Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Changing It Up

Hi Brownbaggers!  I'm sorry for the week-long hiatus!  I was vacationing in Lake Geneva with Mi Madre.  It was a lovely, much needed vacation.  3 days of pure bliss that included horseback riding in the rain, laying poolside to catch some rays, and eating a caesar salad that I had my eye on since day 1. After I got back, I had to quickly prepare for my second semester of summer school teaching.  The week has already started and we are doing some really fun things!

One thing that I'm doing this semester is changing up the content and the environment everyday.  4 hours is a long time for a class solely dedicated to composition.  
That's right - you read that right.  

No grammar
No reading
No discussion

It's JUST FOR WRITING!  Not surprisingly, that can get boring.  

So, we like to change it up!  Here's what we've been doing.

1.  I let the students create the content:  

I never really saw myself as a teacher that let students determine the content of the class, but I decided to give it a go this semester.  The first day I had them write an essay describing their best and worst experiences with writing and one suggestion for an essay that they would be interested in writing. From that point forward, I have been and will continue to use their ideas. 

They have LOVED it.  

They're writing about things that they truly care about. And what's better? They have been creative in what they suggest!  Some offered ideas on reflections, some on research, and some on theoretical scenarios.  It makes for interesting content to say the least.  

So what holds this all together?  My prompt decoder (<--- CLICK the LINK so you can check it out!).  I created a document where I just slip in the student-generated prompt and then we, as a class, determine the requirements, type of essay, pre-writing strategies, drafting ideas, etc.  It's been great to have them think deeply about a prompt and learn about the process more than the product.

2.  We write in different locations:
This has been so fun!  Everyday, we start off in the classroom, do pre-writing outside, and then finish with drafting in the computer lab.  It has been BEAUTIFUL out so that's obviously a plus!  However, I plan on taking them to more locations.  There is a coffee shop on campus, mini-living rooms, lakes, gardens, etc.  Taking them to different places breaks up the 4 hours but more importantly, it gets the creative juices flowing.

I'd love to hear more about the ways you change it up in your classroom.  Are there certain places you take your students?  Different pedagogies you try on? Comment below or tweet me @mac_ker1!

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