teaches undergraduate and graduate coursework in writing studies. Her pedagogical and scholarly interests include: language difference in the teaching of writing, translingual writing across communities, professional development in higher education, and border rhetorics. She was awarded the University of Texas System 2017 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and the 2017 UTRGV Excellence Award in Teaching. She is committed to designing linguistically inclusive pedagogies, which can lead to students’ academic success across academic disciplines in higher education.
3.1.21 | Spring 2021 FWS Instructor Workshop Series
The Knight Institute team invites FWS instructors and other teachers of writing to join us for the Spring 2021 Spring Workshop Series. Each week, Knight faculty will facilitate interactive workshops and share instructional resources, lesson plans, teaching strategies, and other pedagogical ideas and inspirations. We hope these sessions will provide remote-access opportunities for ongoing engagement and community building.
- Activities to Help Deepen Analysis | Friday, March 5, 1:30pm - 2:30pm EST
- FWS Writing Assignment Exchange | Friday, March 12, 2:30pm - 3:30pm EST
- What is a Teachable Text? Teaching Reading to Write |Wednesday, March 17, 4:00pm - 5:00pm EST
- Facilitating (Difficult) Discussion | Friday, March 26, 1:30pm - 2:30pm EST
CROSS-LISTED EVENT: CNY Humanities Corridor Grant Re-envisioning Graduate Communication Through a Raciolinguistic Lens
Standardization, Racialization, Languagelessness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies across Communicative Contexts | Tuesday, March 30, 3:30-5:00 pm EST
Dr Jonathan Rosa, Stanford University’s School of Education
- The Power of Reflective Writing | Friday, April 16, 1:30 - 2:30pm EST
CROSS-LISTED EVENT: FGSS Feminist Pedagogy Series
Feminist and Anti-Racist Student Evaluation and Assessment Strategies | Tuesday, April 20, 4:30-6:00 pm EST
Derrick Spires (Department of Literatures in English), Kate Navickas (Knight Institute), and Tracy Carrick (Knight Institute)
- Professionalization Panel: Positioning Yourself to Teach Writing | Monday, April 19, 2:30 - 3:30pm EST
- How to Help Students Avoid Plagiarism & What to Do if They Don't | Week of April 26 POSTPONED
CROSS-LISTED EVENT: CNY Humanities Corridor Grant Supporting Multilingual Student Writers in the US University: Whose Labor and What Kind?
Panel with Guest Speakers | Thursday, April 29, 4:00-5:00pm EST
Workshop for faculty on Creating & Enacting Inclusive Visions | Friday, April 30, 1:30-2:30pm EST
Dr. Angela Dadak, American University, and Dr. Gail Shuck, Boise State University
Follow this link for registration information: Sp21 FWS Instructor Workshop Series
Contact Jennifer Janke (email@example.com) with questions and ideas.
2.25.21 | Teaching In Person During a Pandemic
In Spring 2021, some of us are teaching our FWS in-person or hybrid during a pandemic. While it can be wonderful being in the classroom again, teaching and learning in a socially-distanced and masked environment is a pretty new endeavor for some of us.
Here are some tips from Malcolm Bare, who has taught his FWS in-person for two semesters, and Kelly King-O’Brien, who just started teaching her two classes in-person.
- Students with cloth masks tend to be harder to hear, particularly if they’re sitting in the back of the room. Depending on the spacing of the room and the HVAC system, you may find you need to walk through the aisles to hear a comment. We’d gauge student comfort for this. Better yet, if a more soft-spoken student sits next to a louder one, see if the louder one can help out. You can also have some extra surgical masks on hand to offer them. (Ask your department to order you some.)
- Most classrooms are lecture style. This means a lot of hand raising and facilitating discussion since students can’t see each other. Malcolm had to find his inner Bob Barker but once he did, it was smooth sailing. It helps to have discussion posts or an eye towards all the faces in the room so that you can quickly put students in dialogue with each other. Also, if possible, you might be able to arrange the chairs (if they are movable) so students can maintain social distance but face each other. Ask if they prefer that.
- This may seem silly but students do notice other students drinking from water bottles or moving between lecture rows to use the bathroom. Having a policy for this helps.
- Not a concern in winter maybe, but PPE is sweaty! Malcolm prefers masks to visors and even found a few acrylic ones on Etsy that rest on the chin and help with projecting.
- Students may forget to wear PPE. Always good to have a second or third mask handy.
- Get the email and phone number of the building manager (and IT person) of your building in case you get locked out of your classroom. That has happened to both of us!
- It’s possible your FWS will be the largest number of people you’ve shared a room with since last March. No one is used to being in crowds this big so expect some strange behaviors and etiquette. In his fall experience, Malcolm found that students were significantly less reserved than usual. Leaning into this creates a very fun class environment.
