On This Page
- Notes from the FWS Classroom | #teachlikeabear
- 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
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 email@example.com 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.