- But it’s very important to establish personal boundaries. Some students tended to look for closer emotional bonds and e may feel more willing to oblige given the pressures of the pandemic. This can spiral out of control quickly, especially if you’re sensitive to students being alone and away from loved ones. During the fall semester, Malcolm was lucky to receive timely guidance from HR and English’s DGST. Reach out as soon as possible if a situation seems beyond your training or experience.
- There’s a constant fear that your class can become a Covid cluster. This would sometimes pop up for Malcolm in the middle of class, but he found that the feeling mellows as the semester goes on.
- Be transparent with your students about your feelings and expectations about being together in the classroom this semester. All of you have an opportunity to be together in a relatively safe way—socially distanced, wearing masks, tested regularly, and in a well-ventilated room. When students feel like they are a critical part of making the class enjoyable and productive, they become more invested in your class.
- Do everything possible to make the classes fun and low-stakes. It does the students a world of good just to have an informal discussion in a group of sixteen people. Malcolm’s fall class didn’t suffer with reduced reading loads and looser discussions. On the contrary, the final papers were conversational and unique.
2.19.21 | Workshop Teaching Materials @ the Graduate Writing Service
Graduate Writing Service tutors are a valuable resource not just for writers, but also for teachers. GWS tutors tutors -- experienced writers and teachers of writing from multiple disciplines -- are available weekdays and evenings to work with First-Year Writing Seminar instructors and other teachers of writing to refine and develop strategies for reading and responding to student writing.
Consider signing up for an appointment to workshop ideas for or drafts of teaching Statements, teaching Philosophies, course syllabi, lesson plans, or writing assignment handouts. Follow this link for more information and to schedule an appointment: Graduate Writing Service
You might also consider scheduling an Essay Response Consultation, during which instructors sit down one on one with tutors to talk about student writing. Because they have a great deal of experience in reading and talking about student essays and helping students to understand and learn from teacher comments, GWS tutors can usefully support instructors who want to deepen and extend strategies for commenting on student work. Follow this link for more information: Essay Response Consultation
2.15.21 | Getting New FWS Students Oriented Quickly
Students often need to drop or switch FWSes -- whether because of scheduling issues, fears about readings being too challenging, or a variety of other reasons (See Elliot Shapiro's post, Expecting, and Accepting, Fluctuating FWS Enrollment). This semester, students have until Monday, February 22nd to add a new FWS.
However, this process, we all know, can feel disruptive and presents a variety of challenges for orienting new students to your class and getting them caught up. Here is our advice for doing this work:
- Create a 3-5 minute in which you orient students to your Canvas course. Kate uses Panopto to do this (inside of Canvas, very easy to use) and Tracy starts by recording in her Personal Zoom Room, saves to the Cloud and then edits and prepares the videos using Kaltura in the Video on Demand (VOD) platform. In these videos, you might simply introduce yourself, the course, and then switch to a shared screen where you talk to students about how to navigate your Canvas site and/or explain the work plan. You might highlight any significant parts they would need for either homework or class, like understanding how you use modules, assignments, where your course calender is, and what "class time" looks like in your course. You might also highlight how any central course features--like a grading contract--work, and/or describe major assignments and the logic behind your assignment sequencing and scaffolding. We have found that these videos are quick to make and help orient students quickly without having to repeat this information for each new course-add.
- There are different approaches to helping students "catch up" on course work, but essentially, most of us ask some version of: What do new students need to complete in order to turn in our first major writing assignment? While, of course, all of the work of the course is valuable, when students first come in, this question can be useful to streamline where to start.
- As soon as you see a new student has added your course, send them a welcoming email with your orientation video and the work you deem to be essential to get started. While students may or may not reach out on their own, we find that sending them the video and catch-up work right away makes them more likely to be able to get caught up and is less stressful for you!
2.12.21 | FWS Instructor Referral Deadline: February 19
At the beginning of each semester, my colleagues and I at the Writing Workshop – the Knight Institute’s home for writing support and services – ask for your help in identifying students who may have difficulty meeting the expectations of your First-Year Writing Seminar.
As advised in the Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars, you should assign, for submission during the second week of the semester, an analytic or argumentative essay of at least two pages (Follow this link for Diagnostic Essay Guidelines). If you encounter any essays that seem particularly weak, you should contact me at the Writing Workshop so that we can discuss the many writing resources we offer.
Most urgently, we must try to identify those students who might need considerable individual attention and thus be candidates for WRIT 1370/80, “Elements of Academic Writing,” our alternate route FWS.
If you read an initial FWS essay that appears significantly different than the others, and you are concerned about a student’s ability to comfortably succeed in your FWS, please complete a FWS Essay Referral Form or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to submit the following materials:
a copy of the student’s essay
your writing assignment
Writing Workshop staff will review student essays and meet with students. Here are several potential outcomes:
TRANSFER TO WRIT 1370/80: Students may opt to move from your FWS to WRIT 1370/80.
DELAY FWS: Students may decide to wait a semester to make the necessary commitment to improving their writing.
Please send referrals by Friday, February 19, 2021 so that we can help students make adjustments to their schedules before the Open Enrollment period ends on Monday, February 22, 2021.
I thank you in advance for your assistance, and I look forward to the opportunity to work together this semester. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions and ideas.
2.8.21 | Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars
First-Year Writing Seminar Instructors new and returning find the Knight Institute's online reference -- The Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars -- a reliable and useful resource.
Follow the links below for important semester start-up guidelines and advice, and check in periodically at the homepage for support throughout the semester: The Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars.
- Building your FWS Syllabus
- Preparing to Teach your FWS
2.7.21 | Expecting, and Accepting, Fluctuating FWS Enrollment (9.8.20 repost)
Why Do Students Switch Around? Students switch from one FWS to another for many reasons. Some may have to switch for scheduling reasons: a lab or section associated with another class shifted, so they have to change their FWS. Some are turned off by the first day, or intimidated, or decide they have too much to do and they’d be better off taking the class another semester. Some would rather take a class in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening. Some found that a spot in their first-choice seminar opened up.
Fall 2020 will not be like any other semester: the variables our students face are unique. But enrollments will fluctuate this semester, as they always do.
Moving between FWSs during the fall semester is not easy. FWSs tend to be very full. But it happens. In the spring it’s easier to move, and students do. I teach a popular FWS. My seminars are always at or near capacity. I get letters every semester from students trying to get in. Despite this, I expect, in any given semester, that 25% of the students who ultimately take my class will not be there on the first day. How do we deal with this?
- Don’t take it personally. If someone drops the class, it’s probably not about you. And if it is, there’s not much you can do about it now.
- Accept fluid enrollment. Build flexibility into your course plan. And if you didn’t, build around it once classes are underway.
- Be accommodating. Students have a right to join during the first two weeks. It may be frustrating if someone joins late. But they have a right to be there. (Of course, you have a right to expect them to catch up. More on that below).
- Check your roster regularly. Students who join your class late should contact you. But it’s also ok for you to contact them. It will help them feel part of the class more quickly: chances are they won’t mind the personal touch.
- Communicate. Check email regularly and communicate with your students, old and new, in these opening weeks. Keeping in touch is especially important when students join right before a long gap between classes (e.g. right after a Thursday class that won’t meet again until Tuesday).
- Give students opportunities to catch up. You have a right to ask students to make up work they’ve missed. But you should also be compassionate about giving them time to do so. Remember, they switched into your class as part of larger set of fluctuations in their schedule. They may be anxious or concerned about falling behind (especially if they are first-semester college students).
- Consider multiple entry points into your opening assignments. As you figure out how to help late joiners catch up, consider where in a given assignment sequence students can pick things up. For example, if students were initially assigned a draft and a revision, can a latecomer just do the revision? If the class already finished working on a early reading assignment, is it important that the latecomer read it? If students engaged in an informal writing task, should the make-up version be identical to the early version or should it be adapted to suit the moment?
- Set priorities. This is a sub-set of the “multiple entry points” point. Students can become part of the learning community most quickly if they do their work in parallel with other students. Consider encouraging them to do the immediate work first, and letting them make up the earlier stuff later.
- Stick around after class. Whether you meet in person or on zoom, announce you will be available after class to answer questions. Invite latecomers in particular to join you.
- Be clear about attendance and other policies that might affect a final grade. Consider how you can fairly enforce any attendance policies for someone who missed one or more classes at the beginning of the semester. (Will you grant amnesty for early absences? Will you expect more perfect attendance later on?) Whatever you communicate to your students, keep in mind the mandate to be compassionate and accommodating (within reason).
- After two weeks, you’ve got your class.
- Plan for next time. If you figure out a good strategy for dealing with fluid enrollments, make notes, and implement them next time you teach.
Remember that this is one very stressful circumstance for your students, plunked down in the middle of a lot of other stressful circumstances. It’s always important to be compassionate, and flexible, and accommodating. Any move is going to be very stressful for your students. Multiply the usual stress by many factors, and you’ve got Fall 2020.
2.6.21 | GoogleDoc Workarounds & Alternatives (9.4.20 repost)
Not surprisingly, many FWS instructors use GoogleDocs to support teaching and learning. No other free platform makes collaboration so easy, and the fact that this platform functions in nearly real time makes GoogleDocs an especially appealing classroom tool now that so many FWS instructors are teaching exclusively online. Thank you to my colleague, Dr. Kate Navickas, for her recommendation, guidance, and encouragement. I only use GoogleDocs for in-class activities, as detailed below, but some FWS instructors also use this platform to provide commentary on writing assignments and to conduct peer response/review activities.
In the classroom, online or in-person, shared GoogleDocs can serve as virtual chalkboards upon which instructors and/or students can take notes on class discussion; they can also function as virtual bulletin boards for students to post work completed individually or in small groups. And because the GoogleDoc platform operates in nearly real time, a synchronous text-based discussion has the potential to move more smoothly and efficiently than a live Zoom discussion. Imagine the possibilities when both occur simultaneously!
Using the GoogleDoc platform in the classroom does carry risk, however. Among many possible worries (privacy and security among them), the most pressing and unsettling for teachers at this moment is access.
If you are using or intend to use GoogleDocs, you might consider how a workaround can support students who are attending your course remotely from countries with Google bans in place (see "Guidance for Faculty: How to Get and Stay Connected with International Students," Michelle Cox, English Language Support Office Director) or even students who are living on campus but do not have the technological capacity to run Zoom and GoogleDocs at the same time.
- Create a GoogleDoc to anchor a class session on Zoom.
- Enable SHARING so that all students have the ability to edit the GoogleDoc.
- Put the GoogleDoc on a Zoom Share Screen.
- Take notes on the GoogleDoc (consider note-taking options below).
- Instructor takes notes to document live Zoom discussion.
- Assigned student takes notes to document live Zoom discussion.
- Students and instructor build notes together.
- Students who cannot access the GoogleDoc can contribute using Zoom Chat and designated peers can copy and paste from Zoom Chat to GoogleDoc.
- After class, download the GoogleDoc and post as Microsoft Word doc or PDF on your course Canvas site.
- NOTE: GoogleDocs can be integrated with course Canvas sites using the Collaboration tool.
- Canvas Discussion Board Tool | This discussion forum enables participants to post informal responses to a question or prompt and/or reply to others' posts. Unfortunately, this tool does not operate in real time (Participants need to hit the refresh button to see new posts.), and so can be less appealing for use in a synchronous class.
- Canvas Pages Tool | This Canvas tool is simply and literally a blank page. Instructors and students can build on it as they would a GoogleDoc. Unfortunately, this tool does not operate in real time (Participants need to hit the refresh button to see new posts.), and so can be less appealing for use in a synchronous class.
- Office 365 / Canvas Collaboration Integration | Office 365 shares many features with GoogleDocs, but, though promising, at this time, the Office 365 suite cannot reliably compete with the real time functionality of the GoogleDoc platform. Further, this relatively new Canvas integration can be challenging to set up (for students and instructors alike).
2.5.21 | First Days & Icebreaker Ideas (9.1.20 repost)
Getting a small writing seminar up and running is an exciting and complex challenge -- especially in online or socially-distanced classrooms.
Typically, instructors present the syllabus at the first class session as a way to introduce students to the course. Consider instead sharing essential course information in bits and pieces over the course of the first two weeks in several 20-minute classroom activities that creatively weave together the following teaching and learning goals:
- describing course content;
- presenting course assignments, expectations, and logistics;
- engaging the intellectual work of the course/discipline and scholarly habits of mind;
- building community with icebreakers and other collaborative activities.
Follow this link to a real time GoogleDoc | First Days & Icebreaker Idea Swap where we are collecting ideas for starting the semester. Join other FWS instructors to post ideas for additional classroom activities that you have tried or are considering.
FWS Instructor Resources
For more comprehensive support for your FWS teaching, please check out the Knight Institute's other resources:
- KNIGHTLYnews Fall 2020 Find here weekly posts compiled during Cornell's first fully online semester.
- The Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars Consult this reference throughout the semester for important guidelines, resources, and advice.
- FWS Instructor Sandbox Find here pedagogical resources that can help you develop an online platform for your FWS -- whether you are interested in building a remote-access, fully online course or in simply developing a robust Learning Management System (LMS) to support multimodal instruction for an in-person or hybrid course. You'll find start-up tips and guidelines for recommended digital tools, links to campus and Knight Institute resources, videos of teaching demonstrations and workshops, and detailed lesson plans and activities that you can import directly into your FWS Canvas site.
- FWS Instructor Workshops & Resources Find here details about our Spring 2021 FWS Instructor Workshop Series, archived videos and handouts from previous workshops, links to campus resources, and a bibliography of current websites, articles, and pedagogical and scholarly sources.
Share your Ideas
To share your ideas, contact Tracy Hamler Carrick.